Mental, mental health, mentality…
A lot of “mental” and much of it
A lot of times
Hold That Thought.
- relating to the mind.”mental faculties”synonyms:intellectual, cerebral, brain, rational, psychological, cognitive, abstract, conceptual, theoretical; More
- 2. relating to disorders of the mind.”a mental hospital”synonyms:psychiatric, psychogenic”mental illness”
I’ll be frank. I don’t like the phrase “Mental Health” or “Mental Illness”…”Mental” anything. Reminds me too much of the term “mental patient” with its images of straight jackets, unkempt physical appearance, desperate eyes or drooling, zoned out, over medicated lobotomized caricatures. We need to do better.
“But, we don’t have those kind of stigmas anymore! We have mental health days and posters and…”
Hold That Thought
We do. It’s a start. Programs create awareness in an attempt to teach and destigmatize, but it still “others” those who are experiencing mental health issues.
Truth is, whether adult or child, we still (historically and today) tie mental health issues to competencies and efficacy in terms of how we function in our personal lives, professional lives, family lives, school lives.
Loonies, loony bins, psych wards, psychos, disturbed, the crazy aunt, hugged secrets and stories of shame, people who disappear for a”rest”…whack job, fucking nuts, psycho, on her period, buddy’s lost it, couldn’t cope, what the hell is wrong with you, get over it, aren’t you done with that yet, didn’t the meds fix that, why are you always so tired, you off again, why didn’t you get your assignment done this time, what do you mean you can’t present in front of class, everybody can do that, ok, so you’re a little blue, you can push through that…
Hold That Thought
Some information quoted directly from CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association), Bolding and italics are mine.
Fast Facts about Mental Illness
Who is affected?
- Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through 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.
- Mental illness affects people of all ages, education, income levels, and cultures.
- Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
- About 1% of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”).
How common is it?
- By age 40, about 50% of the population will have or have had a mental illness.
- Schizophrenia affects 1% of the Canadian population.
- Anxiety disorders affect 5% of the household population, causing mild to severe impairment.
- Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds.
- Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women from adolescence to middle age.
- The mortality rate due to suicide among men is four times the rate among women.
What causes it?
- A complex interplay of genetic, biological, personality and environmental factors causes mental illnesses.
- Almost one half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem.
- Stigma or discrimination attached to mental illnesses presents a serious barrier, not only to diagnosis and treatment but also to acceptance in the community.
- Mental illnesses can be treated effectively.
How does it impact youth?
- It is estimated that 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder – the single most disabling group of disorders worldwide.
- Today, approximately 5% of male youth and 12% of female youth, age 12 to 19, have experienced a major depressive episode.
- The total number of 12-19 year olds in Canada at risk for developing depression is a staggering 3.2 million.
- Once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80% of people who are affected, allowing them to get back to their regular activities.
- Mental illness is increasingly threatening the lives of our children; with Canada’s youth suicide rate the third highest in the industrialized world.
- Suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15-24 year old Canadians, second only to accidents; 4,000 people die prematurely each year by suicide.
- Schizophrenia is youth’s greatest disabler as it strikes most often in the 16 to 30 year age group, affecting an estimated one person in 100.
- Surpassed only by injuries, mental disorders in youth are ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada.
- In Canada, only 1 out of 5 children who need mental health services receives them.
Unfortunately, those stats are related to the 2013 studies and surveys. If anything, the numbers are low and do not reflect the current data. The newer trend in schools right now is that intervention, targeted education programs are needed at much younger ages with school programs lowering the target age for messaging and strategies to 7-10 year olds from 12-15 year olds.
Adult or child access to effective, ongoing therapy or care is extremely challenging, even with supplementary insurance. Wait lists are long, and unless someone (including children) is in “crisis” and proves to be at risk for self harm or harming someone else, there is absolutely nothing one can do other that negotiate the ever expanding wait times. Basic therapy. Psychiatrists who specialize? Professionals who come to the home to help de-sensitize child with anxiety to get them out of the house? Good luck. Let me know when you find unicorns too please.
Children as young as 4 or 5 have expressed anxiety and depression and suicide ideation. One mother who wanted to spread awareness of the fact that very young children can indeed experience severe anxiety and depression, interviewed on 1010 radio said her daughter didn’t know the words to say “kill myself”. Instead, she said she wanted to “be with the angels“. How many callers jumped on the bad parenting, you’re just creating that dynamic for your child, another nutter damagingly their child, rather than critically looking at the hard cold truth that this is an issue for everyone, and age is irrelevant. Childhood anxiety and depression sometimes seems to come from out of the blue and can railroad a previously engaged, excelling student or athlete. Days, weeks, months of school can be lost, families are stressed as it affects everyone within that world. Factor in, kids (and adults) who start self medicating to alleviate the pain and distress, those who quietly self harm and conceal. This isn’t even tapping into those students who conceal so well, they fawn/fix/false front so that you would never know the struggles/battles that are internalized.
