2015 Mental Illness Awareness Week

Dyan Dunsmoor-Farley

Community member, Mental Health and Substance Use Local Action Team

Tuesday, September 29 2015

October 4 to 10 is Mental Illness Awareness Week across Canada. It is estimated that one in five people across the country will struggle with mental illness or a substance misuse disorder over the course of their life. Imagine that in terms of your family or circle of friends. We do not hesitate to seek help when our physical health is at risk, but many people find it difficult to reach out for help when they experience mental health challenges. Historically, our health care system has been focused on providing supports to those with serious and persistent mental health conditions, but Island Health is in the process of trying to shift resources to intervene earlier before conditions deteriorate. Like any illness, the earlier people get help the better the prognosis. 

The first step is for each of us to be aware of our own health and the health of those we care about. The three most common mental health conditions on Gabriola as elsewhere in the province are depression, anxiety and substance misuse. Each of these conditions is treatable. The first step is to see your family doctor who can refer you to the mental health nurse who attends the Gabriola Health Clinic every Tuesday. She can provide assessment, short-term counselling and referral to other services as required. 

Perhaps the best outcome from Mental Illness Awareness Week would be that, individually and as a community, we learn the signs and symptoms of mental illness and take steps to get help for ourselves and our loved ones; more importantly, that we place as much importance on our mental health as we do on our physical health. No one should have to struggle with mental illness alone. For more information on mental health and substance misuse supports visit: www.heretohelp.bc.ca.