“How are you?” Normalizing mental health today and every day

January 25, 2021

In any normal year, one in every five Canadians is affected by a mental health issue or illness. But the last 11 months have been anything but normal. The stress, anxiety, fear, and loss brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the mental health and well-being for most of us. And with research suggesting many of us will still be struggling long after a vaccine is available, now more than ever it is vital we normalize mental health issues.

We all have an important role to play when it comes to breaking down negative or discriminatory attitudes others have around mental health. With the challenges we’ve all faced during COVID-19, today more than ever it’s likely that the face of someone dealing with a mental health issue is that of your neighbour, your colleague, your friend, your loved one – even you. And while not all of us need to seek help, those who do are still reluctant because of the stigma that still exists.

This is why campaigns like Bell’s Let’s Talk Day on January 28th are so important. For more than a decade, this campaign has been helping normalize mental health issues and promote better awareness and understanding through conversation. And while showing support for Bell Let’s Talk Day via social media or donation helps, candid and important mental health conversations need to happen all year round. Here are five simple ways to start a conversation and help end the stigma:


  1. Educate yourself: Knowing the facts and myths about mental illness can be a great way to help end the stigma. If someone you know is living with a mental illness, researching it will help you better understand it and feel equipped to talk about it. 
  2. Your words matter: You want to help, not judge. Using such words as “psycho” or “crazy” can perpetuate negative stereotypes about people with mental illness. By being mindful of your language, you can help improve the dialogue around mental health.
  3. Be kind: Simple acts of kindness can make a world of difference. A smile, being a good listener or inviting someone for a distanced coffee and chat can all help open up the conversation and let someone know you’re there for them.
  4. Listen and ask: Being a good listener and asking how you can help can go a long way. Sometimes simply being there for people you care about can be the first step in recovery.
  5. Talk about it: Break the silence. Two out of three people suffer in silence, fearing judgement and rejection. Being open to a conversation and sharing stories of people who have experienced mental health issues and are doing well can help eliminate the stigma.

And during these challenging times there are also lots of things we can do to look after our own mental health and help others who may need some extra support and care.A%20woman%20doing%20yoga%20

  • Have a routine: keep up with your pre-pandemic routine as much as possible or make a new one
  • Minimize your news intake: try to reduce how much you watch, listen, or read the news if it makes you feel anxious or distressed.
  • Maintain social contact: keep in regular contact and stay connected to friends and family
  • Limit your alcohol intake: limit the amount of alcohol you drink or don’t drink any at all. Especially avoid using it as a way of dealing with any fear, anxiety, boredom and social isolation.
  • Exercise regularly: allocate a few times a week to doing something physical, whether it be an at-home workout or getting outside for a walk.

Let’s join in the conversation today and every day and do our part to help end the stigma around mental health.

Useful tools:

OpenMindBC.ca – developed by Doctors of BC, this website acts as a portal to an abundance of tools and resources developed by a range of mental health organizations in BC and across Canada.

Reaching Out: Supporting Youth Mental Health in British Columbia – this policy paper contains a number of commitments and recommendations which support Doctors of BC’s policy of raising awareness of mental illness in the province.

The Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Toolbox – A legacy of the CYMHSU Collaborative, this ‘one-stop-shop’ of tools and resources helps improve access and care for children, youth and families facing challenges with mental health and substance use in BC.

Canadian Mental Health Association – The CMHA British Columbia Division has a number of resources, including information on youth mental health, university workshop information, and crisis care support.

HereToHelp BC – A project of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Substance Use Information, HereToHelp provides information about mental health and substance abuse. 

Mental Health Commission of Canada – The MHCC has a wide range of tools aimed at improving the mental well-being of all people living in Canada.