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CMHA’s Mental Health Week 2010

Reading Raul’s post over at Hummingbird604, I thought I’d take a quick moment to write in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association‘s Mental Health Week, happening May 3rd to 7th.

It’s interesting that once we become aware of and acknowledge this aspect of our experience, we see the effects and impacts of mental health everywhere. It’s every bit as elemental as what you are eating, the quality of the air you breathe, the parts of your blood — especially for anyone working in a field where one’s state of mind counts for anything, and I would pretty much include any job involving a computer or other people in that category.

I sometimes joke with my friends that I went back into a master’s program for the free counselling. While it’s not entirely true — I surely hope my interest in planning, my long-term goals, the supportive encouragement from important people in my life, and past positive experiences all have something to do with it too! — I can say without a doubt that knowing counselling services are available to help me out during the huge undertaking of graduate education (or any post-secondary education, period) is more than a little bit comforting. For the fellow students in my life, I’ve regularly encouraged them to make use of those counselling services should the need surface, even if that system can be a bit daunting. Mood disorders count — I’m agnostic as to the nature versus nurture bit. Whether we learned it or it’s a pattern more deeply embedded, if we need help, we need it.

A friend of mine has recently borne witness to the enormous consequences of what can happen if for one reason or another someone doesn’t get the help they need for their mental health difficulties. The strength required to say, “I need help,” is enormous. The obstacles to living and believing that “I can make a different and better life for myself,” are huge, especially when other people (friends, families, employers/employees, etc.) are involved. It is so easy to let any of the other billion motives and details get in the way. I have a lot to learn in helping nurture my own attentiveness to these matters in my daily behaviour, but I’m also happy to say awareness is probably the most difficult first step, and that almost no one in my life has actively refused to learn or listen about why this is important.

Some friends in Toronto will be putting on Toronto’s first Mental Health Camp at the end of the month. Raul and Isabella will also be putting on a second Vancouver Mental Health Camp in July. Both events examine mental health and social media. I think it’s a fascinating topic — as social media follows our lives, thoughts and movements, we also live our major life events — deaths, illnesses, losses and other hardships — in social media as well, as well as celebrating our joys, major and minor victories, and periods of growth. How do the architecture of those tools privilege or favour some forms of expression over others? And how does the evolution and future of privacy online figure into things, even as we attempt to re-shape societal stigmas around mental health?

Here’s to everybody doing what we have to. I’ll also take a moment to draw attention to the work a friend of mine in Toronto. For the past year or so, he has been doing his bit to help others “stay sane in this crazy world,” as he puts it, through his Life Habits podcast. It’s great listening and I often keep an episode or two lying around in my iPod for those times when it feels like I need to spend an extra moment think about a particular aspect of my experience.

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