Today is Bell Let's Talk Day, a day for Canadians to reflect on how we are caring for our mental health, as well as that of our families and our communities.
We are living in a perfect storm—the COVID-19 pandemic, disruption in the economy and our personal lives, and emotional tax from the impacts of racism and bias on marginalized groups. Subsequently, we are all learning that mental health is at the core of our health and well-being.
As KPMG in Canada's Chief Mental Health Officer, I have had numerous opportunities to connect with people of all backgrounds and levels across the country on this topic. We can't deny that the events of the last year have had a real impact on our collective mental health as many continue to face greater isolation than ever before. Not surprisingly, over this past year the number of people reaching out to me to discuss mental health has been at an all-time high.
In some ways, this is positive—it tells me that, as a society, we've made progress in reducing stigma and encouraging people to seek help since Bell Let's Talk Day was first introduced 10 years ago. The theme of this year's campaign—'every action counts'—really resonated with me. It's a message for us to take steps now to proactively build our mental health toolkits. It's a call to action that we all need to embrace.
In my discussions with people who are struggling, I always ask them the same question: 'What's in your mental health toolkit?" A mental health toolkit is a collection of knowledge, positive habits, and resources you can invest in to support your mental health, now and in the future. A well-stocked toolkit will help you identify signs that you are struggling, and help you employ practical strategies and actions you can take when faced with a setback.
To build your mental health toolkit, I recommend getting started with the following:
- Build your circle of care: You don't have to be experiencing depression or mental illness to prepare for future mental health challenges—these ups and downs are a natural part of our lives. Take a moment to think about the people in your life who are in your circle of care. Think about who you can talk to openly about mental health and share your honest challenges and experiences with, as well as who you play that role for. Have a conversation with your partner, your significant other, or a friend about how they are feeling and how you can support each other now and when times get tough. Keep this conversation going.
- Put mental health on the agenda: Do this with your teams at work, on your family Zoom catch ups, during virtual happy hours and game nights with friends, and at the dinner table. We may not realize that just asking someone 'How are you really feeling?' could well be the moment they needed to share their personal experience and let you in on their struggle. For those looking to find the right approach to talking to people of any age about mental health, Jack.org has some incredible resources. I recommend their 5 Golden Rules for having conversations about mental health with others.
- Embrace new habits: Our lives have been disrupted, and our normal routines are more dynamic than ever. With lines between work and life getting blurred, we have to find ways to implement realistic, new, regular positive habits that support our wellness in the current new reality. There are plenty of great resources out there. One I recommend is WellCan, which offers free resources to help Canadians develop new information and coping strategies and build the resilience needed to deal with their mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bottom line is this: mental health is health. Every action you take today to support your mental health is an investment that will pay off—now and in the future.