Today, on World Mental Health Day, I’m encouraged by the progress that is being made in our understanding of mental health. There is now wider-spread awareness of the need for care and compassion, and an openness about the impact of mental health challenges on the lives of people of all ages and from every walk of life.
Still, it remains a significant public health issue, with one in five Canadians experiencing a mental health problem or illness in any given year. By the age of 40, about 50 per cent of our population will have, or have had, a mental illness.
This year, the World Federation for Mental Health (an affiliate of the World Health Organization) is focusing World Mental Health Day on suicide prevention. https://wfmh.global/world-mental-health-day-2019/
When you consider the scope of this issue in Canada, some of the most tragic statistics relate to our young people. Youth suicide in this country is the third highest in the industrialized world – it’s among the leading causes of death in 15 to 24-year-old Canadians, second only to accidents.
Statistics like these, plus our own knowledge of how children, youth and young adults in our communities are affected, has helped shape United Way’s approach to mental health. With generous support from donors in Halton and Hamilton, United Way-sponsored agencies are offering programs that help kids be all that they can be and programs that support families and individuals achieve positive mental health.
Examples of what we mean by that include: offering summer programs that help youth gain the confidence they need to cope with bullying; enriching kids’ identity through educational programs in art, history and culture; advancing health and well-being through a wide range of sporting experiences; and pairing children with mentors who provide them with guidance and support during difficult growing-up years.
Young adults and families also benefit from United Way-funded initiatives that help lift them from poverty to possibility, and give them a sense of belonging and connection with their community.
Examples of those are: family resource programs including individual, couple and family counselling; academic programs to improve literacy and help them find jobs; abuse prevention; crisis support; and housing support as well as group homes.
This is just a sampling of the programs that United Way Halton & Hamilton has invested in on behalf of our donors and communities. In 2018, more than 200,000 individuals across this region received assistance that enabled them to overcome obstacles and enter a journey of transformation filled with hope and possibility.
Feelings of hope and belief in possibility are crucial to suicide prevention at any age group – reinforcing the need for United Way supported programs. As we mark World Mental Health Day today, I encourage you to think about those who need our support. Share your hope, whether it be through a donation, through a friendly smile, a caring conversation, or even a hug. Your kindness could make all the difference.
President & CEO