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Mental health is for everyone

This post was written by Shayera Ri’Ana Robinson, a member of ThriveSMH. She shares her thoughts on the importance of reaching out for help

Growing up, I frequently heard my mother talking about mental health. She always encouraged my siblings and me to talk to her about our struggles because, in her words, “I cannot help you if I do not know what’s wrong.”

For me, talking about our well-being was the norm. It was the same as letting my parents know that I had gotten a cold or I fell down – it was to get help.

Another thing I often heard my mother say was that my extended family did not like to be open about their mental health. To them, it was taboo to talk about it, especially around children. It was the Subject-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. My family’s background contributed to this. The lack of conversations about my family’s health also caused problems when I was going to the doctor, as we did not know about possible genetic conditions, since nobody told anybody anything! Nevertheless, I do recognize that sometimes healthcare is not always accessible, especially for family members not living in Canada. That, however, is a completely different conversation.

This has always rubbed me the wrong way. Again, the quote “I cannot help you if I do not know what’s wrong” comes to mind. Keeping everything bottled up not only affects the person, but it can also affect others.  For example, a parent/caregiver may be concerned or even upset that their child is not performing well in school. The child may be struggling due to bullying, lack self-esteem, lack of motivation, etc. By the child bottling up all of their emotions, the parent/caregiver is left in the dark and could react in a manner that does not benefit anyone.

My hope for the future is that children and youth of all cultures are brave enough to tell their family members if they are in fact, not feeling okay emotionally ; for conversations around health of any kind to not be avoided and for family members to not dismiss or diminish their loved ones struggles and instead to wholeheartedly and unconditionally support them.