Our digital world has people connected like never before.
Technology enables us to stay in touch 24/7 if we choose to be. But are we really connecting? Last month Bell Let’s Talk Day was held, an annual event aimed at encouraging open discussion about mental health issues and removing the stigma that keeps people from reaching out for help.
The theme for the 10th edition of the awareness day, “Mental Health: Every Action Counts,” focuses on ways we as Canadians can take action in our daily lives to support better mental health in our communities.
The Canadian Mental Health Association points out that no one is immune to mental-health problems. They can hit people at all social, occupational or economic levels.
Statistically, about 20 per cent of Canadians will experience a mental-health issue during their lifetime, and, even more staggering, 70 per cent of mental-health problems have their onset during childhood and adolescence, says the CMHA. The latter figure is surely related to the fact that, after accidents, suicide is the leading cause of death among youth aged 10 to 19.
Mental-health issues impact our communities at all levels. It’s linked to decreased productivity, mood irritability leading to increased interpersonal conflict, increased absenteeism, and short-term and long-term disability. Information from the Mental Health Commission indicates that, in any given week, more than 500,000 Canadians are unable to go to work due to mental health problems.
Depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact, and the World Health Organization estimates the cost to the global economy is $1 trillion US per year in lost productivity. WHO also notes that harassment and bullying at work are commonly reported problems which can have a major adverse impact on mental health.
What can be done about the situation? The good thing is everyone can play a part through their one-on-one encounters with others through the course of the day.
We have no way of knowing how a simple kind word or action might help to lift the spirits of someone else. Just knowing someone cares about us can go a long way to helping us deal with challenges that might be burdening us.
Let’s Talk Day is about people talking and connecting in a real, below-the-surface way. It’s about being vulnerable, or making it safe for someone else to be vulnerable, in order to make burdens more bearable.
It’s not up to us to solve others’ problems. But showing empathy when someone is going through a difficult time can sometimes be enough to help that person carry on. We all have troubles from time to time but sometimes the “stiff upper lip” approach isn’t enough to see us through. Sometimes we need help, even if it’s just the moral support and encouragement to help us realize we can overcome our difficulties and persevere.
That’s what community is all about — being there for one another. And that’s the idea behind Let’s Talk Day.
As the old saying points out, “United we stand.”
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