How are we as educators supporting these students? Do we have sufficient training to recognize symptoms, behaviours? Do we have relationships with these students such that we can have conversations? What supports, safety networks do our schools have in place? What accommodations policies do our schools/classrooms have in place to facilitate their capacity to learn separate from the health issues? Because a student with mental health issues is indeed capable, what that might look like is an entirely different matter. What supports are in place for the educators who do this work? Secondary trauma is a real “thing”. Dealing with crisis scenarios, working with students who are cutting, self medicating, at risk of suicidal ideation, panic attacks is intense and takes a toll on those working with them no matter how professional or grounded you are. What support/safety network is in place for your own emotional and mental well being?
Hold That Thought.
And speaking of teachers…what about the adults in the room? You read just one set of data. That potentially means that roughly (give or take because older data and I don’t know the ages of all my readers) 50% of us have experienced or are contending with mental health concerns.
And yet…so many of us do not disclose that we are going through these things.
From discussions with others and in my own experience, too often mental health is equated to professional and personal competency. We TALK about let’s talk about it, but only in the most superficial way, and with the unspoken caveat, as long as it is not disruptive, doesn’t last long, and doesn’t interfere with our relationships (personal or professional).
What would other people think? What would other people say? How will this reflect on how I do my job in the classroom?
It’s the fear of those comments, ” You know, you just HAVE to convince yourself you need to get out of bed every day; it’s really that simple”. “Aren’t you done with that yet? How long has it been? Surely here must be something they can do to fix it! You know, my aunt…” ” You just need to meditate, mindfulness, read positive things all day, go for a walk, do some yoga, play some sports, get out more, tell yourself you can DO it”. “Wellllll, I don’t know how she thinks she’s gonna continue to work, I mean if she can’t handle kindergarten how is she going to do this?” “There are soooo many other people who really want a job without having to deal with their absences”. “You get accommodations for THAT? Nice gig, how do I get that one?” ” You just need to grit everybody else does! My life isn’t perfect, but I don’t let it fall apart like that, that’s just playing the martyr, the victim, the drama queen”.
Hold That Thought.
And yes, I’ve heard these comments from people, both on here in variations and in real life. If that’s the attitude people are facing, why on earth would they want to disclose? Many celebrities have been talking more in the hopes of bringing a sense or normalcy to the issue, using their celebrity status to amplify awareness that people are not alone. Educators, however do not have the luxury of a massive fan base to fall back on and for some, job stability in terms of performative assessments skewed by conflating mental health and professional competency is an actual concern. So, people ” suck it up” and suffer in silence, unable to build their own safety nets and support systems, living a double life if you will, which in turn only serves to compound the root issues.
Furthermore, if this is how we discuss our colleagues, how are we relating with our students in classes? How are our own internalized biases being broadcast to those kids who need more than anything support and understanding? What double sided messaging are we giving them? On the one hand, “Let’s Talk About it”, “Mental Health Matters”, for a trendy day, or two or three. But there are no magical mystical wave a magic wands and done. Are we changing our expectations to meet students where they are, as they are? Are we accommodating mental health issues just as we would with an IEP, via differentiated assessment, extended timelines, not presenting in class, presenting with support? Are we punishing students for being late, absent, under the influence, not participating, expressing behaviours when we should be looking deeper, trying harder to understand the root causes and supporting our students to be the best they can be, as they are, where they are on their journeys, knowing the this can go backwards, sideways, full circle, full stop…knowing they are NOT doing this on purpose, knowing some days they just CAN”T!
Hold That Thought
We need to shift more. We need to actuate not just ideate and edu-blather about support and understanding that aligns nicely with “special days”. We need to be mindful. Of how our relentless positivity pumping affects others, those who are experiencing mental health concerns and those who knows some who is, and that the journeys are not easy. Positivity is a good thing, but wielding it like a panacea for everything weaponizes it and is debilitating to those struggling just to get out of bed, take a step out the door, interact with others. We need to stop looking side-eyed and talking in hushed tones about our students, friends and colleagues. If you can’t be truly supportive then shut the hell up and sit your ass down. Strong words? Perhaps, but seriously until you give your head a shake and learn some actual empathy and compassion, not just the buzzwords you keep eud-positively spewing; there is no place for your holier than thou, soul sucking drivel.
Hold that Thought
Training, support, comprehensive programs embedded into the curriculum, our policies and assessment strategies. How much training have we put into place to educate teachers on strategies to support students, both in crisis (panic attacks, suicide ideation, self harm, self medicating) and those who may be sliding under the radar, those who are missing substantial amounts of school due to ongoing struggles.
Hold that Thought
More conversations, yes. But more than that, we need to move beyond the positive feel good messaging into action that supports not only people on a mental health journey, but also the educators and facilitators who work with us.
Hold That Thought
I am an educator, facilitator, “werewolf whisperer”, advocate, artist, boy mom, fur baby mom, kayaking, former musher and a bunch of other stuff.
I am a survivor.
I have C-PTSD.
I am not my diagnosis and you better be ready to bring it if you mistakenly believe you can just place me in that box and shut the lid.
Hold That Thought
To be continued…