More understanding of mental illness is required

A number of recent surveys concerning the acceptance and understanding of mental illness in Canada have revealed some very disturbing results. With the annual observance of Mental Illness Awareness Week from Oct. 5 to 11 there is absolutely no doubt that there has to be a lot more education offered to all citizens to try an offset the ongoing stigma surrounding mental illness.

A number of recent surveys concerning the acceptance and understanding of mental illness in Canada have revealed some very disturbing results. With the annual observance of Mental Illness Awareness Week from Oct. 5 to 11 there is absolutely no doubt that there has to be a lot more education offered to all citizens to try an offset the ongoing stigma surrounding mental illness.

Even in the 21st century a lot of people aren’t willing to recognize that mental illness is a genuine illness, one that can strike or effect any one of us in many different ways in all walks of life and age groups. Canadian Mental Health President Dr. Brian Day recently presented a release that very realistically stated: “The Ipsos-Reid survey of 2,024 Canadians commissioned by the Canadian Mental Health Association shines a harsh and frankly unflattering light on the attitudes that we as Canadians have concerning mental health. It seems that in some ways, mental illness is the final frontier of socially acceptable discrimination, which is a real shame.”

Here are some of those on-line survey results.

*Just half of those surveyed would tell friends or coworkers that they have a family member suffering from a mental illness, as opposed to 72 per cent who would share a diagnosis of cancer.

*One in four or 27 per cent said that they would be fearful being around someone with a serious mental illness.

*Nearly half (46 per cent) agreed that: “we call some things mental illness because it gives some people an excuse for poor behaviour and personal feelings.”

*Two in five (42 per cent) aren’t certain that they would socialize with a friend with mental illness; and most wouldn’t hire a lawyer, someone to teach or take care of their child, a financial adviser, a doctor, or a landscaper who has a mental illness.

*Fewer than half of Canadians think that alcohol and drug addiction is a mental illness, and only one in five would socialize with someone struggling with substance abuse, according to the 2006 survey.

The irony is that 15 per cent of those adults polled reported having being diagnosed by a doctor as being clinically depressed, and another 23 per cent reported feelings of worthlessness and helplessness. In 2006 the number of prescriptions dispensed in Canada for antidepressants reached 27.4 million (valued at $1.2 billion), up from 23.4 million in 2005 and steadily growing. This hopefully means that more people are seeking help and more doctors are asking about it, although it is a known fact that lots of people with diagnosable problems are not accessing treatment.

The goals and objectives of Mental Illness Awareness Week.

1.  Increase awareness of mental illness and reduce negative stigma about mental illness in the school, workplace, and community setting.

*To give teachers and parents of school children throughout the region, useful tips, resources and information pertaining to children experiencing mental health problems.

*To increase school children’s understanding of mental illness.

*To give business employers throughout the region useful tips, resources and information pertaining to employees experiencing mental illness.

*To give physicians throughout the region useful tips, resources and information to patients experiencing mental illness.

*To provide libraries throughout the region with useful resources and information about mental health and mental illness, that can be used for the educational benefits of local communities.

*To give the media throughout the region useful resources and information about mental health and mental illness, that can be used for the educational benefits of the general public.

2. Promote positive effects of best practice in prevention, diagnosis and treatment within our region.

*To give the media throughout the region information about successes in mental health prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

3. Promote mindful aging of seniors.

*To support the Alberta Mental Health Board’s initiatives, such as the development and release of new seniors mental health resources and the implementation of the annual seniors conference in Red Deer, by assisting them if necessary and by promoting the message of mindful aging for seniors.

Any concerns or questions concerning mental illness, prevention, special programs offered, and all other areas of the Alberta Mental Health program should be directed to your health care professionals and centres throughout the province, and please don’t hesitate to do so. Other year round contacts include the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 or the website at amhb.ab.ca.

A special week at the Centennial Centre

As a part of Mental Health Awareness Week Oct. 5 to 11 the patients and staff at the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury at Ponoka will be hosting a unique afternoon of sharing and caring on Oct. 7 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the main gymnasium.

“Mindful Expressions” will feature the exiting opportunity for patients, staff, community members, and guests are cordially invited to present their special talents in a friendly atmosphere of art and music at a delightful art show and silent auction. For more information on how everyone can take part please contact Colleen McGinnis at 403-783-7634.