Coast to coast to coast in Canada, May 3 to 9 is mental health week. It is an annual reminder of how, individually or in a collective sense, mental health plays a primary role in everything we think about and do in our lives.
The week also shines a light on our societal attitudes toward mental health, which were harmfully outdated and discordant with other parts of our constantly changing society. Awareness and knowledge is the sunlight that can destigmatize mental health issues and, with hope and healthy communication, take the shame and ignorance out of the picture completely.
As we improvise through the coronavirus pandemic, mental health week takes on more significance than ever. Although the source of the pandemic begins with a physical viral infection, the result quickly becomes a mental health issue of global to local community to individual proportions.
COVID-19 is redefining how we interact and react to all the unknown dangers in places where we used to find comfort and normalcy. Grocery stores, the local ice rink, swimming pool and library have been closed at times, or the experience is so altered they are now unfamiliar.
The appropriate and proportional reaction are feelings and thoughts which carry some anxiety or other unfamiliar, negative aspects to them.
Naming, expressing and confronting are the keys to understanding and processing new pandemic-influenced, uncomfortable, mental wellness hardships.
The theme of this year’s mental health week (understanding our emotions) is understanding that it is completely okay to feel sad, angry or anxious at any time. Negative emotions and thoughts are part of a healthy and proportional response to the new daily life challenges.
Sometimes, just gaining a few mental wellness tools to survive with the purpose of eventually thriving is a way of getting better, piece by piece. It has been my experience in life that the road to overcoming mental wellness obstacles starts with missteps and mistakes, then making small, realistic, attainable goals.
Once any problem is identified, the direction for it to be fixed can be dealt with. When the social stigma is lifted, mental health challenges can have a name and method to achieving wellness.
The small successes start to accumulate and emotional hardships and boundaries become manageable. New community networks are like a cushion or safety net there; if you do fall again, the ground is a softer place to fall and it’s much easier to get up and continue on.
If your car started to clang and smoke, the fix would be almost impossible to locate without looking under the hood and, perhaps, having a professional beside you for some essential advice.
Mental health week allows conversations that were previously silent to create an atmosphere where the “fixing” can begin.
By identifying the ailment, and with professional and community support, eventually everything starts to run a little better and the road to happiness and security, whichever form that takes for you, is a destination closer and closer to reality.
Robert Skender is a Powell River freelance writer and health commentator.