NEWS: Around the Arctic May 04, 2012 - 5:41 am

Mental health campaign seeks support during Mental Health Awareness Week

“Mental health can no longer be ignored. We are all affected"

SAMANTHA DAWSON

This coming week, Partners for Mental Health has something for you to think about.

During Mental Health Awareness Week, May 7 to 13, Partners for Mental Health would like you to sign an online pledge of support at its website “notmyselftoday” in favour of more mental health services and personal involvement in providing support to others.

“Mental health can no longer be ignored. We are all affected. We are all touched by it. That’s why I’m pledging my support to improve mental health in Canada,” it reads.

So far 25,000 people have signed the pledge and some have shared their personal stories onlin.

Generally campaigns such as the notmyselftoday.ca pledge and Mental Health Awareness Week are a good thing, said Jenny Tierney, the executive director of the Embrace Life Council in Iqaluit.

That’s because these campaigns point people to the resources that are available to them, and “help people realize that [mental health] issues aren’t something we need to hide from,” Tierney said.

“For a long time in Canada we haven’t talked about it, and people have been ashamed of it. It’s not something to be ashamed of,” she said.

Tierney said that getting over that stigma is important for youth, particularly for youth in Nunavut, where there’s a lack of trained professionals such as social workers and psychiatrists.

“Without having [trained] individuals here in the community it can be rather difficult,” she said.

Over coming shame is one thing, but “we [also] want to make sure the right people, and the trained people are here, and that there is follow-up care.”

Mental health remains a threatening subject to Canadians, although one in five Canadians will encounter a mental health problem in their lives, said Jeff Moat, president of the Partners for Mental Health.

“Barriers go up because of the stigmas,” Moat said. “We need to do what breast cancer did 20 years ago.”

In the area of mental health, there many gaps in research and treatment san support as well as gaps in people’s understanding of mental health issues, he said.

“We want the playing field to be level,” Moat said. “There are all sorts of shortfalls in the system.”