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Mental Health Week: Get Real

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While we’re social distancing and trying our best to protect the elderly and vulnerable among us, isolation and loneliness can be incredibly taxing on our own mental health. This is why Canadians all across the country are being challenged to “get real” with each other.

This week is Mental Health Week 2020, and appropriately the theme is social connection even in the midst of the pandemic. The Canadian Mental Health Association and partner organizations in every province are promoting Mental Health Week 2020 with the hashtag #GetReal.

So often we ask each other what has become a throwaway question: “How are you doing?” As we all know, the standard answer is “I’m fine.” Of course, we’re not all fine, especially now, especially with the current circumstances.

#GetReal is intended as a reminder for us to reach out for authentic connection with each other, to go deeper than “I’m fine,” to ask our loved ones how they’re really doing, and to be honest with each other—about the good and the bad.

For some of us, this might be an intimidating concept. We value our privacy and surely our friends and relatives do, too. It may feel invasive to ask for authenticity, and we may not feel capable of helping someone if they’re actually in distress.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a therapist to be able to offer support to the people you care about, and everyone can become a caring and helpful listener—with a few tips.

Dr. Carl Rogers, one of the fathers of modern psychology, was a champion of what is often called person-centred counselling. Rogers spent his career researching the best ways to listen, support, and assist people who seek help for personal issues. After years of research, Rogers concluded there were three main attributes of effective helpers:

1. Genuineness. If we want to help someone, we have to be genuine with them. Our caring must be real and our actions must reflect our feelings for the people we want to help. Or, to put it another way, our insides must match our outsides.

2. Unconditional positive regard. If we want to help someone, we have to care about them without judgment or condemnation, not just feel sorry for them or pity them when times are hard. We need to unconditionally care about them where they are at, not where we would like them to be.

3. Accurate empathy. If we want to help someone, we have to understand them and the experiences they’re going through. We need to put ourselves in their shoes and think about what life must look and feel like from their unique point of view.

Counsellors, psychologists, and therapists around the world have been following these guidelines for decades, and the evidence is clear: they work. When people can tell you’re genuine, they are much more likely to open up to you. When people are cared for without judgment, they are less likely to hide their problems from others. When people feel understood, they are much more likely to find greater understanding of themselves.

Rogers’s work led to improved mental health for countless people, and we can all use it to help us improve the quality of connection we have with each other.

If you want to #GetReal with people this Mental Health Week, if you would like to reach out to your loved ones and authentically connect, consider following in Carl Rogers’s footsteps. Be genuine, show positive regard, have empathy, and don’t be afraid to ask people how they’re really doing. You, and they, may be very glad that you did.

For more information

If you are experiencing a Mental Health Crisis, call 1-888-617-7715. You can also attend your local emergency department for immediate assistance. The Southern Health-Santé Sud Crisis Services line operates 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. It provides community citizens of all ages experiencing a mental health or psychosocial crisis with ongoing support, crisis intervention, consultation, or referral to resources and education.

The Southern Health-Santé Sud Wellness Support Line is a confidential phone number anybody can call. A mental health clinician is ready to listen, support and refer you to local resources.

The Mental Health Virtual Therapy Program is available to all residents age 16 or older experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Help when you need it. Where you need it.

Wellness Together Canada provides free online resources, tools, apps and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals when needed.

Learn skills to overcome behavior and/or anxiety challenges in the privacy and comfort of your own home. Learn skills to manage behavior issues (3-12 years old) and anxiety issues (6-18 years old). Call or 1-866-470-7111, Option 1 or visit www.strongestfamilies.com.

For more information on other organizations offering free bilingual (English/French) counselling and health services to Manitobans of all ages, click here.

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