As KPMG in Canada's Chief Mental Health Officer, my favourite time of year is perhaps a little unusual. What time of year is that? It's right now—the Canadian Mental Health Association's Mental Health Week. This week serves as a reminder for us all to pause and be deliberate about our efforts to support mental health, both our own and for those around us.
Never has taking this pause been more important than now. With the pandemic continuing to place various restrictions across the country and around the world, it continues to be a challenging time in which most of us are off our mental health baseline. KPMG recently published the results of a survey which found that 54 per cent of Canadians say that COVID-19 has left a lasting impact on their mental health. This means it's very likely that a colleague, a family member or a neighbour is experiencing a mental health challenge, even if you personally are not. This further highlights the importance for all of us to be vigilant in continuing to take care of ourselves and to look out for others.
For me, being vigilant in maintaining mental health is all about the power of small steps. That's why I love Bell's new slogan for its annual Let's Talk Day—"Every Action Counts"—which I discussed in my last post. By engaging in ongoing action and immersing ourselves in new information and education to build our understanding, we will find new tools to build our resilience.
Taking action could be as simple as recognising the challenge. From my personal experience, the signs can easily go unrecognised and dismissed as general worries or stress that we all assume is part of our daily lives. We need to be intentional about checking in with ourselves, as we would with others. When we take the time to reflect, we start to see patterns, and this can be a turning point that enables us to reach out and seek help.
Another part of taking action is to become more aware of how our behaviours, words and assumptions can affect the people around us. Here at KPMG, we recently held an Anti-Asian Racism forum, during which a number of our colleagues shared their personal experiences of bias, racism or microaggressions. Whether intentional or not, the impact of these comments can be significant on a person's mental health and wellbeing.
I left the forum with new understanding of how I might have personally contributed to these kinds of experiences in the past, and this understanding will help me take better action and to be a better ally in the future. Through awareness and education, we can all learn to change our behaviours and our words and, most importantly, to take positive action.
Last time, I mentioned Jack.org's 5 Golden Rules for having conversations about mental health. Those are and will always be invaluable. This time, I want to leave you with another tool for your mental health toolkit—ALEC, four simple steps, also for having conversations about mental health. Those steps are as follows:
E: Encourage action
C: Check in
The pandemic has given all of us a heightened awereness of the importance of our mental health. This Mental Health Week, I challenge you to take at least one action to put a new tool in your mental health toolbox.
Might I suggest starting a conversation with someone you love, using ALEC or the Golden Rules?