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Mental Health Matters: The Importance of Putting Mental Health First

Mental Health Matters: The Importance of Putting Mental Health First

As someone who has been a patient, professional, policy influencer, and public figure in the mental health system, Mark Henick has dedicated his life from an early age to opening minds and creating change when it comes to mental health.

Mark recently joined Global News Morning to kick off their “Mental Health Matters” conversation as part of their Mental Health Awareness Month programming. A well-known mental health advocate and bestselling author of So-Called Normal: A Memoir of Family, Depression, and Resilience, Mark explored how we can help ourselves and others overcome mental health struggles.

The Rising Mental Health Problem

Now more than ever, Mark said, it’s important to talk about mental health as these past two years have been difficult for all of us. Our brains, he continued, are not designed to comprehend or handle this constant barrage of change and uncertainty that we’ve experienced throughout multiple lockdowns, rampant misinformation, and political upheaval.

As we try to figure out what to do, this can be very taxing on our mental health. This is why we’ve seen a decline in overall mental health and an increase in depression, anxiety, suicide, and hospitalizations, Mark said.

On a positive note, Mark added, people are resilient — we know this from past pandemics and natural disasters. The discussion we should be having now, he continued, is how we can best support each other to recover from this pandemic. When given the right support, we can heal.

How to Know Someone is Struggling

The easiest way to tell someone is struggling, Mark said, is if they seem different from whatever their version of normal is — their baseline. Are they sleeping more? Or eating less? Have they stopped reaching out and talking to others?

Men and boys in particular tend to become more irritable and aggressive, Mark continued, as they are often socialized to reject their emotions. Basically, if you notice anything different in how your loved ones, or the people around you, are behaving, this is the time to check-in.

Ideally though, Mark said, we wouldn’t wait to check-in with people when they need help. While he’s happy that we’re having more conversations about mental health and breaking down that stigma, Mark says we should be having more conversations about how we’re feeling in general, not just when there’s a sign something may be off.

“Even as adults we still don’t know how to name and label our emotions,” Mark said, “and we know that learning a better emotional vocabulary before you’re struggling is a protective factor against later mental illnesses.”

Flip the Equation When it Comes to Mental Health

So much of the conversations around mental health focus on eliminating the illness, reducing the struggle, and addressing symptoms. But when we talk about mental health it shouldn’t just be about getting rid of something, Mark said. We have to look at the other side of the equation and balance it out.

Mark recommends that people focus on what brings them joy, practice gratitude for what they have, and build their resiliency — the ultimate tool for better managing our mental health. Take a moment to notice what’s good in your life, he said, because once you are aware of what brings you joy, that’s when you can amplify and lean into it to right that balance.

“If you just erase all the bad stuff, then what’s left? We need to fill that void with positive self-care,” Mark said.

Hear more from Mark in the clip below:

Called “one of Canada’s most prominent mental health advocates” by People magazine, Mark Henick is an in-demand international keynote speaker on mental health, recovery, resilience, and connection. His TEDx Talk, “Why We Choose Suicide,” is among the most watched in the world.

Interested in learning more about Mark and what he can bring to your next event? Email us at [email protected].