Our conversation around mental illness has made critical strides in recent years. It seems modern day mental health challenges are creeping out of the shadows, and our tone, slowly transforming from skepticism and stigma, has awakened into more than a whisper of acceptance. But we still have a lot of work to do.
“Mental Health for All” is the theme for World Mental Health Day on October 10, and this year’s theme could not be more fitting. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our everyday upside-down as these uncertain times present unease about the physical health of our families, community, nation, the globe and ourselves. For many, this has only intensified mental illness.
During the pandemic, Canadians have struggled immensely with mental health issues and loneliness, in fact, 52% indicated that their mental health was either "somewhat worse" or "much worse” since physical distancing began. For youth, the situation is worse with 64% of Canadians aged 15 to 24 noting the pandemic having a negative impact on their mental health.
We’ve seen the world around us adapt drastically to support our physical health, but we’ve also taken this opportunity to turn the spotlight on our social and emotional wellness. We’re seeing more shared stories and transparency in terms of illness, diagnosis, treatment, strategies, medication, setbacks and progress. These public and candid conversations are critical and we’ve seen this in our work with the Amanda Todd Legacy Society.
Since Amanda’s death and the formation of the Amanda Todd Legacy, we have heard from so many families and young people who have shared their stories. Every story is unique in it’s own way and has needed different resources, but oftentimes, just sharing their story and beginning the conversation has been enough. It is our strong belief that finding the courage to reach out can be the start to positive outcomes in one’s mental health and even physical health.
In 2019, the Legacy was approached and asked questions such as,“What has been the Legacy’s main goals and accomplishments? How has the Legacy helped others? Why is the Legacy important to you?”. When asked, I often have to think deeply to find the right words as there is no set answer. Amanda’s Legacy was never created intentionally, it just happened. Some of this is explained in the upcoming documentary entitled “Dark Cloud: The High Risk of Cyberbullying” which is premiering on October 10, 2020. This date is significant because it coincides with World Mental Health Day and also because it is the 8th year since Amanda’s death by suicide.
The documentary shares the stories of Amanda’s perilled journey of cyberbullying and exploitation through the twistedness of the internet, and includes stories from others who became victims of cyberbullying as well. Luckily, they have become strong survivors who are telling their stories for others to learn from and find hope. We continue to learn from Amanda, but will never be able to hear it in her own words other than the black and white video she left behind.
In reflection of the past 8 years, the need, determination and importance to continue with the necessary words and actions of awareness has become stronger within my universe - that Amanda’s story continues with the intentional role of helping others is a necessity. Advocating to reshape the level of awareness related to cyberbullying, exploitation and mental health is very much needed.
On World Mental Health Day in 2020, we’re reminded of the power of continued conversation and storytelling, and that we’re at our best when every aspect of our health is in check, including our mental health – “health” after all means health overall – whole body, all-encompassing wellness.
#LightUpPurple #Caring4others #EndtheStigma #WorldMentalHealthDay