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What Do We Really Know About Mental Health?

12/07/2015, 5:00am PST
By Kelvin Cech

Special thanks to Marilyn Marchment for her work on this series.

 

We all have it.

Whether you’re feeling sad, happy or angry, mental health is something we all have in common. It’s relevant to parents, coaches and young athletes alike, no matter their age, sport or level of play.

We’re exploring mental health this week at the North Shore Winter Club, and this is the first in a series of three posts designed to raise awareness and get the conversation rolling.

Learning about mental health not only alerts us to when we may need to get some support, it also helps us to better understand what a friend or teammate might be experiencing so we can support them.

Ultimately, knowing more about mental health and understanding that it's something we all share will help remove negative stigma and fear currently associated with it.

What Does Mental Health Look Like in Children and Teenagers?

Children and teens are all mind, body and spirit. They’re reaction, impulse and mood. They’re figuring out how to deal with big feelings, process thoughts and manage their behaviours. They can be all over the place, and most of the time that’s normal.

What happens when their mood or behaviour begins to shift for longer than normal stretches? Well, it could be indicative of something more serious.

“We’re hesitant to talk about mental health because society has taught us it’s scary. It’s something we don’t want to happen to us. That not actually true.”

That’s Marilyn Marchment. Marilyn is a club member and the Principal of Big Think. She works with MindCheck.ca, a non-clinical, BC-based program developed to support teens and young adults with a path that’s often shrouded in fog. Marilyn approached me after a post I wrote for Halloween called The Scariest Monsters a Kid Will Face to help take the fear out of mental health.

Defining Mental Health

One of the difficulties with mental health awareness is its not a quantitative element. We can’t measure it. “You don’t seem happy today,” is a common phrase, but how can such an assumption be made absent a glimpse inside a person’s brain?

With that in mind (get it?) mindcheck.ca defines mental health as your everyday thoughts, feelings and behaviours and how they affect your daily activities and relationships.

We continually experience thoughts, behaviours and emotions and they can have varying impacts on our lives based on environment, our experiences, what we eat and the people with whom we’re surrounded.

People are constantly navigating a continuum of mental health that changes in intensity depending on what’s happening in your life.

Statistics Show…

Statistics show the truth. We can actually quantify mental health to a degree simply by understanding the scope of those it affects.

While 1 out of 5 people will experience a mental health challenge in their lifetime severe enough to affect daily activities and relationships (source: Canadian Mental Health Association), we need to focus more closely on the stat that 5 out of 5 people have mental health.

You have it. I have it. That doesn’t mean we have a disease, it just means we have thoughts, feelings, and behaviours and they affect our day and how we function in it.

However, and this is where the conversation gets serious, mental health challenges can happen. A mental health issue is when your thoughts, feelings or behaviours become too intense and last too long, resulting in an inability to participate in normal activities or relationships. It’s important to learn the signs and act early.

Uh Oh, I Might Have an Issue. Now What?

MindCheck.ca has a series of simple quizzes you can take to see what might be going on for you and it connects you to a range of resources, including self-help. The key to understanding your own mental health is beginning the conversation, asking the tough questions and exposing your mental health for the most important person on Earth.

Yourself.

Being aware of your mental health and admitting to yourself when things are changing will help keep you healthy, connected and supported. Even if you’re struggling just a little bit, it’s easy for that mountain of angst to grow if left unchecked.

Next time: “I love your sense of humour, but when you drink…” we’ll dig deeper into what to watch for and how you can help a friend who might not even realize they’re in need of a friend.

 

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