Vernon and North Okanagan
Mental health - the elephant in the room
Oct 8, 2013 / 5:28 am
A forum on mental health issues will be held in Vernon Tuesday night.
The group behind the forum says it's an opportunity to learn more about the topic with no judgment or stigma attached.
Vernon School District School Counsellor Dave McKenzie, has worked to put this night together because he’s tired of the incorrect, bias, and uninformed opinions that society shares around mental health concerns.
“The whole point is to try to begin re-culturing the concept of mental health or mental illness because I think it has a pretty negative connotation."
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in Canada and the counsellor from Clarence Fulton Secondary says it's the perfect time for a discussion.
"The reality is there are a lot of people who have mental health issues that are very functional and contributing members of our community and yet that is not always how they are portrayed,” says McKenzie.
School-wide assemblies will be held throughout the week and there will be a free public presentation tonight from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Vernon Recreation Complex.
“The event is open to everyone, but we have sort of targeted the parents of kids in our schools to come and hear some speakers, get some information, and learn."
Speakers have been invited from the F.O.R.C.E Society, which is a parent advocacy group for parents that have kids with mental challenges.
Also, a young speaker from the Mood Disorders Association of BC, and a group of young adults, who have had their own mental health challenges and are now coping, will speak.
A comedian from Winnipeg, who does a shtick on his own mental health concerns and challenges and what he has experience in his own family, will also take the stage.
McKenzie wants to slowly, but effectively, change the way mental health issues are viewed in society. He believes those with mental health concerns should be able to seek treatment and support from their community and families, with the same ease and support those with other illnesses can.
“I would love to get to a place where it is as open to talk about as for example breast cancer. You know people where the pink, people openly talk about it, people will come to work and share that they have been diagnosed and people will rally around them, as they should. But when it comes to mental health stuff, we don’t do that. It is no more contagious than cancer, or asthma, or diabetes but we sometimes treat people who have a mental health challenge as contagious.”
McKenzie says mental health issues are a big challenge for our kids these days and many don’t seek the necessary assistance to get them through.
One in every five kids will face a mental health issue, but only one in five of them will actually seek help.
“As a school counsellor, it is something that we encounter every single day. For some kids it is a serious and significant barrier to learning and being successful. For other kids it is a moment of time, and if they could get the right help, then it doesn’t turn into that significant, severe, impactful thing for them,” says McKenzie.
McKenzie says things are changing, but slowly and not always effectively. Often in police and news reports the criminal is sighted as being mentally ill which shines a negative light on all those under the mental health issue umbrella.
“That stigma that if you are mentally ill, you are violent, you’re dangerous there is something ‘wrong with you’ and we are hoping we can begin the process of changing that.”
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