January has always been a difficult month for me and I’m not alone.
This week featured Blue Monday, statically the saddest day of the year.
Obviously naming a day the saddest of the year is more for effect than a fact.
For me, I have always struggled with the grey, the cold and the general gloominess.
Then in January 2008 my brother-in-law took his own life. So needless to say, I am relieved when the calendar flips to February.
As we watch a tough economy develop in Canada, I can’t help but worry for those that are struggling and stressed.
Times have been good up to now and it might have been easier to push mental health to the background.
Depression can sneak up and if it has never been properly identified and treated, it can be really dangerous.
The trigger can be losing a job or facing a change in surroundings.
Already we are hearing that suicide rates are rising.
The biggest question for suicide survivors is what could they have done to prevent it.
It’s not realistic to put that burden on yourself but there are things you and I can do.
We can check in on our neighbour if we haven’t seen them in awhile.
We can lend a non-judgemental ear to a friend that is struggling.
We can volunteer in our community.
We can buy a warm meal for someone in need.
We can smile at the people walking by us on the sidewalk.
There is lots we can do.
There is also more our governments can do to help.
Instead of cutting budgets when it comes to mental health, we can fund initiatives that promote prevention and support.
Instead of letting big pharma tell us that a pill will solve all of our problems, we can fund research and development into the root causes of mental health issues and provide more education and solutions involving more than just medication.
Mental illness carries a stigma in our society.
We don’t talk about it. We make derogatory comments when someone says they are depressed. We tell them to toughen up, get over it, and move on.
The problem with that advice is it’s wrong.
Mental illness is a disease just like diabetes or cancer.
We wouldn’t dream of telling someone with Stage 4 cancer to toughen up and get over it.
Our focus needs to shift from dismissal to community. We need to look after our friends and family, our neighbours.
I believe our society is only as strong as our weakest link. The more we do to help those in need, the stronger our whole community is.
The scary stat for me is that 10 to 20 per cent of youth are affected by a mental disorder or illness.
As adults, we need to lead by example.
Stop creating a stigma and start creating a safe environment to talk.
Our kids should feel completely at ease discussing their own mental health. January isn’t the only month that is tough for people with mental illness.
The whole year can be hard.
So keep your eye out for someone that has dropped off your grid. Look them up — give them a hug and tell them you are thinking of them.
It can make all the difference in the world.
Rob Murphy is the sales manager of the Summerland Review.