Mental illness is not always an easy conversation topic. The fact that one in five Canadians will personally experience a mental health issue in their lifetime does not make it any less uncomfortable or less stigmatizing. It does make it all the more real, however.
By Mari-Len De
Unlike many diseases that reveal obvious, physical symptoms, mental illness is an invisible condition that leaves people often suffering alone, untreated and in silence. The stigma associated with a mental illness does not help the cause, either, and makes open conversations a little difficult, especially in the workplace.
Awareness around mental illness has increased in recent years, however – mainly due to a more concerted effort among government agencies and large organizations to shine a spotlight on mental illness and the stigma associated with it. High-profile personalities leading the charge and talking openly about their experiences with a mental health issue are helping to lift the heavy fog that has historically surrounded this invisible disease.
The economic cost associated with mental illness – estimated at $51 billion per year in Canada – has also been brought to light in recent years. This financial burden not only includes health care dollars spent, but also costs associated with lost productivity and increased disability. With such high stakes, mental health suddenly becomes an important workplace health and safety issue.
Eliminating the stigma around mental illness is one of the biggest hurdles to improving the prospects for mental health. It is getting better. More people are now openly talking about their depression and seeking professional help. However, many still suffer in silence. Often, by the time loved ones are clued in on just how much victims are suffering, it is already too late – like the recent case of a new mother from British Columbia who suffered from postpartum depression and eventually committed suicide. One death is one too many.
Early diagnosis and appropriate mental health management are crucial. Massage therapy has a role to play in promoting mental health and wellness, and eliminating the stigma around mental illness. Massage Therapy Canada’s cover story in the Spring Edition explores the healing power of touch and the incredible trust patients place on their professional massage therapists. Read the article here.