It’s OK to not be OK

January 26, 2023

If you’ve found yourself feeling down this past month, you’re not alone. The winter blues are real, stemming from a number of different factors that can be tough on our mental health and sometimes lead to feelings of depression. For some, these feeling only last a few weeks. But for others, they simply amplify already existing mental health issues.

In any normal year, one in every five Canadians is affected by a mental health issue or illness. 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. Research shows that anxiety levels quadrupled and depression levels doubled throughout the pandemic, meaning it is more vital than ever that we normalize mental health issues.

Young woman chatting with her father

We all have an important role to play when it comes to breaking down negative or discriminatory attitudes others have around mental health. Today, more than ever, someone you know is likely dealing with a mental health issue – your neighbour, your colleague, your friend, your loved one, maybe even yourself. And while not all of us need to seek help, those who do are still reluctant because of the stigma that continues to exist.

Here are some tips on how you can help yourself, your friends, and your loved ones cope with stress and look after their mental health:  

  • Recognize signs of stress: Stressors associated with a pandemic will affect each of us differently and not all of us will react to the same event in the same way. Stressors can impact us psychologically (e.g. feeling anxious) as well as physically (e.g. not sleeping well), and those that are out of our control can be especially hard to cope with.
  • Take care of yourself: This is an important step to help you cope with stress and can include such things as: limiting the amount of news you consume, eating well, exercising regularly, connecting with others, and focusing your energy on things that you can control rather than worrying about those that you can’t.
  • Take care of others: There are many things to help support those around you such as: listen to them talk about their worries, provide reassurance when possible, let them know it’s ok to not be ok, and keep as regular a routine as possible for your family.
  • Connect to help: Signs and symptoms associated with a mental health problem can include: changes in sleep, feeling anxious or depressed, feeling angry or helpless, having difficulties concentrating, having little patience, eating excessively, and drinking more alcohol. If you or a loved one is struggling, help is available.

And here are five simple ways to start a conversation with someone you think may need help:

  1. Educate yourself: Knowing the facts and myths about mental illness will arm you with basic knowledge and provide you with a better understanding.
  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
  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 their 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 often associated with mental health.

It’s ok to not be ok. Let’s all do our part to support one another and continue breaking down the stigma associated with such a prevalent health issue.

Doctors of BC tools: – 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.