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The CatalystConversations on Mental Health
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With the tagline “Conversations on Mental Health,” we have a wide berth when considering story ideas for The Catalyst. This is by design. Part of the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s work is to reduce stigma, and that starts by making space for discussions about lived realities, challenges, news, and ideas. We compiled a summary of stories published in 2023 that reflect that ethos to start off your New Year. Happy reading.
Is there an elephant in the room?
Stories develop in myriad ways. The piece “How to Break Up With Your Therapist” emerged from side conversations with friends and colleagues, seemingly unable to speak above a whisper about how it wasn’t working out. When I responded by proposing a piece on the delicate art of saying, “It’s not you, it’s me (or vice-versa),” I kept hearing how useful this would be. We commissioned author Moira Farr to tackle the issue in July 2023. Later that year, in October 2023, The New York Times published a piece on the same topic with a similar headline and sub-headline. We were flattered.
On the subject of things we don’t talk about enough, in March, writer Debra Yearwood wrote about the cringier aspects of a bad funeral (mispronouncing the name of the deceased – egad!) and how different aspects of saying goodbye can support bereavement processes. The delightfully cheeky illustration nails the premise of the article and invites readers into the story.
Serious about series
A collection of linked stories allows us to explore an issue in depth across multiple weeks. We plan these out in advance to permit research, reflection, and writing and to assure stories are up to date with current and emerging information. In November, we published four stories within the theme of Money & Mental Health for Financial Literacy Month. It covers mindsets, housing, economic literacy and empowerment, and the cost of therapy.
Meanwhile, our annual literary series Mental Health for the Holidays embraces some of the tarnish on all the sparkle of the season. We dive into complicated family dynamics with stories of overcoming the more trying aspects of the holidays not always seen in those commercial depictions. The pieces are true tales told with hope and humour.
The level of detail and nuance that emerges from a personal tale can shed light on a topic profoundly. That was the case with Jessica Ruano’s story about her partner’s suicide. Meanwhile, Florence K – musician, mother, CBC host, and doctoral candidate – took the theme of this year’s Mental Health Week – #MyStory – and shared her personal story of mental health challenges, wellness, and discovery.
When working to reduce stigma, it’s about the stories we tell – and how we tell them. Part of our internal annual review of our style guide looks at language choices. We decided to provide context around these choices in a series called Language Matters. In this way, we can share our rationale outside the organization with the hopes that word will spread. For example, how to phrase language around suicide or the use of drugs, alcohol, or other substances.
The following stories – two from our annual literary series Mental Health for the Holidays – all received nominations for the Canadian Online Publishing Awards. Winners are announced in February. In the best column category are Dave Bidini’s piece, Getting Outside to Get Into Your Head and Moira Farr’s essay May Your Days Be Merry and Bright – As Possible, both from 2022. Debra Yearwood’s piece, Putting the Men in Mental Health, received a nod in the Best Service Article category, while The Dread in Your Head – about eco-anxiety – received a nomination for Best Lifestyle Article.
When we speak openly about challenges, illnesses, problems, and wellness, we recognize that mental health is part of our overall health. Such conversations can be a gateway to meaningful change, and the holiday season feels like an especially good time to tackle the complexities and multitudes of our mental health.
The easy-to-remember three-digit number for suicide crises means that people in need of immediate support can call or text for help.
In this fourth and final piece in the series, we explore the costs of therapy and the financial decisions people make when seeking help.
A lack of economic awareness or control over one’s finances can have long-term impacts. We look at the link between intimate partner violence and money in the third article of our series for Financial Literacy Month.