By Yvonne Sam
The present pandemic is not without its accompanying ills, daily worsening with the prolongation of the imposed lockdown. This year, the Canadian Mental Health Association celebrated, from May 4 to May 10, Mental Health Week — an annual, national, public education campaign, designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness.
The celebration this year, came in the midst of great and grave changes, the world over, the majority of which already have, or possess, the potential to severely impact mental health.
Trying to concentrate and navigate the uncertainties of a pandemic, can certainly affect mental health and wellness, with serious long-term consequences. Mental health is no divider, or discriminator, of persons, it affects all of us.
Sadly, however, for far too often, this important aspect of our overall wellbeing is neglected, stigmatized and even dismissed. As humans, we are loath to discuss our mental health with each other, but now, as we continue to live under the indefinite constraints of lock down, due to the pandemic, it is important to realize that we need each other, more than ever.
No longer are our social connections built into our daily lives, hence it is, of utmost importance, that we be deliberate about our social connections. At best, individuals need more than an Awareness Week, to improve the better mental health wellbeing, they seek.
Casting all banter aside, there is one thing about the Black community, which I somewhat admire — its resiliency. We are truly a formidable bunch. We have lived through so much tragedy and adversity, yet we keep showing up, but most of the time showing out. This is where the problem lies, and the reason for my post-sneak.
I am worried about those in our community, who do keep showing up, but with so much pain behind your smiles. You know of what I speak. You constantly put on a brave face for 10-14 hours a day, as opposed to at night, when you are alone with your own thoughts, so tired and worn down, unsure of how you are going to do it, all over again.
Please consider the importance of evaluating and monitoring your mental health. How aware were you, in Canada, of the week of celebration that just went by, or that since 1949, the month of May has been observed as Mental Health Month in the United States?
When you hear the word “mental health” what do you think about? Does it make you think that something has to be wrong? Do you think that it means someone is “crazy” or plain “messed up”?
Sorry, from a professional stance, that is not what it means at all.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is “a state of well-being, in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.
In the Merriam–Webster lexicon, mental health is defined as, “a person’s condition, with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being”. To put it simply, mental health is how you think and feel about your own life. It is that simple.
If you think about physical health, it is recommended that an individual be seen, at least once a year, for a general evaluation. At the meeting, the doctor will ask questions about how things have been, over the year; probably request that some basic blood tests be conducted, following which he will then make a recommendation of the frequency of your check-ups.
Mental health is much the same. Your mental health is directly connected to your physical health, your job and your overall satisfaction with your own life.
Let us view the same situation from another perspective: if you have a brand new automobile, your dream vehicle, would you ever think of not getting a car wash, not changing the oil or driving with partially-inflated tires?
No, you obviously would not, primarily because that car is essential in getting you from place to place. It is much the same for your mental health. Your mental health is directly connected to your physical health, your relationships, your work and your overall satisfaction with your own life.
If you are showing up every day, but your “show out” is gone, you should pay careful attention to your mental health. Ask yourself the question – ARE YOU THRIVING OR JUST SURVIVING?
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is the Public Relations Officer of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.