Article by Cy Williams, High! Canada
Raising awareness of mental health problems is a great and important thing and it should be the start of the process and not the end. It has been my experience that while the conversation is happening – it needs to happen more. This is dedicated to M.E. Woodside. We lost our High! Canada Magazine team member M.E. in 2017 to suicide and our team has never been the same. To be honest I have never been the same and I still struggle with her loss on a daily basis. Memories of our last conversations haunt me. I think she would be proud to see that Canada is almost ready to cross the finish line into legalized cannabis. I can remember her predicting that the monopoly would not stand in Ontario and it turns out it will not. I remember her predicting a place for craft growers and there will be and I also recall her saying there would be a place for Mom & Pop storefronts and there will likely be as well. M.E. struggled with her own mental health on a daily basis and for me and for my entire team it is important that we continue the conversation she started.
It’s important to be aware that mental health affects literally everyone, and that a quarter of the population regularly struggle with it. It’s strange to think of in those terms, but that is the case, it’s not exactly mental health that people need to be made aware of, so much as the fact that mental health can, and regularly does, go wrong. And when someone’s mental health does falter or fail, they should receive the same concern and help that someone with a more obvious “physical” ailment should get, not scorn and stigma, as often happens.
This is where mental health awareness can help. If you suffer from depression, anxiety, OCD or any other condition, it can be hugely debilitating, often consuming your entire daily existence. Having someone, (a family member or total stranger) dismiss it outright or accuse you of “faking it” can only make it worse, compounding the problem. This is how campaigns to raise awareness of the issues can be very helpful. Increased exposure to, or discussions about, mental health problems and what they mean for those who deal with them can enhance the understanding, or even just the patience, of those who don’t have to. Essentially, mental health awareness is fine, but action is what’s actually needed. Awareness is great for prompting those with issues to seek help, but effectively meaningless if there’s no help available. And with ongoing cuts and shocking provisions to mental health services, that’s where the real problems lie.
If mental health awareness can be channelled in to actually dealing with the issues around it, then that would be great. But raising awareness is just the start of the process, not the end. There’s a lot of work that needs doing here. And that’s something we should all be aware of.
I know a lot of people who use cannabis to self-medicate to control anxiety and depression and other types of mood disorders to some great success but it is very important to remember that lighting up a blunt or having a long solo dab session and hiding out in your place all alone is NOT the best thing for you when you are feeling low. Get outside – call someone and if are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others – CALL the Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS), by Crisis Services Canada, which enables callers anywhere in Canada to access crisis support by phone, in French or English: toll-free 1-833-456-4566 Available 24/7 – you can also visit the website to connect with some one on line to talk at www.crisisservicescanada.ca .
Alternatively, you could download the LifeLine App – it is a National free Suicide Prevention and Awareness App that offers access and guidance to support for those suffering in crisis and those who have suffered the devastating loss of a loved one from suicide. The LifeLine App also provides awareness education and prevention strategies to guide people in crisis all across the Globe . You can download it for free at www.thelifelinecanada.ca/lifeline-canada-foundation/lifeline-app
It is also very important to remember or consider that we do not know all the impacts of cannabis use on mental health — particularly on young, developing brains and those with a history of psychosis — this must be considered and researched as Canada moves forward with pot legalization. Young people’s brains are vulnerable to substances such as alcohol and cannabis, says Dr. Jürgen Rehm, director of the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) but we need more research!