There’s a stereotype that goes with the stigma of mental illness. People imagine that you’ll look different on the outside because of your inner struggles. Somehow there will be some kind of visual indicator. You’ll be over, or under weight. Look sad, angry or stressed all the time. But think back to the last time you were feeling uneasy or uncomfortable? Did you show it? More importantly, did you want to? The truth of the matter is most people suffering from a mental illness don’t wear it like a badge. In fact, many people don’t understand what they’re feeling or may actively try to hide it. Especially today, in our fast paced, social media influenced society; we’re conditioned to ‘put on a brave face,’ hide our vulnerabilities and just ‘get the job done.’
The idea that mental illness can be picked out of a crowed or identified by some signifier is a major problem that needs to be better addressed. This notion not only projects prejudice and misunderstanding of mental health illnesses, but it discourages people from sharing their issues with others, especially in professional settings.
The truth of the matter is, mental health issues range vastly in their intensity and in the toll they may take on your physical appearance. While some illnesses may be easier to see because of their ties to obvious physical features such as in certain forms of autism or various body dysmorphias, the issues with little to no visual cues often go untreated. The most common mental health disorders: depression, anxiety, eating disorders and ADD/ADHD, do not have obvious physical identifiers. Most people would argue they’ve felt similar (much milder) symptoms of these disorders at some point in their lives. This makes it difficult to not only recognize these issues in our peers but also in ourselves.
People suffering from mental illness can be just as high functioning as anyone else in society. They may work independently or in highly social environments. Their energy levels may very day-to-day. So how do we learn to recognize what’s going on under the surface in others and ourselves? It takes conversation, empathy and more importantly time. In a working environment where everyone is focused on completing a task, most people are too distracted to see the signs. The best thing we can do in the workplace, in schools and in other organizations, is to create an environment of open communication. An environment where people can feel safe enough to discuss their problems, and to one that offers the opportunities and resources they may need to explore.
— iTribe Social Inc.
Each province in Canada has its own comprehensive site where you can do online assessments to get more information about how you’re feeling. Ontario’s site is here, Alberta’s is here and B.C.’s is here. There are also sites for Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Quebec, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, PEI, Nunavut and Nova Scotia.