AMHERST – Talking about mental illness goes a long way toward eliminating barriers and stigmas, says a Cumberland County psychologist.
Wednesday is Bell Let’s Talk Day, a day that helps raise awareness toward mental health issues and Pam Chenhall with Mental Health and Addiction Services said tremendous gains have been made, but there is still much to be done before patients feel comfortable discussing their mental illness.
“The more we talk the more we reduce stigma,” Chenhall said. “We all know someone who’s struggling in life dealing with a mental illness or problems from life circumstances. By talking about it we offer an opportunity to help support that person but also helping them reach out to more appropriate services in the community. We can do a lot as a friend or family member.”
She said there are five main pillars to removing the stigmas that exist and bringing down the barriers those experiencing mental illness face. Something as simple as the language people use when describing someone with a mental illness can make all the difference in the world.
“Instead of saying someone is crazy say it’s someone with a mental illness,” she said. “Education is also a huge piece of how we lower stigma. Know the facts and the myths and being educated about mental illness helps us better understand people in close proximity who is struggling. Fact is, we all have someone in our lives or who we know who is struggling with mental illness.”
Chenhall said it’s important to be kind to those experiencing mental illness issues while listening and asking. People shouldn’t be afraid to ask someone if they’re not feeling well or if there’s something they can do to help.
The person, she said, still has the right to say they’re OK but thanks for asking.
“You’re going to hurt anyone’s feelings by reaching out and asking if they’re OK,” she said.
Two of three people suffering mental health issues do so in silence because they’re afraid of being judged or rejected. Chenhall said people shouldn’t be afraid to simply talk about mental illness.
“It’s important to reach out to each other and to share,” she said. “Not everything requires the formal system or professional help. Just talking to the people in your life, letting them know when you’re struggling and allowing them to help are important steps.”
Chenhall said there is help for people who feel they are struggling with their mental health.
In northern Nova Scotia, people can call 1-844-855-6688 during business hours (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday) where someone will listen to the issues and consider the options available in the formal system and in the community such as support groups.
“At the end of the conversation if it’s something Mental Health and Addictions can help with an appointment will be booked within a relatively short period of time,” she said. “Once they’re seen here we put a treatment plan in place.”
The mental health crisis line is available 24/7 at 1-888-429-8167.
There’s also the Kids Help Phone for children and youth at 1-800-668-6868.
In New Brunswick people can call 1-800-667-5005.
During Let’s Talk Day, Bell will donate five cents to Canadian mental health programs for each of these interactions at no cost to participants:
Text and talk: every text message, mobile or long distance call ade by Bell Canada, Bell Aliant and Bell MTS
Twitter: Every tweet using #BellLetsTalk and Bell Let’s Talk video view
Facebook: Every view of the Bell Let’s Talk Day video at facebook.com/BellLetsTalk and use of the Bell Let’s Talk frame.
Instagram: Every Bell Let’s Talk Day video view
Snapchat: Every use of Bell Let’s Talk filder and video view.
In 2017, there were more than 131.7 messages allowing for funding of more than $6.58 million for Canadian mental health.