Wednesday, 06 July 2016 14:16

Mental health gets more attention, but still not enough

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It’s often easily forgotten the brain is an organ, just like the heart or lungs.

When the brain is “injured” either because of trauma or chemical imbalances which cause people to act in ways which are not considered acceptable by societal standards, those people are often shunned and ignored. Only when they get to the point of causing major trouble for others or the community around them are they dealt with by family and subsequently local agencies.
Unfortunately for too long, those whose brains aren’t quite functioning properly have not been adequately dealt with due to a lack of knowledge.
Mental health should be discussed more by families or introduced and talked about more in schools. Personal coping skills, being able to help people and knowing where to get help should be mandatory to learn and should be made more public.
It is sad to hears of the alarming number of cases of suicides in Medicine Hat. According to a Medicine Hat News story in late June, “From the beginning of January to June 20 this year there have been six confirmed suicides and 52 attempted for a total of 58, said Insp. Brent Secondiak (of the Medicine Hat Police Service). The attempted suicides could be a ‘cry for help’.”
Secondiak said they are working with their different partners and agencies to hopefully reduce these situations.  The story further indicates in 2012, there were 10 suicides for the whole year and seven in 2013. These numbers combined with attempted suicides for the whole year were still in the low 30s. That number jumped to 71 in 2014, with 12 suicides and 59 attempts. In 2015, there were 10 suicides and 57 attempts for a total of 67. With 58 in the first six months of 2016, if the current situation continues, there is the potential to reach 116 by the end of the year.
One can surmise a lot of that recent jump can be blamed on the poor economy.  As people struggle with money, changes in lifestyle and relationships, a feeling of desperation exists. Perhaps it’s more reporting of suicide, maybe it’s people are finding there is no where to turn.
Maybe it’s unfair to speculate on all the reasons why there is a jump, but one thing is for certain: there are a lot of people who need help. Many aren’t getting it because of the stigma the phrase “mental health” brings.
When there is a “mental health” issue, Jack Nicholson from One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest instantly comes to mind. A person is deemed a “loon”; “nuts” or when the term “schizophrenic” is used, it is assumed that it’s always a multiple personality disorder.
These misconceptions and subsequent judging and treatment of such people can put them into hiding where they feel alone with nowhere to turn. That situation is improving, albeit slowly.
The Canadian Mental Health Association reports in its second annual Ipsos Canadian Mental Health Check-Up,  35 per cent of Canadians talk about their mental health more openly as compared with 31 per cent at the same time as last year.
“At the same time, more people were classified as ‘high risk’ this year — 35 per cent over 33 per cent in 2015. And they cite ‘social context’: social norms, peer pressure, and culture, as the main barrier to managing their mental health,” says the CMHA.
Swift Current CMHA has held mental health fundraisers including the 12th annual Mayor’s Breakfast May 4 and  the Jimmy Richardson Walk.
They also have an Emotional Wellness Support Group which meets on Mondays at the United Church plus a full calendar of programs.
In Medicine Hat, there are different fun fundraisers such as the Snowflake Soiree at the end of January,  and an all-you-can-eat-cereal Retro (1970s and 1980s) Cartoon Party at the Monarch Theatre Aug. 20.
On Oct. 15, the Cliff Canter Run will be held inRedcliff. It’s a glow run for mental health hosted by the local union of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.
At least there is some growing attention to the area of mental health, but there is a long way to go before the so-called stigma is reduced even more.
Training for professionals in fields which deal with the public must increase and attitudes must change . All of this takes time.
It is likely most people know someone with mental illness. Maybe you yourself face challenges.
Get help. The level of understanding and level of knowledge involving mental health is growing.
Contact a counseling professional or a family doctor. They can steer individuals in the right direction. There is no shame in seeking that help.
One can also visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website and find the nearest office to find out more.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor