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Mental Health Week: needing empathy has never been more important in SE Alta

Posted on May 14, 2022 by Ryan Dahlman


In Canada, we are coming out of a pandemic which damaged our collective mental health for a variety of reasons. 

The economic damage done is obvious and irrefutable; it has exposed a lot of people which no matter what side of the spectrum you side with in regards to vaccinations, restrictions, masking, personal freedoms, blockades etc and has created all the way from mistrust to paranoia. 

It has also created isolation. With the social restrictions, many public activities were cancelled and people were stuck at home and online with their favourite social platforms. 

However it created more than just forced social distancing where family members and close friends hadn’t seen each other face to face for weeks or even months. 

The isolation created was because of the aforementioned being alone with their thoughts and just wanting to be alone. 

Those with simple anxiety or depression all the way to clinical anxiety or depression suffered greatly as being alone in their thoughts seemed to take over. Negativity and dark feelings were expedited if the person had no support from friends or family. 

In one way or another, we became isolated. 

In southeast Alberta, the Snowflake Soiree in May goes May 14 (featuring Cal Toth’s Dueling Pianos, first class dinner and a a live auction) as well as June 19’s Ride Don’t Hide cycling fundraiser are two direct ways the Canadian Mental Health Association (Southeast Alberta Region) will be helping fund many invaluable programs relating to the mental well being of southeastern Albertans but it will help break down all those mini walls of isolation. Alberta South Region (Lethbridge) has a full slate of services and programs they run all year long.

This year Canadian Mental Health Week which runs May 2-8 is using the hashtag #getreal. All those phrases about look after your mental health, mental wellness and getting treatment for mental illness are all just words without action. 

While this action includes getting treatment. However, some people can’t afford the cost of getting counselling if you can find one as there seems to be a shortage and getting free assistance is sometimes not available when you really need it. 

According to the CHMA, “it costs on average just $330 for CMHA to offer one more person the community mental health programs, services and supports they need, when they need them.”

Besides those who live in rural Alberta may not have access to someone close and if the wifi isn’t sound as is the case in some patches of rural Alberta, impersonal Facetiming isn’t even an option.

So what to do? Take action. 

We have to look after each other, literally. We have to help others and sometimes it is all about listening and bridging those gaps of isolation. The problem is we are becoming so into ourselves that we are afraid to put ourselves our there, we don’t want to get involved for fear of making a bad situation worse or worse yet, just general apathy. 

As one former colleague said to me once, “not my monkeys, not my circus.”

This isn’t a suggestion we all become counsellors when we see and know someone is struggling or appearing isolated. All it means is to take interest and just listening, really listening. In other words: empathy. 

CHMA points out “When someone is struggling, you don’t have to fix their pain. Tune in and see through their eyes.  This is empathy.

We may be different but we’re not on different sides. See the world as others do. This is empathy.

You can understand even if you don’t agree. Understand someone’s feelings. This is empathy.

This Mental Health Week, #GetReal about how to help. Before you weigh in, tune in.”

In the rural areas, we have to be extra careful, it is easy for that neighbour we haven’t talked to in a long or even seen; there’s no psychologists in Orion, Whitla or Etzikom when immediate help is needed. It’s easier to say “I’m fine” or just tough it out. 

It’s what we have always done, that’s the way it was done.

No more. 

The cycle of suffering with mental illness or not looking after our mental health and not practising mental wellness has to to stop. Getting help doesn’t make you weak; it brave as all heck. Getting help and help by just being there and listening 

There are a lot of ways to help directly, personal and it won’t cost you more than a few moments of your time: a very rare commodity. 

Be there, ultimately no one wants to be alone, especially when they are surrounded by unaware or apathetic people. 

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