October 10, 2012

Mental Illness Impact Bigger than Cancer!

You read it right! It's no big shocker, but it was in the health news this morning and I nearly fell off my chair with glee (if you can actually do that).

Keeping to my theme of depression (it's still hanging on, but is losing its' grip slowly), and having taught many mental fitness courses to date, it's great to see more public awareness (thanks to headlines such as this) that mental illness negatively impacts health, relationships, behaviour, and the workplace. In another article this morning (today's theme must have been mental health) employers are not ready to deal with the impacts from mental health issues; they don't even know what they are! Of course, my instant reaction to that is ....what the? Are you new?

A true leader is aware of the physical and mental health implications and does whatever they can (with whatever resources they have available) to support their employees. Even if that means saying good morning to them or getting to know a little bit about them. I work in an environment where I'm lucky to get a good morning from those around me (with the exception of my very perky and fabulous administrative assistant "Erika"). In fact, I can say good morning to my supervisor and not even get a response. It makes one feel irrelevant and unimportant and THAT can not only lead to mental health challenges down the road, but also low employee retention and low productivity. Of course, in this small town, there's no where else to go (and I'm too tired to think about it now...I'll think about that tomorrow).

Mental illness is like the roots of a tree. It can slowly creep into every aspect of your life (and the lives of others) so you don't notice it. It slowly wears on your joy, passion, and happiness until you can't remember when you were happy. Depression is the most prevelant mental health issue in Canada and the good news is it can be overcome...all you need is the awareness and time to deal with it (ironically, when you are in it, it appears a lot harder than it sounds).

Situational depression is big. Whether it is caused by chronic stress due to work, life, school, imbalances or a life you don't enjoy, it can rob you of your happiness. The first step is to become aware of it; the next to either talk to a professional counsellor about it or a good friend (a.k.a. a good listener). Can you change something now or does it involve a plan of action for the future? The most important aspect of treating situational depression (in my humble opinion) is time. We don't have it, we always complain about not having enough, we rush around because of our lack of it, and we certainly don't want to sit down with ourselves and work this stuff out (enter the anti depressant industry).

Don't get me wrong, this self awareness stuff is the hard part. For over two months, I have strained my brain trying to figure out what the hell is making me so glum. Overtime, however, I have come to realize it isn't just one thing...it's change. Transitions in life can kick the bubbles out of you. If you are unaware of it, you just feel crappy and don't know why.

I am very happy to hear that mental illness in the workplace (and our society) is starting to headline the news. I will be more happy when I start to see employers (big and small) take a lead role in prevention and promotion of mental health. It doesn't take a budget. It does take a plan of action (and perhaps consulting with a health promotion professional like myself - and I would give you a great deal).

So without sounding like one of those irritating health promotion people, I would like to suggest that you do something for your mental well being today in celebration of this headline. Go for a walk, take a bath, read a book, find some peace, and focus on all the good things in your life without thinking of the future or the past.

Oh...and one more thing. For those of you "should'ing" all over yourselves for not exercising or eating your veggies consider this...the mind has a powerful hold on the body. What you do for your mind will improve your body...even if you don't get off the couch.


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