Today marks the end of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)’s Mental Health week. I am beyond grateful for the hard work of all the CMHA branches and the dedication of mental health advocates nationwide who worked tirelessly through social media to bring attention to this vastly important issue.
From the bottom of my feminist heart, thank you! All of your works, this week and every other week throughout the year, means the world to me.
Yet amazingly, not everyone sees mental health advocacy in the same light as we do. Even after all of this work. Some, incredibly enough, just don’t seem to see the point. At all.
Throughout this past week I have, like many of you, focused my twitter posts on mental health and, in particular, on the importance of mental health awareness.
Not all my posts, however, have received positive feedback. As a rather out-spoken feminist, I’m used to the occasional ‘falling out’; the anti-choice trolls live for a good twitter battle. But a ranting about the limited importance of mental health advocacy? That’s a new one to me.
The private message that I received went something like this:
“Only people with mental health problems should care about mental health. There’s no point going on about it”
Upon reading this response, I initially got angry. Well, if I’m being truthful, I became blood boiling, fits of rage, ‘imaginary fire coming out of my ears’ kind of angry.
And how could I not? 1 in 5 Canadians struggle with some form mental health concern. That’s 20% of the population. Statistically speaking, we are all affected my mental illness, whether directly or indirectly. And for those of us who don’t have a mental health concern, we may not even be aware those around us are struggling. So yes, it is a big problem, And yes, advocacy is important.
It’s insensitive and misinformed remarks such as this that deepen the very stigmatization that plagues mental health. It is this lack of mental health literacy that causes far too many to remain concealed about their mental health concerns, choosing instead to forgo health seeking.
Put simply, misunderstandings = stigma = harm. Enough said. This is what advocacy attempts to change.
But perhaps there are those among us, regardless of the copious mental health awareness campaigns and the countless efforts of brave mental health advocates, that still don’t understand why we should care about mental health. How is absolutely beyond me. But, the good feminist in me says, “Kathleen, don’t judge and don’t respond with anger. Educate!” So that’s what I’ll do (I’ll go back to punching pillows later).
After much consideration, I decided to create a rubric, of sorts, to help those who are unsure whether they should care about mental health make an informed decision. Here it goes:
How do you know you should care about mental health
1) Do you have a brain?
- If you answered yes: HOORAY! You aren’t a zombie. That’s fantastic, because if you’re like me and are readily addicted to ‘The Walking Dead’ you know how miserable the life of a zombie truly is. You can continue to question 2.
- If you answered no: Since you have no cognitive abilities (from, you know, the zombie brain) don’t move on to question 2. You do not possess a brain, have no mental health, and therefore do not have to care about it. I have heard, however, that ‘The Walking Dead’ is always looking for extras. This might be a perfect role for you!
2) You have a brain. With this brain, have you ever felt a thought, feeling, or emotion at any point within the entirety of your life?
- If you answered yes: YOU POSSESS MENTAL HEALTH AND THEREFORE HAVE TO CARE ABOUT IT.
- If you answered no: You are either lying or are a zombie and, because you lack any a brain, do not realize you should not have moved on past question 1. Go back to question 1 and really consider the new career venture I suggested. If you lied, that shows thought and therefore your answer should have been yes.
There you have it. It’s really as simple as that. If you think, feel, ponder, question, day dream, or anything else that is at all cognitively related: YOU HAVE MENTAL HEALTH. Because you have it, you are obligated to care about it. And because you live in Canada, and 20% of the population struggles with a mental health concern, that means that likely you or someone you know is struggling as you read this. As a result, your obligation to care is heightened and you must support the advocacy work of others.
So, to all the non-zombies out there: PLEASE start taking mental health seriously. As we have physical health, we too have health of the mental variety. Would you ignore a zombie bite? No – you would attempt to treat it (if treatment is possible). And so you should for mental health – you must (and deserve to) take the necessary steps to maintain a healthy mental self.
And by being attentive to your own mental health that means you also must ensure not to perpetuate the stigma that mental health isn’t important or not worthy of public attention.
Because one day, if you struggle with a mental health concern, you are going to hope all the non-zombies out there are supporting you through your process.