Mental Health Week is a campaign for social change

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Mental Health Week (May 2-8) is a social change campaign aimed at educating the public and changing beliefs and perceptions about mental health. It helps promote behaviors and attitudes that promote well-being, promote good mental health, and create a culture of understanding and acceptance.

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The stigma surrounding mental health and treatment has been around for a long time, although that has begun to change. Yet people are reluctant to ask for help or even talk about it with loved ones for fear of being judged and facing unnecessary backlash. Simple logic dictates that if we are injured somewhere, we should seek treatment to get better. This applies to both our mental and physical well-being.

Wellness Together Canada (WTC) was created in response to an unprecedented increase in mental health and substance use issues due to the pandemic, with funding from the Government of Canada. WTC services range from basic wellness information, to one-on-one sessions with a counselor, to participation in a supportive community. Whatever you’re looking for, the site can direct you to the best resources and lets you choose what you need, when you need it.

When someone around you is struggling with their mental health, people tend to offer solutions or judgment, when in fact, empathy is most needed. We must listen before we intervene. Empathy includes recognizing the other’s point of view as the truth, being non-judgmental, understanding the other’s feelings and being able to communicate it to them.

Whether you have virtual “friends” or physical friends, we know that having a good community of friends is about the quality and not the quantity of our relationships. And communication is at the heart of our circle of friendship. If we want to strengthen our relationships, practicing the art of listening is an effective strategy.

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Good listening is active, unlike simple “hearing” which is much more passive. Listening is about making sure the person talking to us knows that we are really there with them and empathy is a key ingredient of genuine listening. If this art of listening seems a bit mysterious or hard to do, here are actually some simple tips to improve your skills and, in the process, strengthen your relationships.

• Let people know you are listening. Simple phrases like “I’m here for you” or “I’m listening” can go a long way and be very meaningful.

• Avoid distractions. Improve your connection with the other person. This could mean simply going somewhere where you won’t be disturbed, turning off your email and text notifications, or turning off your phone completely.

• It’s not about you. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Avoid the urge to give advice or your opinion right away and focus on what they are saying, feeling, etc.

• Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do things right. It’s hard to really pay attention when you’re focusing on not making mistakes or trying to find the perfect thing to say next. Remember that you are there and letting the other person know that you understand.

• Don’t underestimate the power of real listening. Chances are, by offering someone a listening ear, you’re already doing a lot.

• Beware of comments that accidentally hurt the other person. They may feel like you are “invalidating” or “minimizing” their feelings. When in doubt, reformulation can go a long way.

Local support is available at the Mental Health Enrichment Center – (613) 969-8874.

The information in this column is compiled by Shell-Lee Wert, CCSH, 470 Dundas Street East, Unit 63, Belleville, K8N 1G1. Please visit our website at https://ccsh.ca or email me at [email protected], or call 613-969-0130 or 613-396-6591 for information and advice. ‘aid. Community Care is proud to be a member agency of United Way. Partially funded by Health East Ontario.

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