By: Grace Manning

(content warning: eating disorders, depression, anxiety, self harm, substance abuse)

Figuring out exactly what mental health means and what it may look like in our own life can be difficult as it is not as obvious as physical health. But like physical health, we need to take care of it daily and seek professional help when needed. Our mental health is composed of our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It shows in how we think, feel, and act on a day to day basis. Also like physical health, there are common signs of when our mental health may be struggling. Difficulties in making decisions and handling stress, mood, and destructive thinking are a part of the barriers that challenge our mental health. When we are out of control of our mental health and it is in control of us is when it begins to become self destructive. It can manifest itself in our sleeping patterns, eating, and in extreme cases lead to substance abuse and self harm. As mental health is used when describing our well-being, mental illness is used to describe a diagnosis by a professional. To name a few, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are all mental illnesses that can be addressed by a professional through treatment (support for these illnesses is provided at the end of the post). Apart of knowing about our mental health is knowing ourselves, this can mean knowing when you need help. Reaching out to someone you trust or seeking professional help are not signs of weakness, but of strength. Knowing when to ask for help means recognizing when something needs to change, and you deserve the growth that comes from change. We all have our own mental health that is built and affected by our life experiences, communities, and emotions. It may seem difficult but knowing when to check in with yourself and with others will help us all maintain a positive mental health.

There are many practices that can boost our mood, create strong habits, and overall help guide us to become more resilient people who enjoy our lives. To start, social connection is a great way to practice maintaining a positive mental health. As humans we all have a unique desire for social connection, this is as important as the people we’re surrounding ourselves with. This has been a challenge to us all recently with the Covid-19 pandemic. Finding different ways to stay connected online has never been easier with Facetime, Zoom, etc. Even writing a letter or seeing one another from a distance can help us all feel less isolated at difficult times. Family (blood and chosen), friendships, and relationships lay the foundation of love and support that over time, you just may be able to give to yourself and grow your mental health. Stress management is another way we can practice building a positive mental health every day. Navigating your emotions through journaling or talking to someone you trust are ways we relieve the stress that can weigh us down. Make time for relaxation and unwind with music or a favourite book, relaxation is just as important as productivity! Exercise is another proven way towards building a positive mental health and this doesn’t have to mean reps at the gym (although if that’s your thing, go for it!). Create time each day to move your body, walk, swim, dance around your room, however you choose to move, your mind and body will thank you for it. One of the most important ways we can work towards building a positive mental health is through doing what we love. Finding a passion is a strong way to improve your sense of self. Maybe it’s playing an instrument, writing, being a part of a sports team, volunteering, painting, photography, whatever it is you discover you love doing, share it with others. Our hobbies, interests, and things we are passionate about can bring us an endless sense of connection with others and with ourselves.

Over the years, mental health is something we are hearing about more and more. Understanding our own mental health is the key to understanding our emotions, needs, and self through our entire lives. Know what this means to you personally, and how you can use mental health as a way to connect to others, it can give us the compassion we need to get through even the hardest of times. Know to check in with yourself and others daily, and when that may mean seeking additional help from a professional. Know that you are so worthy of the love, strength and support that comes with taking care of your mental health.

Resources

Nationally:

24/7 national support service offering professional counselling to support young people

  • ca (or text 778 783 0177)

Online crisis and emotional support chat https://www.youthspace.ca

  • Canadian Mental Health Association (cmha.ca or 416-646-5557) https://cmha.ca
  • Mindyourmind (mindyourmind.ca)

Organization that combines mental health, wellness, and engagement with young people. Uses professional resources to help impact Canadian youth https://mindyourmind.ca

Canadian Crisis Hotline (1-888-353-2273)

Eating Disorders:

  • National Eating Disorder Information Centre (1-866-633-4220)

Provides information, resources, referrals, and support to Canadians affected by eating disorders

https://nedic.ca

Eating Disorders Nova Scotia (902-229-8436)

A not for profit organization that creates a community and support for those affected by eating disorders https://eatingdisordersns.ca/about-us

LGBTQ2S+ Youth:

  • The Trevor Project (thetrevorproject.org or 1-866-488-7386)

National organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ2S+ youth https://www.thetrevorproject.org/trvr_support_center/mental-health/

*noteworthy resource on supporting black LGBTQ2S+  youth mental health* https://www.thetrevorproject.org/2020/06/01/supporting-black-lgbtq-youth-mental-health/?fbclid=IwAR3lNPW7h7HpzlXwUeNfHf1uxBT6Z-P8fJ311-Y9ZZZjnkDx33sphxtR3VA

  • LGBT Youthline (1-800-268-9688 or text 647-694-4274)

Is a queer, trans, two spirit youth-led organization that affirms and supports the experiences of youth across Ontario https://www.youthline.ca/who-we-are/mission-vision-values/#

  • Rainbow Health Ontario ( 416-324-4100)

Creates opportunities for the healthcare system to better serve LGBTQ2S communities

https://www.rainbowhealthontario.ca/about-us/our-purpose/

  • National Queer and Trans Therapists of Colour Network

Sitting at the intersection of the mental health field and social justice, the NQTTCN is committed to transforming the mental health for queer and trans people of colour

https://nqttcn.com/en/

BIPOC Youth:

  • Crisis Service Canada (1-833-456-4566 or text 45645)

Canada Suicide Prevention Line is built as an accessible service to those who are a member of a marjinalized community, and those looking to be a better ally

https://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/en/resources-for-marginalized-communities-and-allies/

  • Black Mental Health Alliance (blackmentalhealth.com or 410-338-2642)

Developing and promoting educational forums, training, and services that support the health and well-being of Black people and their communities

https://blackmentalhealth.com/about-us/

A collective of advocates, yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers, and activists committed to the emotional/mental health and healing of Black communities

  • Asian Mental Health Collective (asainmhc.org)

Aspires to make mental health easily available, approachable, and accessible to Asian communities worldwide. Focuses on normalizing and de-stigmatizing mental health within the Asian community  https://www.asianmhc.org/about-us/#contact-us

  • Asian American Psychological Association (619-415-8440 or aapaonline.org)

Advancing the mental health and well-being of the AAPI community through research, professional practice, education and policy https://aapaonline.org

  • National Alliance for Hispanic Health (1-866-783-2645 or healthyamericans.org)

Creating strong, healthy communities whose contributions are recognized by a society that fosters the health, well-being, and prosperity for its members

https://www.healthyamericas.org/our-vision-and-mission2

  • Therapy for Latinx (therapyforlatinx.org)

Specializing in mental health for the Latinx community, end stigma in community, and connects members of the Latinx community with accessible therapists

https://www.therapyforlatinx.com/home

  • Healing in Colour (healingincolour.com)

Supports collective and individual healing for BIPOC through accessible, trained therapists https://www.healingincolour.com/about

  • Wabano (613-748-0657)

An Indigenous Organization dedicated to helping Indigenous people live the good life

https://wabano.com/about-wabano/about-us/