World Mental Health Day: Why are mental illnesses still taboo?

While we’re all enjoying our turkey and stuffing this weekend, people around the world will be marking World Mental Health

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While we’re all enjoying our turkey and stuffing this weekend, people around the world will be marking World Mental Health Day on October 10. The day is meant to raise awareness and promote discussion about of mental health issues and the resources available to those who need them.

Though many of us recognize that mental disorders s such as depression, substance abuse and obsessive compulsive disorders are serious and painful illnesses for many people, discussing mental health issues is largely taboo. Think about it: a co-worker may openly discuss her high blood pressure or bad back at the office, but when was the last time you heard someone speak about a mental illness in the break room?

According to the World Health Organization, mental disorders account for 14 percent of the world’s illnesses. Yet there is still a lot of misunderstanding about mental disorders and as a result, sufferers may be dismissed, ignored or even blamed for their illness.

One of the most poignant descriptions I’ve read about the shame and fear that sufferers of mental illness can encounter is a Facts & Arguments essay in the Globe and Mail entitled, “I can’t ‘snap out of’ my depression.” It was written by a former colleague of mine, and it eloquently describes what it’s like to have to hide a mental illness from the people in your life.

Take a moment to read it over this Thanksgiving weekend. Maybe it will spark a discussion about mental disorders around your family’s Thanksgiving table.

You can also mark the day by donating to the programs run by the World Federation for Mental Health, an organization that aims to raise awareness and provide services for those suffering from mental health issues around the world.

Why do you think mental illnesses are still taboo?

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