Friday, September 30, 2011

Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is an annual national public education campaign designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness. The week was established in 1992 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association, and is now coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) in cooperation with all its member organizations and many other supporters across Canada.
Campaign elements include: a grassroots public education initiative; a nationally-distributed poster and bookmark series; the Annual Champions of Mental Health Awards luncheon in Ottawa and an education initiative with federal Members of Parliament, both in their home ridings and on Parliament Hill.
Quick Facts on Mental Illness
Mental illness affects more than six million - or one in five - Canadians. Of the 10 leading causes of disability worldwide, five are mental disorders. Close to 4,000 Canadians commit suicide each year and it is the most common cause of death for people aged 15 - 24. By 2020 it is estimated that depressive illnesses will become the leading cause of disease burden in developed countries like Canada
*                             Nearly 6 million, or 1 in 5 Canadians (20% of the population) today are likely to experience a diagnosable mental illness; 3% of Canadians are likely to have to live with a serious mental illness.
*                             About 4,000 Canadians commit suicide each year and it is the most common cause of death for people aged 15–24. Mental illness is a factor in most suicides.
*                             Some communities in rural and remote areas of Canada have rates of suicide and addiction that are among the highest worldwide; many of these are Aboriginal and Inuit communities.
*                             The downsizing of institutional care was not matched with a complementary upsizing of community-based services, resulting in significant gaps of service for those with severe illness and for people with moderate degrees of impairment.
*                             A Canadian study found that two-thirds of homeless people using urban shelters suffered from some form of mental illness.
*                             Of the 10 leading causes of disability worldwide, five are mental disorders: major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance abuse disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.
*                             By 2020 it is estimated that depressive illnesses will become the second leading cause of disease burden worldwide and the leading cause in developed countries like Canada.
*                             Less than 4% of medical research funding goes to mental illness research.
*                             The Business and Economic Roundtable on Mental Health has evaluated the impact of depressive disorders on business productivity. It estimates that economic costs of mental illness are the equivalent of 14% of corporate Canada’s net operating profits.
*                             A report published by Health Canada estimated that mental health problems cost of $14.4 billion in 1998.
Many Canadians do not recognize that they are ill while others don't seek help because of misconceptions about these diseases. Taking the time to learn about mental illness could make all the difference to you or to someone you care about. It's important to watch for warning signs of mental illness - and to seek medical advice as soon as possible if any become apparent. Symptoms include:
*                             Marked personality change
*                             Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
*                             Strange ideas or delusions
*                             Excessive anxiety
*                             Prolonged feelings of sadness
*                             Marked changes in eating or sleeping patterns
*                             Thinking or talking about suicide
*                             Extreme highs and lows
*                             Abuse of alcohol or drugs
*                             Excessive anger, hostility
*                             Violent behaviour
*                             Irrational fears
*                             Retrieved from Internet September 30, 2011:
Living mentally well is not simply the absence of Mental Illness
A percentage of our population live mentally well
A percentage live with mental illness
But the majority live neither mentally well nor experience mental illness -
They live some where in the middle

Maintaining positive mental health means…….
Living a healthy life has often meant paying attention – only - to the many ingredients that make up positive physical health. However, we now know that health is composed of both physical and mental health and that the body and the mind interact, with one affecting the other – either positively or negatively.
In our culture, the emphasis on physical health means that most people can easily list what you need to do to stay healthy – eat sensibly, exercise regularly, visit your doctor yearly for check-ups and testing, drink alcohol in moderation, don’t smoke, and get a good night’s sleep.
Because mental health is less talked about, when we think about it, if we think about it at all, we may conclude that good mental health is something we have – or not – and there’s not much we can do about it.
Maintaining positive mental health means paying attention to your intellectual, emotional, and spiritual health – as well as your physical health. Some things to think about:
  1. Do you have something intellectually stimulating to do every day? The brain enjoys a work-out, just like the body.
  2. Are you able to recognize the ups and downs in your emotional life and take positive action to restore your balance? This can mean talking out angry feelings instead of exploding, or recognizing sadness and not feeling ashamed of your tears.
  3. Are your relationships, mostly, positive? No one can insulate themselves completely from difficult relationships but are you able to recognize when you are being treated unfairly or unkindly and stand up for yourself?
  4. Do you have loved ones around you who you support, and who support you? Do you have a friend – or several friends – who you can confide in?
  5. Does your work (or volunteer activities) have meaning for you? Do you feel you are making a contribution? Nothing is ever perfect but are you able to take action in your workplace to address bad treatment or dynamics that are troublesome?
  6. Do you have a role in your community? Do you feel a part of the neighbourhood you live in? Are you a part of other types of “communities” such as those based on interests, identity or spirituality?
  7.  Do you know your history and culture? Are you proud of your roots? If, at any time, you have been made to feel ashamed of who you are, have you been able to recognize these feelings and take action to end the cruelty – which may mean speaking out against bigotry or simply reminding yourself that your people have a proud history and have nothing to be ashamed of.
  8. Do you make time for fun and a good laugh? Do you recognize that playing can be as valuable as working? Can you describe times in your life that were joyous?
  9. Do you have activities in your life that feed your soul. Spiritual fulfillment may come from belonging to an organized religion. Some people make other choices; time spent in nature, listening to music or enjoying the arts.
  10. When things go wrong, as they do in anyone’s life, do you reach out for support. Do you know when an event or circumstance has become too heavy a burden for anyone to carry alone - and you need help? Can you ask for help when you need it?
If you’d like to learn more…
Taking care of your mind: This it the mentally fit section of the Canadian Mental Health Association website. It defines mental health, describes the benefits of staying mentally healthy and offers practical tips for mental fitness. Available at:
Veterans Affairs offers tips for good mental health. Available at:
Tips for Aboriginal youth on maintaining mental health and what to do when things go wrong: The Aboriginal Youth Network Health Centre, available at:
For examples of community mental health promotion projects, see:
Mental health literacy is defined as “knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which aid their recognition, management or prevention.” For research and writing on mental health literacy, see:
For Healthy Living Modules on topics such as Sleep, Goal Setting, Physical Exercise, Healthy Eating and Metabolic Syndrome Assessment and Tracking Tools please visit:

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