By Linda S.

With all the media coverage on mental health in the last week, I hope we are beginning to normalize the term ‘mental health’. I think of mental health as a spectrum, much like other labels that we carry that helps others, and sometimes ourselves, define who we are. If you are familiar with the diagnosis of Autism or Pervasive Development Disorder, it is a defined as ‘on a spectrum’. I think of it as a sliding scale of severity, normality and challenges. Each child is different in how they experience this disorder.

Similarly, this is how I think of mental health, which helps me normalize it. I have an anxious component to my make up. Most of the time, I can recognize that anxiety in myself and can regulate it. Other times, it seems to take over, causing my thoughts and behaviours to be altered, often much to my annoyance. That is mental health, not so scary, not so big! In no way am I diminishing the impact and the reality of other peoples’ challenge and experience with mental health issues. At times, I have worked with clients and families where these mental health concerns interfere with their lives on a daily basis. That is scary and big! Thank goodness that there are agencies and skilled, dedicated individuals who share their knowledge, compassion and expertise with those struggling with mental health issues. However, what if as a society and a community we were open to hearing and accepting the phrase ‘mental health’ and not attaching any feelings with that label? What if the phrase ‘mental health’ held no expectation or no fear and used as a label that was helpful and non-judgemental?