Mental Health Week? We Need Mental Illness Week

Mental Health Week? We Need Mental Illness Week

This weeks is mental health week in Canada – not mental illness week. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, “We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. It’s a state of well-being.”

This is true. We all do have mental health. And mental health is important. But what we need in society is mental illness week not mental health week.

Mental Health Affects Everyone

Mental health affects everyone and thus, mental health week, I suppose. But funds used for things like “mental health” and “mental health week” are going to who some of us call the “worried well.” These are people without mental illnesses with the same worries and cares of anyone else. Certainly life’s events can negatively affect these people’s mental health. But, really? Mental health week? We need to spend funds on “mental health” that really should be going to mental illness?

It's mental health week, but don't we really need a mental illness week in Canada? Here's why mental health week just doesn't make sense.Mental Illness Affects Everyone

I would argue that while mental health affects everyone, and is important on a personal basis, mental illness affects everyone and is important on a societal basis because while yucky mental health can make you feel bad, mental illness can make you feel dead. And not just that, but people with mental illness actively cost society money in terms of healthcare costs, loss of work time and in countless other ways.

For example, did you know that people with schizophrenia take up more hospital beds in Canada than any other illness? People with schizophrenia take up 8% of all hospital beds. That’s one-in-12 beds being taken up by a single mental illness. And that’s illness with a capital “ill.” Not a “mental health issue.” Oh, and funding for schizophrenia research is lower than it is for any other major illness in Canada.

And what are we not talking about? Mental illness. What are we talking about? The fluffy bunny concept of airy-fairy mental health.

I Talk about Mental Health and Mental Illness

I freely admit that I call myself a “mental health writer.” There are many reasons for this but mostly, it casts a broad net over the topics I write about – which is accurate.

What I also do, however, is talk about mental illness. Pretty much every day. And I try really hard not to call things “mental health issues” when really they’re mental illnesses. And what I want is mental illness awareness, I couldn’t care less about mental health awareness.

Well, it would be fairer to say mental health awareness can do its thing without bothering me, except for the fact that every dollar spent on fluffy bunny, air-fairy mental health is one dollar that is not spent on real mental illnesses.

Mental Health Week in Canada

Look, I’m not trying to bash the Canadian Mental Health Association here. They do a lot of good for a lot of people and I like a lot of their programs. I just think that framing the issue as “mental health week” is insulting to people who are sick and actually need help. What we need is awareness to combat people’s prejudice against mental illness and not try to make more people aware of counselling for their “mental wellness.”


About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.

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