Mental health is anything that relates to your emotional or psychological well-being. Everyone has mental health just like everyone has physical health – and just as we all have challenges with our physical health from time to time, so will we with our mental health. Chances are you know more than one person in need of support right now. These struggles are not uncommon and aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They are part of how we grow. But sometimes it can be too much for people to handle on their own.
It is important to understand the difference between mental health and mental illness. Mental health is a term used to describe our general mental well-being, where mental illness is specific to diagnosable conditions like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Everyone deals with their own mental health challenges, but not everyone deals with mental illness.
Anyone can be a Natural Support, including you. That’s what this website is all about! Natural Supports are supportive connections between people ranging from close relationships, like friends and family, to more distant relationships, like neighbours and teachers. Natural Supports are there to help others through challenging times, encourage learning, and lend advice when appropriate. So, when you help someone through a hard time, you are being a Natural Support!
When someone you know is going through a struggle, the best thing you can do for them is show you genuinely care. Some of the best ways to show you care are by checking-in with them, listening to what they are going through, and helping them find support and resources if necessary. Remember that people don’t always need or want advice – they may just need someone to hear what they are feeling. If you are feeling concerned for someone, it is always better to take the time to ask how they’re doing.
Stigma is negative stereotypes that we usually learn from those around us - when someone is seen in a negative way because of a characteristic or attribute. Unfortunately, mental health is quite stigmatized, and because of this, people are scared of judgement and often feel shame because they are dealing with something challenging. This leads to people not seeking out help and feeling isolated and alone. But the more we learn, and the more we talk about mental health, the less stigmatized it will be.
There are multiple reasons why someone may not reach out for help. Mental health remains misunderstood by many, or stigmatized. It used to be assumed that someone with mental health concerns was weak or didn’t have the strength to manage their mental health. It is only recently that we are starting to understand that a mental health issue can be just like a physical health issue – it’s brought on by many factors. This is why it is so important for us to have these conversations and be open to learning.
Other reasons someone may not seek out help could be: not knowing what help exists and where to find it, feeling like the supports that do exist aren’t for them, not having the energy or capacity to find help because their struggle is so overwhelming, feeling like others have it worse, or that their struggle is not important.
In the short term, we help each other by checking-in with friends and family when we think they are struggling with something, and by building our skills and confidence to listen and not worry as much about saying the wrong thing. Long-term, we can learn how to help and teach others in our family, friends, and community, to make sure that as many people as possible have the tools to help people experiencing difficulty.