Mental health hasn’t been a priority for many people until COVID hit us. In fact, during our last webinar, we learned from a poll we did with our attendees that it’s a taboo in many cultures and we lack awareness of its importance.
We asked our attendees about how open folks in their country of origin feel to talk about mental health-related topics, and 65% of them voted that they would rather not talk about it. Because of COVID, there are positive shifts in people’s mindset towards mental health in our international students’ community. International students and people who came to Canada by themselves might be facing additional stressors during the crisis since they are far away from their families.
This week’s guest speaker Isabelle Lee is a mental health and social justice advocate. She is pursuing a career combining Human Resources and Mental Health. In the webinar, she talked about why mental health matters and how we can look after ourselves and our family, wherever we are.
Mental health is as important as our physical health, she said. On the basic level, when we are in a happier mood, we tend to be more productive; on the other side, when we are not doing well, we don’t want to do anything. It affects many aspects of our daily life. It affects how we think, talk, and act. Mental health should be prioritized because at the end of the day, what matters the most is how you feel.You need to be okay first before helping anyone else.
Isabelle mentioned that mental health has been negatively stigmatized by society and media. People associate mental health with mental illness. While mental illness includes depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, etc.; mental health should always be something that we strive for.
There is a stigma associated with seeking mental health assistance among students. Besides the fact that there aren’t enough counselling resources for students on campus, we don’t feel comfortable enough talking about mental health with people around us. However, it’s important that we start daily conversations with friends about mental health, especially when we are far from our family. We need to learn to be vulnerable and lean on other people. It’s okay to not be okay.
A lot of people find it hard to self-identify and identify if others are experiencing mental health challenges. Isabelle mentioned an app called Daylio that allows users to record their feelings and activities throughout the day, which allows users to observe their mood fluctuations.
There are a lot of online resources that can help us. Isabelle also shared a list of resources with us: Check Resources.
Besides online resources, talking to friends and family might help. However, we need to reach out to a counsellor and avoid self-misdiagnosis in some situations. Isabelle urged us to put aside prejudice related to talking to a counsellor.Just because you had one negative experience with a counsellor does not mean that all counsellors are bad.
Last but not least, Isabelle shared some tips to help us keep motivated these days:
Talking to your family and loved ones – You might feel better just by listening to their voice and knowing how they are doing.
Having game nights with friends with safety measures – It could be remote.
Journaling and putting down all of your thoughts then move on – It’s okay if those thoughts are negative. However, it’s important to not dwelling on those thoughts.
Move your body – It does not have to be intense. Take a walk in nature if the situation allows.
Do something you are passionate about – Be creative.
Check out Isabelle’s blog – It’s a healing space filled with mental health positivity! (The link is in the resource list).
Do what makes YOU happy!
Written by Winnie Jiang for Orbit 5