Monday, 3 October 2016

Mental Illness Awareness Week

Mental Illness Awareness Week
October 2 - 8, 2016

The World Health Organization defines Mental Health as: “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”  On the other hand, “mental disorders comprise a broad range of problems, with different symptoms…they are generally characterized by some combination of abnormal thoughts, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others”. 

During any given year, about one in five Canadian adults experience mental illness, and American research estimates that about half of all adults will be diagnosable with a mental illness at some point during their lifetime. 

Having good mental health can encompass a broad range of functions and activities, including:
  • The ability to think clearly and realistically about oneself, others, and the world around us;
  • The ability to cope with, and manage, stress or changes in our life;
  • The ability to feel, express, and manage a wide range of both positive and negative emotions;
  • The ability to make and maintain good relationships with others;
  • The ability to learn and problem-solve.

 Having a mental illness goes beyond just having a bad day and is often characterized as problems with thinking, mood, or behaviour that results in significant distress and impairment to one’s relationships, work, school, and/or social life.  Examples include, major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, trauma disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addiction-related disorders.

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is an annual national public education campaign intended to raise awareness and engage Canadians in a national conversation about mental illness.  The hope is that by raising awareness, the stigma of mental illness will be reduced and that people will have greater access to information around services and support available to those living with mental illness. 

The Canadian Psychiatric Association initiated the week-long campaign in 1992, and it is now coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH).  The CAMIMH is a non-profit organization that includes health care providers and organizations that are committed to ensuring that mental health and the lived experience of those affected by mental illness (including caregivers and families) are represented on a national level. 

Through initiatives such as MIAW, the CAMIMH and partners work to promote a National Action Plan that upholds three principles.  They believe that:

(1) Mental illness and mental health issues must be considered within the framework of determinants of health, with recognition that mental health is inexorably linked to physical health;
(2) Mental illness contributes to a considerable cost to individuals, social services, health, education, the criminal justice system, as well as the economy.  As such, the CAMIMH believe it is imperative that Canadian governments and health planners consider ways to address mental health to reduce the burden on society; and
(3) Mental health promotion and the treatment of mental illness must be timely, continuous, interdisciplinary, culturally appropriate, and integrated across the full life cycle and the continuum of care (including primary care, home/community care, and tertiary care).

On September 2, 2016, the CAMIMH launched a comprehensive policy document, entitled Mental Health Now! That outlines a call to action for the government to improve the mental health of Canadians.  Click here to read more.

Check your mental health and reflect on your mental well-being with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Meter.  Click here to take the quiz. 

Where to find help: 

·         Phone Services:
o   Health Link: 811
o   Community social services information: 211
o   Mental Health Helpline (24/7): Call 1 (877) 303-2642 for confidential help, information on mental health services and referrals
o   Distress Line (24/7): (780) 483-HELP (4357)
·         Local Mental Health Resources:
o   Leduc Addictions and Mental Health: (780) 980-7580, or visit, for more information on Addictions and Mental Health Services.
§  Leduc: (780) 980-7109
§  Leduc County: (780) 979-2385
§  Beaumont: (780) 929-1369
§  Devon: (780) 987-8325

o   Leduc Beaumont Devon Primary Care Network Mental Health Program: Access is through a referral by your family physician.  Please talk to your family for more information.

Dr. Sheila Gothjelpsen is a Registered Psychologist at the Leduc Beaumont Devon Primary Care Network.