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Let’s Talk Science and the Royal Society of Canada have partnered to provide Globe and Mail readers with relevant coverage about issues that affect us all – from education to the impact of leading-edge scientific discoveries.

Emily White, Site Coordinator Let’s Talk Science Memorial University of Newfoundland – Grenfell Campus

It is important to promote positive mental health and education on mental health and mental illnesses. Nearly everyone will have challenges with their mental health at some point, but not everyone will experience a mental illness.

Adolescence is a time of onset for several mental illnesses, in which youth will start to experience symptoms. There is a need for greater education in mental health literacy to help youth have a better understanding of what they or someone they are close to may be going through. Education in mental health literacy can help in breaking down barriers to seeking help, such as stigma or problems recognizing symptoms.

Mental health is a state of well-being, when a person realizes their abilities, can cope with normal stresses, work productively, and contribute to the community. This is separate from mental illness, which impairs a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. There are various resources available to Canadians through the Canadian Mental Health Association, Kids Help Phone and Crisis Services Canada.

Mental health vs mental illness

It is possible to have a mental illness but still have positive mental health or have poor mental health without having a mental illness. At Let’s Talk Mental Health, a symposium hosted by Let’s Talk Science, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s and Grenfell campus, Tyler Pritchard (Ph.D. candidate) discussed some common misconceptions of mental health and mental illness, including the myths that mental illness is untreatable and that it lasts forever. It’s important to bring a focus to the literacy aspect and address information that may be overlooked.

Promoting positive mental health, has it benefits for example, connecting with families and peers and getting involved with the community can have a positive impact on an individual’s wellbeing.

People can have really positive mental health, really poor mental health or anywhere in between. Your mental health shifts throughout their lives and can change.

Mental illness can be described as impairing patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours causes by biological, psychological, and social factors. There is no one thing that causes a mental illness. The pattern of thoughts, feelings or behaviours cause distress in someone and impairment in that person or their family.

Common mental health myths

· People with mental illness are weak. False, many things outside of a person’s control, biological, psychological, and social influence the development of a mental illness.

· Mental illness is untreatable. False, there is lots of research to show that almost all mental illnesses are treatable in some form or another.

· Mental illnesses are forever. Some mental illnesses are short-term where others can be more lifelong and balanced with treatment.

· People with mental illness are violent. False, research has found that people with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence.

· Children can’t have mental illness. False, anyone can develop a mental illness at any age.

How can you can support someone with a mental illness

· Avoid stigmatizing language

· Show genuine concern

· Let them share what details they are comfortable sharing – don’t push them

· Don’t be judgemental – hear them out

Children and adolescents who are experiencing mental health problems can show subtle or more overt changes. Read more about Recognizing signs of child and youth mental distress: A guide for parents and caregivers.

References:

1 https://cmha.ca/brochure/fast-facts-about-mental-illness/

2 Gulliver, A., Griffiths, K. M., & Christensen, H. (2010). Perceived barriers and facilitators to mental health help-seeking in young people: A systematic review. BMC Psychiatry, 10(1), 113. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-244X-10-113