Alberta Health Services wants to remind central Albertans that small steps can lead to improved mental health.
May 2 to 8 is Mental Health Week and Dr. Nicholas Mitchell, AHS provincial medical director for addiction and mental health, said having a week set aside to reflect on mental health is still important despite increased awareness in recent years.
“Having an opportunity like Mental Health Week hopefully is just a reminder for people to take stock. Often times individuals who struggle with depression or anxiety will have symptoms for a long period of time before they recognize them and come forward for help,” Mitchell said.
Even people without serious mental health issues can benefit from recognizing how stress impacts their lives and look at how to improve their wellness, he said.
“It’s always good to have opportunities to take time and focus and maybe reflect on things we wouldn’t otherwise.”
He said a study by the Canadian Mental Health Association showed over 80 per cent of Albertans reported higher levels of anxiety during the pandemic regardless of whether they had a mental illness.
“That’s not an unexpected response considering the amount of uncertainty we’ve been living with and the amount of change we’ve seen in the past few years. Worrying about those things to a certain extent is a normal response, but can become overwhelming.”
He said people can also find things to be concerned about in the future, and one of the challenges is to recognize what they can do something about, and what is beyond their control.
He said stigma is still a challenge. People struggling with mental health or emotional concerns can be less likely to reach out than if they’re struggling with other issues. But it’s important for them to reach out for support from others. The Mental Health Helpline at 1-887-303-2642 is also available 24/7 across Alberta.
“It doesn’t matter where you are, or what time it is, there is an opportunity to reach out and talk to somebody,” said Mitchell about the helpline.