Mental illnesses are physical afflictions in the same way viruses and broken arms are. However, they affect the most powerful and complex organ in our bodies – our brains.
Our brains are physically part of us, and after our genetics, are arguably the largest component of what makes us who we are. The health of our brains deserves the same attention as the rest of our bodies. At FamilySparks, we want to shift the discussion from talking about mental illnesses as shameful or something to hide, to a more honest conversation that normalizes all aspects of mental health. You can’t blame someone for catching a cold, and similarly, we shouldn’t be engaging in blame when something isn’t functioning properly in someone’s brain. Unfortunately, “mental health” and “mental illness” have often been portrayed negatively in both public policies and the media. FamilySparks wants to eradicate those connotations, and show that mental wellness is a shame-free part of our overall health and well-being.
We need to start by tackling the harmful stigma surrounding mental illness. Stigma prevents individuals from initially seeking and gaining access to the help they need, often causing their mental health issues to worsen. We can normalize mental wellness by:
- Openly and non-judgmentally talking about mental illnesses in regular, everyday conversations.
- Educating ourselves about how to discuss mental illness, and learning to ask respectful questions when we are unsure of something.
- Asking how others are doing and genuinely listening, caring about and responding to their answers.
- Bravely self-disclosing, sharing honestly when we’re struggling and nurturing more authentic connections. Eventually, this will lead to sharing our mental health challenges becoming less courageous and more common.
Our vision for the term “mental wellness” is a holistic approach to health that emphasizes taking care of all aspects of ourselves, including our mind, body, and spirit. We want to encourage ourselves and others to cultivate their mental wellness, rather than treating mental health as a specific problem that needs to be “fixed.” Nurturing mental wellness is an on-going journey, not a finite problem with one end-goal. We work to maintain our physical health throughout our lives and must do the same to maintain our mental wellness through the regular use and acceptance of strategies such as self-care, therapy, and taking personal time when we need it. As mental health week begins in Canada, we look forward to sharing more of our vision with you and hope to inspire your to embrace and cultivate your own mental wellness.