Bell Let’s Talk Day is intended to break down the stigma associated with mental illness and addiction. It’s also an important opportunity to discuss the role of wellbeing in the prevention of mental health problems.
Whether in our communities, our workplaces, our schools or government institutions, mental health will be a hot topic today and an incredible opportunity to enhance the conversation.
In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians are diagnosed with a mental illness or addiction problem.
Yet, we remain stuck reacting as if mental health problems are something you can catch like a cold. We wait until people are sick, then we send them to the doctor and based on presenting symptoms they are most likely be prescribed medication.
This only reinforces that mental illness is outside of our control, and perhaps the result of some sort of chemical imbalance or genetic disposition, adding to the stigma.
Yet its important to remember that there are no objective tests, no x-ray, no laboratory or exam finding that can definitively indicate someone has a mental illness.
The truth is, very few mental health problems or illnesses are the result of genetic problems. The vast majority research is showing are the result of our lifestyle, and can be managed and treated with lifestyle change.
We don’t want to minimize the benefits of medication for those whose lives are immobilized by mental illness, (medications do save lives) but it should not be the only approach. We need to looking deeper into what is going on in the lives of people before we diagnose them with a disorder that may follow them for life.
Today of all days we also need to talk about mental health, not mental illness. We need to talk about Wellbeing.
Fortunately there is a growing body of research that indicates that mental health problems can be prevented and reversed with simple lifestyle changes.
This is a very exciting prospect, because it empowers us all by allowing us to take control of our mental health, and shifts the conversation to how we are living, spending our time, how we are thinking about and coping with challenges or painful circumstances.
Even more exciting is that there is plenty of research out there that indicates that having good mental health isn’t as complicated as we might think, and that when we are taking care of 5 important areas of our lives our overall wellbeing and mental health can be boosted.
Career Wellbeing means having activities that challenge us, give us a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives. Spending time doing these things regularly can have a significant impact on our mental health.
Social Wellbeing, having loving, supportive relationships and an active social life has been shown to boost feelings of wellbeing and decrease feelings of depression.
Research into Physical Wellbeing is showing the important role of nutrition, sleep, and exercise in mental health. For example, deficiencies in vitamin D and B12 have both been shown to negatively impact mental health. Plant-based diets on the other hand have been shown to significantly improve depression and anxiety.
Financial Wellbeing, feeling financially stable and secure can dramatically change how we think and feel about our lives. In a study of 5500 people who have lived with mental health problems, 86% said their financial situation had made their mental health problems worse.
Finally Community Wellbeing is the degree to which we feel a sense of connection and belonging to, as well as how we contribute to our community. Research shows that a sense of belonging lowers the prevalence of mental health issues.
Bell Let’s talk day is a great opportunity to spread the word that mental health isn’t something outside of our control, and that taking care of our Wellbeing can go a long way toward preventing mental illness.