Mental health can be a scary topic for some to discuss. There can be unknowns regarding mental wellness and in some ways, the subject has only more recently been embraced by society. For youth, discussing this may be intimidating as they may feel that they lack specialized knowledge or experience to begin a conversation about this important subject. I believe youth should feel empowered to engage others in conversation about mental health.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), in any given year; 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness, and by age 40, about 50% of the population will have had or have a mental illness. This means that mental health concerns are common, and chances are that someone you know has had an encounter with mental health in some way. As a youth, take this as a sign that conversations about mental wellness may be welcome within your social circles.
Checking in and engaging in discussion with friends and loved ones is a strategy for helping conversations about mental health become more mainstream. Be curious about an individuals’ thoughts and experiences with mental wellness. Be respectful, empathic and connect through discussion. Your conversation just may allow someone to talk about perspectives that they have not felt comfortable exploring in other instances. These kinds of invitations can go a long way towards normalizing the conversation about mental health.
Another strategy for normalizing the conversation about mental health may be to speak openly and personally about your mental health condition if you have one. Before doing this, however, keep in mind that your mental health status is your personal information and that you are under no obligation to disclose this to anyone. If you do decide to share your personal experience, this may be a powerful way for others to gain insight into what living with a particular mental health condition is like.
Mental health is extremely important and touches the lives of all people. As a youth and the next generation, your courage and advocacy can help to make conversations about mental health and wellness mainstream, comfortable and accessible.