Skip to content
Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities Home

Mental Illness Awareness Week

May 9, 2022

Written by
Neha Jayaram, Communications and Marketing Specialist

Mental Health

Mental Illness Awareness Week!

Mental health refers to your emotional and psychological well-being. Your mental health helps you to deal with life’s adversities, cope with difficult events and demonstrate balanced emotions. Good mental health is just as important to quality of life as your physical health.

Life events, genetics and even diet choices can influence our mental health. Having bad days, mood swings, feeling angry or anxious is common and normal for most people. However, being able to regulate these emotions and function despite them, is a sign of good mental health.

What is mental illness?

Mental illness is a broad term used to describe a variety of conditions that affect the way you think, feel and behave. It can also impact your ability to get through day to day life. The behavioural or psychological symptoms of the condition(s) can affect multiple areas of a person’s life and can cause varying degrees of distress.

Contrary to popular misconception, mental illness can affect anyone. In 1992, the Canadian Psychiatric Association established Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), a national public education campaign, designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness. MIAW is now coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) in cooperation with all its member organizations and many other supporters across Canada.

Mental illness is one of the many invisible illnesses that affect humans. The internal struggle that a person with a mental illness goes through, is not always evident to everyone. It is important to remember, that everyone we meet is fighting an internal battle. 

Types of Mental Illnesses

Mental illnesses are feared and misunderstood by many people. At SCHC, our social workers see many clients that refuse to accept they have an illness, because of the social stigma associated with these illnesses. We need to increase conversations surrounding mental illnesses and their treatment because the more information we have, the better our understanding of these disorders. 

Mental illnesses have been classified into a few broad categories, but an accurate diagnosis can only be given by a health care professional. As per the Canadian Mental Health Association, below is a list of the broad categories of mental health disorders. For more information on each of these disorders, read Types of Mental Health Disorders.

  1. Anxiety Disorders
  2. Mood Disorders: Bipolar, depression and other related disorders
  3. Eating Disorders
  4. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  5. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD)
  6. Schizophrenia

Why Should We Talk About Mental Health More?

A study by CAMH revealed that a Mental Health Awareness campaign that started in 2010, led to an increase in the number of people seeking help. In fact, the study found the link between the awareness campaign and hospital visits to be so direct, the authors suggested that for future mental health awareness campaigns that psychiatric emergency departments be informed in advance to expect an increase in visitors.

Simply put, when people acknowledge there is a problem, they will decide to look for help. Still, it’s a big step from saying I need help, to actually getting the help. In speaking to our social workers here at SCHC, we found out that there are two primary reasons people don’t seek help. One, the social stigma attached to mental health disorders makes people reluctant to acknowledge the illness and accept treatment. Especially if someone close to them has dismissed the way they feel and said “it will pass”.

 Second, most people don’t know what resources are available to them! Did you know your family doctor can not only provide you a referral to a psychiatrist, but also prescribe medication to help manage your symptoms?

At SCHC, our clinics have social workers that have several years of experience working with clients with complex mental health disorders. Please call our clinics to make an appointment to see a social worker.

Our team also comprises of harm reduction workers and sexual assault/domestic violence social workers that you or anyone you know can reach out to for help.

SCHC’s Interprofessional Primary Care Team is a program which provides patients with access to a coordinated team of health care professionals. The goal of this team is to meet the needs of vulnerable patients with complex healthcare requirements. The team comprises of experienced social workers, mental health case workers and harm reduction workers who can provide clinical counseling to patients.

If you or anyone you know needs help, don’t be afraid to ask. Call any of our numbers and we will make sure you are given the help and care you need. Let’s use Mental Illness Awareness Week to make sure no one with a mental illness gets overlooked.