Mental Illness Awareness Week

From October 6 to 12 is Mental Illness Awareness Week, when people all across Canada come together to support survivors of mental illness as well as their caregivers and/or loved ones. Established in 1992 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the campaign is continued by organizations including the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH).

For the millions of people that suffer from mental illness, it is a time for spreading awareness about the various struggles they face and how they could be supported. For the people that spend endless time taking care of and supporting their loved ones with mental illness, it is an opportunity to seek help from their community and support systems. This campaign serves as an opportunity to show the realities of mental illness and educate the public about its effects and implications.

Understanding Mental Illness

Mental illness is the product of the interactions between biological factors (genetics, heredity, etc.) and environmental factors (family life, stressful events, substance use, etc.). This means that the unique combinations of factors create psychiatric disorder(s) specific to the individual. Of course, there are general guidelines that distinguish various mental illnesses from each other, however, specific symptoms can be different or to varying degrees. It is also common for individuals to be diagnosed with more than one mental, which means the struggles individuals face are complex.

Two important components of any mental illness are the patient’s experience of significant personal distress and the impairment of functioning. This means that the person will be distressed as a result of the symptoms of the disorder and will be unable to function normally. This is the reason why patients need support from loved ones and psychiatric professionals to overcome the impairing symptoms they face and attempt to retain social functioning.

Finding Support

Coping with a diagnosis can be overwhelming and stressful, which is why it’s essential to find people to support you through the process of seeking treatment and recovery. Non-professional help is always beneficial in addition to professional help in order to get advice and emotional support.

Some people you can seek help from include:

  • Psychiatrist or therapist
  • Local health/mental health clinic
  • Trusted friend or family member
  • Mental health organizations
  • Online support groups

In order to take care of someone else, you have to have a stable support system for yourself too. If you are someone who is taking care of a loved one that is struggling with a mental health issues, it is crucial for you to reach out for support as well. By finding others that are in a similar position as yourself, you can gain helpful advice as well as people having someone to confide in. Don’t forget that your mental health is important too.

Abolish the Stigma

Campaigns like Mental Illness Awareness Week are so important for raising awareness about the realities of mental health issues and how they impact people’s lives, directly and indirectly. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of misunderstandings about mental health and how much people can struggle to function in their daily lives. It’s essential that we end the stigma of mental illness by being unafraid to talk openly about our issues and seek help when needed. Educating each other is the only way to progress in a society where mental health is taken seriously and where people are able to support each other.

To get more information about mental illness and support for yourself or a loved one, check out the following resources:

Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH)

Canadian Mental Health Association


National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Here To Help

Mood Disorders Society of Canada

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