Imagine a colleague or a relative who is smiley and fun – Someone who is empathic while being open; A person who doesn’t harbor resentment – Someone who is natural, genuine, who works hard and responds to positive feedback. Are you getting a picture in your mind?
What if I told you this person had a mental illness, major depressive disorder? Did that picture change for you?
Through the week of October 4th to 10th 2015, we observed Mental Illness Awareness Week which focused attention on mental disorders: signs and symptoms, how to get help, stigma, hope and recovery, and the impact of mental illness on lives, families, workplaces and society.
When many of us think of Mental Health we tend to think on the negative side of our health. Let’s take a closer look at positive mental health. You could be an individual living with a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder and have good mental health. It’s true and I am living proof!
Mental Illness, like Diabetes is not something we choose. Too often, individuals with mental illness are told to “pull yourself together” or “get over it”. That’s not how it works. Mental Illness must be monitored and managed like any other illness. This can be done with the proper medication, therapy and/ or counselling, a solid support system, and exercise, some, or all of these together.
Recovery can mean different things to different people depending on their situation. In relation to an illness it can mean that you are cured, done, fineeto! Recovery for me means having symptoms under control, taking my daily dose of medication, keeping up with Doctor’s appointments, having my support system in place, getting regular exercise and living my life like any other individual would. So yes, essentially, even though I live with a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, I have positive mental health.
1 in 3 Canadians will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. Mental illness does not discriminate. It could happen to anyone at any time in their life. Know that there is help out there. Listen when someone says they are feeling depressed, ask questions, get involved. Let them know you care. Connect them with someone who can help, a doctor a family member, a counsellor. Take it serious.
If we work on this together, listening to each other, more people with mental illness can live in recovery; live with HOPE!