On behalf of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), Louise Bradley, President and CEO, made the following statement.
“The holidays are a time of heightened emotion. It’s only normal. From our expectations to our schedules, everything is ramped up.
Even those of us with our mental health intact find the holidays exceptionally taxing. But for people living with a mental health problem or illness, managing anxiety, overcoming depression or immersed in grief, the glitz and glimmer of the holidays contrast a bleak emotional landscape.
There isn’t much worse than watching the hustle and bustle of cheerful revelers, only to feel doubly isolated when our own feelings don’t reflect seasonal norms. I have worked as a hospital administrator, and watched families receive devastating news while standing next to the facility’s sad approximation of a Christmas tree. I have seen inmates living with mental illness endure the holidays alone, the institutional turkey the only reminder that a special day is upon us. Daily struggles or unexpected tragedies often stand in stark relief to the season’s cheerful soundtrack.
As for those blessed with conventional challenges, the holidays are a time when it’s easy to become weighed down by niggling tasks: choosing the right gift, cooking a perfect meal, finding a flattering dress.
But it’s also a time of year when we all have the capacity to do so much good by rising above those material preoccupations, and putting our energy into making meaningful connections with those who might be vulnerable.
There is no better time to take children to shop for the local food cupboard, to choose items to donate to a women’s shelter, to volunteer at your neighborhood retirement home. When we need to replenish our own mental health and wellness, one of the most important things we can do is serve others.
When I was a young professional, I had a mentor who modeled servant leadership. He taught me that vision without compassion is as useless as a wagon without wheels. I have tried to bring his teachings to bear in my own life, both as the leader of a pan-Canadian health organization, and as a person wanting to connect with my colleagues, peers and those people living with mental health problems we work so hard to support.
There is no place for complacency this holiday season. With one in five people living with a mental health problem or illness, we do ourselves a disservice to pretend that this is a time of year free from complications.
If anything, it’s a time of year when complications become harder to bear.
The next time you’re frustrated by a too-long-line or cursing a batch of scorched cookies, remind yourself that tis the season – not only to be jolly – but also to extend kindness and share the warmth meaningful human connection.
When you need a balm for your frayed nerves, consider putting your talents in service to others this holiday season. It’s a gift that means more than any beautifully wrapped bauble under the tree.”
ABOUT THE MENTAL HEALTH COMMISSION OF CANADA
The Mental Health Commission of Canada is a catalyst for change. We are collaborating with hundreds of partners to change the attitudes of Canadians toward mental health problems and to improve services and support. Our goal is to help people who live with mental health problems and illnesses lead meaningful and productive lives. Together we create change. The Mental Health Commission of Canada is funded by Health Canada.
www.mentalhealthcommission.ca | strategy.mentalhealthcommission.ca
Hélène Côté, Senior Communications Advisor, Public Affairs
Mental Health Commission of Canada