By Sue Tiffin
Published Feb. 8, 2018
January is gone, and with it Blue Monday, dubbed the “most miserable day of the year,” and Bell’s Let’s Talk day, a day devoted to an awareness campaign aimed at helping to reduce the stigma attached to challenges with mental health (also known as emotional or brain health to further reduce stigma).
Regardless of how you feel about some of the controversies of either awareness day, they do, in fact, get people talking.
Online – often a glossy, filtered version of what real-life looks like – neighbours in our community opened up and shared about the realities of their anxiety, hospital and treatment stays, post-traumatic stress disorder, caregiving responsibilities, and the impact of ongoing daily struggles. Social media posts were met with loving support, shared experiences, kind words and an all too familiar, “I didn’t know.”
Talking is what research suggests might help us all move toward health and well-being.
Numerous risk factors can play a part in mental health problems, but social isolation can be both a cause and symptom of several mental illnesses, affecting people of any age, and sometimes exacerbated by rural challenges.
How can we help each other thrive? One way is by looking at our community and asking how we might better prevent isolation and better encourage physical health, even on the coldest of days in the deepest of snow.
Are we encouraging social opportunities and physical health for all, regardless of economic background, age or ability with accessible infrastructure and a variety of free or low-cost programming? Do our neighbours have transportation and support to integrate fully into the community? Where do our kids gather together outside of school, without need for membership fees or the same interest? When was the last time we made time away from work or a screen to meet with a friend, or checked in on a neighbour? Do we say “let me know if you need anything,” or are we proactively making kind gestures and lightening someone’s load? Are you so distracted that you are less connected to others around you?
Look out for people who you don’t pass on the streets or stand behind in line at the store, and say hello to people who you do. Rather than just scrolling through a newsfeed, send individual messages, or better yet, phone or meet with friends who might need some face time, as we all do.
February is here, and we all know it can be a grey and dismal month. One simple word – hello – can make a big impact on someone who’s feeling alone and isolated. Maybe you’ll just positively interrupt the familiarity of someone’s day, or maybe you’ll help them feel included and acknowledged and less alone. Let’s talk.