Breaking the Stigma: Laurier Let’s Talk

Mental Health Awareness is an issue we should all care about, as it will undoubtedly affect the lives of you or someone close to you. Mental health is a largely overlooked and dismissed health issue, yet 1 in 4 North Americans live and suffer with mental illness. 

On January 27th 2016, Bell #LetsTalk is back in action, a global initiative to break the stigma against mental health disorders. For the very first time, on January 25th, the introduction of a pilot project between most, if not all, of the mental health groups on campus including Bridging the Gap, Students without Stress,, and Health Science Student Association launches: Laurier Let’s Talk. In celebration of Bell Let’s Talk, these organizations have joined together to help continue the conversation; all day in the concourse come join Laurier students as we break the stigma on mental health. 

EVENTS: Monday, January 25, 2016. 10am-4pm

HSSA Cares: TEA-stressor sponsored by David’s Tea

Students without Stress Laurier: Guided Meditation and Adult Colouring Laurier: Let’s take a Selfie and free coffee

Bridging the Gap: Food for your Mood bake sale and “Bridge Building”

The largest obstacle to overcome when breaking the stigma surrounding mental health are the myths associated with it. Because mental health is an “invisible” disease, it is often hard to digest the truly destructive nature of the illness. When someone is diagnosed with cancer or breaks their leg, we don’t expect them to just “get over it.” In fact, much the opposite, we offer unconditional support and care. Unfortunately for individuals suffering from mental illness, their experience is vastly different.

Five Common Myths about Mental Health Debunked

1.     Mental illness is not a real illness.

This is probably the most common of all myths surround mental health. While it is true that everyone gets sad sometimes, it is far from true that mental illness, like depression, is not a real illness. Depression is far from the normal rollercoaster of highs and lows that individuals experience in their life; it is a cloud of despair and distress that does not go away just because you want it to, and you can not expect someone to just get over it. This also goes for the surprisingly long list of other mental illnesses that people suffer from.

2.     Mental illness will not affect me.

Unfortunately for us, this is far from true. During our lives, mental illness will touch us all in one way or another. It is estimated that nearly 1 in 4 individuals in North America are living with mental illness, so while you may not experience it yourself, it is extremely likely that a close friend or family member will. This is also why breaking the stigma and creating an open and accepting community for those suffering is so crucial.

3.     Mental illness is an excuse for bad/lazy behaviour.

The same way an individual with the flu becomes fatigued, or the way Alzheimer’s affects a person’s ability to remember, mental illness affects physiological and behavioural changes as well and it is important to remember that the illness, not the individual, is behind these actions. No one with a mental illness woke up choosing to be depressed or bipolar so they could have an excuse to stay in bed all day. In fact, many people suffering from mental illness are ashamed, embarrassed, or feel guilty about their behavioural change – only making things harder on themselves. 

4.     People who suffer from mental illness are weak and can’t cope with stress.

It is true that everyone deals with stress in day-to-day life and that stress impacts health; however, mental illness is not caused by the inability to cope with stress. In fact, many people who suffer from mental illness are better equipped to cope with stress due to stress-management skills that many therapies and treatments for the illnesses include.

5.     People with mental illnesses are “psychos”, violent, and/or dangerous.

First and foremost, it is crucial to point out that individuals who experience mental illness are much more likely to be victims of violence than to be offenders, and research has shown that mental illness is not linked to violence. People who suffer from mental health disorders are no more or less violent compared to their non-mentally ill counterparts. Unfortunately, many factors associated with mental health, including the emphasized exclusion from community due to stigma, are linked to violence. Promotion of an open and accepting community will therefore decrease violence linked to rejection and segregation. 

Myths like these promote discrimination of those who suffer from mental illness from our school community. To reduce the impact of stigma and exclusion, we need to open up the conversation and check our facts. At Laurier, we encourage an accepting community that supports and fosters all of our students so that we all may thrive. So this week, come out to Laurier Let’s Talk and help stop the stigma, collegiette's. xx