May 2 – 8 is Mental Health Week across Canada. It has become a week of increasing attention as it not only recognizes the importance and impact of the mental health challenges we all face, but also normalizes them so we are able to bring them into the open, which is the first step in managing them.
In our world, a problem requires a solution. Things need to be fixed. Mental health is a form of health like any other but dealing with it can often be much more complicated than a wound or a disease. The sources and manifestations can be many and complicated. There is often no quick solution.
This is why I use the word “manage”. For many people dealing with mental health struggles is a matter of managing them. Some good days, some not so good. Support and treatment are ways to make life better and people should seek out resources to help them. Often with support those issues can be reduced or alleviated, but for many, life continues with them in one form or another.
The theme of mental health this week is Empathy. I think it’s an appropriate one. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s the tie that binds us together as coworkers, caregivers, family, friends and neighbours.
With mental health, empathy is essential. It’s how we allow others to bring their issues out of the darkness and seek help. It’s how we allow ourselves to do the same. By being empathic we are understanding that every day is part of a process that we are all working on in our own way somehow.
This week I ask you to reflect on the word empathy and offer it to those around you. People whom you may or may not know: a stranger in front of you at the grocery store who unbeknownst to you is going through a hard time, a family member with whom you might have differing opinions, to yourself for being human in an uncertain time.
As you’ve heard many times before, we are all in this together. The pandemic, work, life, family, whatever. By giving and receiving empathy we can all manage what we’re going through working our way toward a better day every day.