Did you know that one in five Canadians, according to a leading organization in the field, will experience a mental health disorder during their lifetime?
Perhaps you're one of the more than six and a half million in that category.
But you don't have to be a member of that category to be affected, especially if you have friends or family with mental health issues, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
Those numbers were a motivation for the CMHA to open two new offices in the province, in addition to the one it already has in St. John's: one in Stephenville, and now Grand Falls-Windsor, says its new regional coordinator.
"Primarily, we're going to be spreading awareness and information, and increasing discussion around mental health and mental illness," said coordinator Tia Morris. "We want to increase dialogue in the central region around mental health and mental illness. We want to reduce the stigma that's related to that, and we want to make sure people in central are aware of our programs and services, and are able to access those as needed."
She explained the association has been running a number of programs from its St. John's office; the staff there travel around the province offering them. Morris said she hopes to assist the staff in question in travelling to the regions her office will be covering.
One of the programs already offered by the CMHA is "Think Twice." It's an anti-stigma initiative for junior high and high school students, developed and led by an association staff member from the St. John's office.
"He presents a very interactive, experiential type of presentation to youth to get them to learn more about mental health and mental illness, and rethink some of the messages they have been sent, that we feel need to be clarified and corrected," said Morris.
The stereotypes about people with mental illness are numerous. One of the most common, according to the CHMA, is that "mentally ill people are dangerous." In fact, states the association in one of its brochures, and confirmed by Morris, is that the vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent. On the contrary, they are more often victims of violence, rather than perpetrators of violence. In the cases where violence does occur, it results from the reasons as with the general public, such as feeling threatened, or excessive use of alcohol and/or drugs.
Another stereotype, says Morris, is that people with mental illness can never be normal. In fact, however, the CMHA says people with mental illness can and do recover, and resume normal activities.
"A lack of understanding and awareness has resulted in a lot of these stereotypes," she said. "A major role of the CMHA is to try and remedy that. Many of those misconceptions can be harmful to people."
The CMHA's regional office is located at 16 Pinsent Street in Grand Falls-Windsor. Their toll-free number is 1-877-753-8550. The website is www.cmhanl.ca.