Going to counselling does not necessarily mean that one has a mental illness. People seek counselling for a wide range of issues and concerns including: problems with adjusting to a new culture or environment, feelings of distress about school, family or personal relationships, situational crises, feelings of depression or anxiety, etc.
Mental illnesses can affect almost anyone at any stage of life. In Canada, approximately 20% of young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 have personally experienced mental illness. The remaining 80% have likely been indirectly affected through family, friends, and colleagues.
There is nothing to be ashamed about. Although there can be fear and stigma surrounding mental illnesses, it is important to remember that this fear and stigma often stems from misinformation. People sometimes make assumptions and judgements about others based on what they think they know, rather than on what is actually true. Stigma occurs when one feels ashamed, disgraced, or rejected, and often accompanies situations where people feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. It is important to erase the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses so that more people will gain the confidence they need to seek help.
People diagnosed with mental illnesses can still lead very productive and fulfilling lives with the help of treatment, counselling services, or community support groups. Although some mental illnesses are more debilitating than others, they can all be effectively managed.
The vast majority of people with mental health conditions are no more violent than anyone else. Instead, people with mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of crime. You probably know someone with a mental illness and don’t even realize it.
Many people diagnosed with a mental illness are brilliant, creative, and productive people. However, some people with mental illnesses have difficulty remembering facts, interacting with other people, or experience fluctuations in thinking, mood, and behaviour. Overall, people with mental illnesses have varied intellectual functioning, just like the general population.
Mental illness is not a result of personal weakness. Instead, mental illnesses are caused by a combination of biological (e.g., family history of mental illness), psychological (e.g., severe and prolonged stress or abuse), environmental (e.g., birth trauma or head injury), or social (e.g., loss of loved one or unemployment) factors.
The road to recovery involves many factors including the type of mental illness, the specific needs of the individual, self-efficacy, type of treatment intervention, amount of support, and more. Research suggests that most people with mental illness get better and many recover completely.
You can do a lot, starting with how you act and speak. Try to create an environment that builds on people’s strengths and promotes understanding. If you notice that someone you care about is struggling with a mental health issue, you can be supportive, listen non-judgementally, and encourage them to seek support from friends, family members, and professionals (i.e., doctors, counsellors, help lines). If the person is open to getting help, connect them with resources on- or off-campus that can help.