Mental Health

Health & Safety Week 2022

You can't open a social media channel or read your favourite news outlet with someone mentioning mental health and why it is so important. Over the past three years governments, health advocates and companies have shone a light on mental health, investing millions to disrupt the public stigma associated with depression, anxiety, etc. and ensuring everyone has access to a mental health professional with a phone call, click or visit.

Mental illness is not only attributed to poor physical health, job loss/poor performance, substance abuse and domestic violence, it also can impact household and workplace accidents through distraction, fatigue and carelessness. Understanding what can negatively impact your mental health is an important step to keep you healthy and safe - at home and at work.

Agilus' Health & Safety Week puts a focus on your Mental Health on Day Two.

Growing awareness or increasing crisis?

Mental-Illness-1in3

It's no surprise to health care providers, but for many of us we have no idea the extent of mental illness in Canada. Look at the person to the right of you, and now to the left. According to Stats Canada, mental illness is experienced by 1 in 3 Canadians during their lifetime. That means at least one of the three of you will experience a mental illness. 1 in 3 Canadians is about 9.1 million people.

Further, the most recent findings from the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System (CCDSS) state "1 in 7 or 15% of Canadians use health services for a mental illness and close to 5.5 million Canadians received health services for a mental illness in 2016-2017. That's more than the population of British Columbia."

Also, Canadian females are 30% more likely than males to use health services for mental illness.

And finally, the CDSS reports our children are not immune to mental health. "In 2016-2017, Canadians aged 19 and under had the lowest proportion of health services use for a mental illness (10.7%). However, there is an increasing trend in the use of health services for mental illness among young Canadians. From 2000-2001 to 2016-2017, the proportion of Canadians aged 19 and under using these services rose an average of 2.6 % per year."

Even if you have not experienced mental illness personally, you may still be impacted. Many Canadians are affected by mental illness, indirectly through family, friends or work colleagues.

What is mental illness and how is it different from occasionally feeling sad or over-whelmed?

Mental illness is the reduced ability for a person to function effectively over a prolonged period of time because of:

  • significant levels of distress
  • changes in thinking, mood or behaviour
  • feelings of isolation, loneliness and sadness
  • the feeling of being disconnected from people and activities

Canadians affected with mental illness may not be able to cope with the simplest aspects of everyday life. They may need help to regain a healthy emotional balance in their lives.

Mental illness usually begins during adolescence and young adulthood. However, mental illness can be experienced by people:

  • of all ages
  • of all cultures
  • from all educational levels
  • from all income levels

Mental illness is not the same as feeling distressed because of normal reactions to difficult situations, such as:

  • the death of a loved one
  • job loss
  • a romantic breakup

or a sudden change of circumstance, like:

  • moving to a new area
  • attending a new school
  • going through a divorce

Most of us are able to regain control of our lives after a difficult situation. But those with mental illness feel distress regularly. They may feel powerless to regain control.

What are the types of mental illness?

Mental illness takes many forms, including:

mood disorders that affect how you feel, such as:

  • depression
  • bipolar disorder

personality disorders

  • a type of mental disorder in which someone has unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning and behaving

eating disorders, which influence eating behaviours and are accompanied by negative thoughts about body shape and weight, such as:

  • anorexia
  • bulimia

Although suicide is not itself considered a mental illness, it is often the result of some underlying mental illness and suicide is a significant cause of premature death in Canada.

anxiety disorders, which cause intense and prolonged fear that is not based on actual threat or danger

schizophrenia, which causes mixed-up thoughts, delusions or hallucinations

The World Health Organization estimates one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds. Over 4,000 Canadians die by suicide every year—an average of 11 per day. People with mood disorders are at much higher risk of deve

What are the symptoms of mental illness?

Mental illness involves changes in thinking, mood or behaviour, or a combination of these issues.

Symptoms include:

  • significant distress
  • inability to function as needed over an extended period of time

These symptoms can be mild or severe, depending on the:

  • type of mental illness
  • individual
  • family
  • patient's environment
HubSpot Video
HubSpot Video

​​​​​Preventing mental illness and promoting mental
well-being is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

How can you prevent mental illness and promote mental well-being?

  • ​​​​​​​Connect with other people. People who build relationships and stay in touch with others on a regular basis not only improve your mental health but also live longer.
  • Be physically active. Not only does your heart and cardiovascular system love exercise but your brain delivers a feel-good chemical cocktail that increases your energy, improves your mood and ability to focus.
  • Learn new skills. Learning new skills not only increases your self-esteem, but improves your overall brain health, increases your opportunity to connect with new people and raises your self-esteem.
  • Give to others. Research suggests that acts of giving, and kindness, can help improve your mental wellbeing. Volunteering or helping others also creates positive feelings and a sense of reward and can give you a feeling of purpose and self-worth.
  • Mindfulness. Focus on the here and now. Dwelling in the past promotes depression and obsessed with the future can cause anxiety. Paying more attention to the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing. This includes your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Mindfulness is about living in the present and actively being conscious of the world around you.

For more ways you can incorporate these healthy habits into your daily routine, visit https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/guides-tools-and-activities/five-steps-to-mental-wellbeing/

How do sleep problems affect mental health?

According to Here to Help BC, "sleep problems can have a negative effect on your mental health by influencing your emotions, thoughts, behaviours and body sensations." But you don't need research, just experience a few bad nights of sleep and you will experience:

Emotions: If your sleep is disturbed, you might feel irritable, grumpy, numb, sad, anxious, worried or stressed.

Thoughts: Sleep problems can make it difficult to concentrate, think clearly or make decisions the next day.

Behaviours: You're more likely to avoid your usual activities when you are experiencing sleep problems.

Body sensations: Sleep difficulties can leave you feeling tired, drowsy or worn out.

How much sleep should you get? Tips for getting a better night sleep and more, are available here: https://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/wellness-module/wellness-module-6-getting-a-good-nights-sleep

Seven Things You Can Do to Reduce the Stigma of Mental Illness

  1. Know the facts. Educate yourself about mental illness including substance use disorders.

  2. Be aware of your attitudes and behaviour regarding mental illness.

  3. Choose your words carefully.

  4. Educate others.

  5. Focus on the positive.

  6. Support people.

  7. Include everyone.

As always, your mental health is important to Agilus. If you, or a family member are struggling and feeling down, please contact your local health provider or these national advocates:

Need more benefits coverage? Agilus offers a flexible benefits program learn more here: https://www.agilus.ca/mybenefits