#GETLOUD for Mental Health Week

May 2, 2016

May 2-6 is the Canadian Mental Health Association’s 65th annual Mental Health Week. It is a chance to #GETLOUD by speaking out and challenging the stigma and discrimination that usually goes hand in hand with mental illness. It’s an opportunity to build support for those people in our lives – friends, family members, co-workers, neighbours – who face mental health challenges.

What government can do

6.7 million Canadians are living with a mental health problem or illness today. By age 40, more than 40 percent of Canadians have or have had a mental illness. And yet mental health services seem to be low on most governments’ priority lists for health care investments. This causes needless suffering for patients and families — and has a significant adverse effect on our economy.

Here are some key things government can do to ensure mental health services are available to all Canadians when and where they need it:

  • Fully adopt the National Mental Health Strategy crafted by the Canadian Mental Health Commission in consultation with people living with mental health issues, their families, experts and stakeholder organizations across Canada, including the CLC. Changing Directions, Changing Lives provides a blueprint for improving mental health outcomes for all Canadians.
  • Establish a Mental Health Transition and Innovation fund that works in partnership with provinces and territories to provide dedicated mental health resources.
  • Remove barriers to EI sickness benefits and CPP Disability for people living with mental illnesses.

What unions are doing

With most adults spending more of their waking hours at work than anywhere else, addressing mental health in the workplace is especially critical. For many years, Canadian unions have been involved in building workplaces that support mental as well as physical health and safety.

Here’s some of what we do:

  • Challenge discrimination at work and in society, recognizing that sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism are risk factors for poor mental health.
  • Work to address workplace harassment and bullying, directly with employers but also by expanding occupational health and safety legislation.
  • Unions were instrumental in creating the Workplace Mental Health Standard and are working with employers to implement it in workplaces across Canada.
  • Provide courses and workshops for members to challenge stigma, promote awareness of mental health, and address workplace bullying and harassment.
  • Negotiate access to mental health benefits and employee assistance programs to provide assistance and support to workers with mental health challenges. Unions also help ensure workers with mental illnesses are accommodated at work.

What you can do

There are lots of simple ways you can participate in Mental Health Week. Try these suggested actions from the CMHA:

  • #GETLOUD on social media: check out the CMHA toolkit for shareable images and sample posts and tweets.
  • Wear green in support of mental health: Green ribbons were used in the 1800s to label people “insane.” The CMHA is asking people to turn that negative history on its head by wearing green during Mental Health Week.
  • Speak up: talk openly about mental health: Talking openly about mental health, with people you feel safe with, can end the silence and shame around mental health problems.
  • Be a friend to someone you know who’s struggling: You can be the friend who opens up a conversation. Offer to listen without judgment and do what you can to help.