In light of Mental Illness Awareness Week

In 1992, the Canadian Psychiatric Association established Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) to highlight the impact of mental illness to the Canadian public, and promote recovery. The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) now coordinates the week in collaboration with its member organizations and other supporters. This year, MIAW runs from October 1-7.

‘Mental illness’ is used as an umbrella term for health conditions that affect mood, thinking and behaviour. According to Mental Health America, there are over 200 classified forms of mental illness, including: depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, dementia and schizophrenia.

Some of the conditions are perhaps more common than we realize.

Nearly 4000 Canadians die every year by suicide (Statistics Canada), and by the time Canadians reach 40 years old, half have or have had a mental illness (Mental Health Commission of Canada).

If you, or someone you know, has a mental illness, there is good news:
all mental health illnesses can be treated.
– Canadian Mental Health Association

With care, treatment and support, people with mental illness have a high likelihood of learning to cope or recover.

What we know about mental health in agriculture

From September 2015 to January 2016, more than 1100 Canadian agricultural producers responded to an online stress and resilience survey. Andria Jones-Bitton, a professor in the Department of Population Medicine at the University of Guelph, analyzed the responses, finding:

  • 45 percent of survey respondents had high stress
  • 58 percent were classified with varying levels of anxiety
  • 35 percent were classified with depression
  • 38 percent expressed high levels of emotional exhaustion
  • 43 percent reported cynicism
  • 40 percent said they’d feel uneasy seeking professional help because of what people might think
  • 31 percent said seeking professional help could stigmatize a person’s life

It’s clear from the findings that there are agricultural producers across the country who are struggling, and that stigma is still holding people back from finding the mental health support they need.

Time for change.

What can we do?

One of the most important actions we can take for ourselves and for our communities is to learn about mental health and mental illness. We can do this through online resources or via formal courses. There are numerous courses and workshops available across the country, including (but certainly not limited to):

I’ve included links to general information on the courses. If you’re interested in a specific course, search for it in your area, as many are offered through local chapters or other organizations. There are also courses dedicated to specific demographics and vulnerable populations.

Every course has a unique time commitment and fee. If you find yourself volunteering or working with an organization that supports personal growth and/or mental wellbeing, it’s possible they will cover the fees for you to attend. You’ll never know unless you ask.

For ourselves:

Every situation and person is unique. Give yourself the time you need to think about your own emotional and mental well-being. Is stress affecting you? Is it possible to take a break? Is there something you can do — walk, journal, exercise, meditate — to improve your mental fitness in the moment?

Talk to someone. Verbalize your feelings.

Everyone can benefit from professional help. Seek it.

If suicide seems to be the only solution, reach out to someone. There are other solutions, they’re just hard to see right now. As hard as it is, tell someone what you’re feeling and thinking. You are loved.

Remember: Suicidal thinking is usually associated with problems that can be treated. – Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

Call: 9-1-1, or a crisis centre
Read: I’m Having Thoughts of Suicide

If you’re worried about someone:

  • Questions to ask someone you’re worried might be suicidal.
  • Let them know you want to help, listen, and support.
  • Do not minimize their feelings.
  • Learn about mental illness.
  • Encourage them to seek professional help.
  • Help them find the right resources.
  • Offer to go with them to appointments.
  • Help with everyday tasks, and ensure they’re getting the food, sleep, and support they need.
  • Offer to go for a walk or run with them.
  • Invite them out to social functions.
  • If you’re worried they are thinking about self-harm, don’t leave them alone. Call 9-1-1.
  • Never agree to keep thoughts of suicide a secret.
  • Take care of yourself.

This week:

Share your story with someone. Take the free, online depression screening. Reach out to someone you’re worried about. Start paying attention to your own mental health. Get help.

Tweet about mental illness and Mental Illness Awareness Week using #MIAW17.

Resources:

Mental Health Support listings across the country – If you need immediate assistance, don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1. Other Canadian resources are listed here as well, by province.

Assess Your Emotional Health – Take a free, anonymous, online test from Oct 2-8,2017.

Understanding Mental Illness – A list of common mental illnesses and treatments, by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Faces of Mental Illness – This is a national outreach campaign by CAMIMH, which features Canadians living in recovery from mental illness. Read about the 2017 Faces.

World Health Organization – Handouts on depression.

TED talks on mental health

No Matter What: Mark Lukach at TEDxMonterey – A powerful, and difficult TEDx on one man’s journey alongside his wife with mental illness.

And, finally, from RealAgriculture:

 

Debra Murphy

Debra Murphy is a Field Editor based out of central Alberta, where she never misses a moment to capture with her camera the real beauty of agriculture. Follow her on Twitter @RealAg_Debra

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