Many years ago, I went through a very difficult work experience and a colleague approached me, recognizing that I was struggling with my mental health. At first, I wanted to deny the struggle I was going through and worked harder at hiding it. The shame I felt made me want to crawl inside my shell and keep hiding my struggle, but it was exhausting pretending all was well. This colleague didn’t give up on me, giving me tangible resources to help with self-care and recommended a counsellor for me. This colleague did not have any counselling experience, but because they were aware of the signs of someone struggling with mental health and the various mental illnesses people struggle with, they were able to give support in a loving, respectful and tangible way.

Did you know?
“Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time either through their own experience, or that of a family member, friend or colleague.

In any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness.
By age 40, about 50% of the population will have or have had a mental illness.
Mental illness affects people of all ages, education, income levels, and cultures”1

So, if a little bit of knowledge goes a long way, what are some of the most common mental illnesses? 2
Let’s learn together:

Depression — severe and prolonged feelings of discouragement, frustration and even a sense of despair.

Anxiety — continual, excessive worries about routine life events and activities like work, relationships, finances and family.

Bi-Polar Disorder — alternating periods or cycles of mania (highs) and depression (lows).

Schizophrenia — a person interprets reality abnormally and may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior.

Eating Disorders — involve distorted body images that make it difficult for people to nourish themselves in a healthy way. Most common in women and men under age 30 (e.g., anorexia, bulimia).

Substance Use Disorder — a treatable mental disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior. This leads to an inability to control their use of substances like legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications. Addiction is the most severe form of substance use disorder.3

Being aware of common mental illnesses helps us to be aware, not only of those people in our lives we care deeply about, but also of ourselves and our own mental health needs.

Research has shown that support from family and friends is a key component to helping someone who is going through mental health struggles. But how can we help when we aren’t certified counsellors or health care providers?

Here are five tips:

  1. Know When Something is Wrong – family and friends are usually the first to notice when something isn’t quite right. Learn about different mental health illnesses so that you can recognize the signs and symptoms. The NFMHA offers hands-on training to assist you as you support those you care about.
  2. Get Help – family and friends are often our best advocates. Offer to make that first appointment and go to the appointment with them if they are okay with it.
  3. Support a Healthy Lifestyle – offer to go for a walk with them, provide healthy meals, assist with farm chores our household tasks.
  4. Provide Emotional Support—struggling with mental illness can bring with it a lot of shame, so being there for your friend or family member can help to grow their self confidence and hope. Also make sure you are taking care of yourself because supporting someone with a mental illness can be stressful.
  5. Offer a Hand with Planning—ask your friend or family member if they need help with planning. Attend a doctor’s appointment with them as support, make and freeze some meals, help with budgeting and finances. These small gestures mean a lot. Don’t assume you know what the person needs. Ask how you can help. Listen carefully to the response and be respectful of their wishes.

When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, a little bit of knowledge goes a very long way in being part of our loved one’s mental health support system.

**If you need more resources, check out our resource page: https://nfmha.ca/resources-for-you/ or reach out to us here at NFMHA and we would be happy to assist you. NFMHA has qualified Mental health therapists who are ready to assist and can offer an agriculturally informed perspective.

Written by Iris Parr, B. Ed, @irisparr

  1. https://cmha.ca/find-info/mental-health/general-info/fast-facts/ ↩︎
  2. https://www.interiorhealth.ca/sites/default/files/PDFS/survival-kit-major-mental-illnesses-signs-and-syptoms.pdf ↩︎
  3. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/substance-use-and-mental-health. ↩︎
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