This week, May 4th – May 10th, 2020 is Mental Health Week. As someone who has struggled with a number of mental illnesses and who now works with others to help them overcome theirs, I feel this is a very important week. It is a week that helps to shift societal beliefs and perceptions about mental health. It helps promote behaviours and attitudes that foster well-being, support good mental health and create a culture of understanding and acceptance.
This year the theme of Mental Health Week is “Social Connection”. Right now, while most people are working from home and social distancing, the importance of social connection is elevated. While it is customary to ask people how they are doing, it is not always customary to give an honest response. We often will respond with “I’m doing okay” or “I’m fine” when truthfully, deep down we are not. These interactions and questions are an opportunity to not just check in with yourself and others, but it is also a chance for you to build deeper social connections.
Deep social connections are important protective factors for good mental health. Feelings of loneliness can make a person more at risk for being depressed, anxious or suicidal (Nepon et al., 2010). It is important to understand that we are not alone through any of this. There are people out there to build social connections with. Try talking to coworkers, family, friends, or neighbours. Having social networks can help increase psychological well-being, self-esteem, coping effectiveness and decrease feelings of depression and anxiety (Kawachi & Berkman, 2001) (Berkman et al., 2000).
Everyone has their mental health to take care of and everyone needs social connection. By providing real truthful answers to how you are doing, you set the tone for developing a trusting relationship. We challenge you this week to have real conversations, check in with others and yourself and to focus on making those social connections, even during a time of social distancing.
- Nepon, J., Belik, S.-L., Bolton, J., & Sareen, J. (2010). The Relationship Between Anxiety Disorders and Suicide Attempts: Findings from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Depression and Anxiety, 27(9), 791–798. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.20674
- Kawachi, I., & Berkman, L. F. (2001). Social ties and mental health. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 78(3), 458–467. https://doi.org/10.1093/jurban/78.3.458
- Berkman, L. F., Glass, T., Brissette, I., & Seeman, T. E. (2000). From social integration to health: Durkheim in the new millennium. Social Science & Medicine (1982), 51(6), 843–857. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0277-9536(00)00065-4