In Canada October 3-9, is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and October 10, 2021 is World Mental Health Day, and although much has been done there is still much more to do, long after the day and the week have gone by.
In secondary schools, one in five students shows signs of mental illness, and a great percentage of these children will not receive treatment.
Suicide has now been identified as the second leading cause of death among high school students, yet little to no constructive action has been taken.
Why are so many teens deciding that death is a preferable alternative to continuing on?
The answer lies in the fact that mental health is an uncomfortable discussion topic. We remain preoccupied in a culture that tells children to hide their emotions because they need to be tough, and that emotions, especially negative ones are meant to be kept private.
Meanwhile the number and severity of mental-health issues also continue to increase on campuses across the country.
We cannot go on like this.
We cannot continue to push mental health out of public discussion, and treat those who are hurting like they are broken.
Superimposed on this super-charged issue, is the fact that on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global health crisis ― a pandemic.
Motivated by prior disease models, historic and unprecedented public health actions designed to reduce transmission, including social distancing, followed this announcement .
While required to halt the spread of COVID-19, physical distancing also possess the ability for negative secondary outcomes, such as an increased risk of suicide.
Findings in 2020, from Statistics Canada’s Canadian Perspectives Survey Series (CPSS) showed decreases in people’s self-perceived mental health with fewer reporting their mental health as “excellent” or “very good”), particularly among women and young people aged 15 to 24 years.
Pioneering a path to effective mental health awareness training for faculty and students will shatter the stigma surrounding mental illness so that those struggling are open to reaching out to the resources universities and schools provide.
On February 15, 2019, Ming Mei Ip, 24, a student in art education, committed suicide in a studio in Concordia’s Visual Arts Building. A close friend confirmed Ip had been struggling with mental illness for several years.
She was the first student to die on campus by suicide, but her death highlighted the archaic response to mental health crisis — hush it up, release as little information as possible, so that faculty and students can both move on.
Concordia claims that the university had already begun to re-evaluate how it responds to mental health crises.
In this Mental Health Awareness month, I call on all national stakeholders to take a step back and cogitate on not only this past year, and the unparalleled emotional turmoil it caused, but also the manner in which mental health has been handled for the past several years, and utilize the reflection towards effecting positive changes.
A primary step would be to prioritize the wellness of the student body and commence implementation of better mental health education into the curriculum.
Teaching students about the importance of a healthy mental state, and how to reach it, as well as about mental illness and the stigma surrounding it will not only expose students to information that could help them one day, but also aid them in identifying signs of mental illness in their peers.
Let there be a national mental health awareness training program.
Considering this a necessity would be an understatement, and it is time to take that first step to save the minds and lives of the students… the future leaders of our nation.
Aleuta continua— The struggle continues.