(NC) Mental illness continues to carry a stigma, which can prevent us from getting the help we need. In fact, a recent survey by RBC Insurance shows that Canadians who would be reluctant or refuse to admit to a mental illness say privacy, fear of being treated differently and stigma are the top reasons.

During the pandemic, uncertainty and financial stress are taking a greater toll on our mental health. That’s why breaking the stigma is more important than ever.

“There’s growing evidence that mental illness is one of the leading causes of disability, which causes most of our disability claims,” explains Maria Winslow, senior director of life and health at RBC Insurance. “Breaking the stigma and promoting mental health coping strategies can encourage people to proactively seek treatment sooner and improve their outcomes, while avoiding more dire repercussions, including financial setbacks.”

The following tips can help when dealing with someone struggling with mental illness:

Learn to recognize the signs
Unusual mood swings, irritability, absenteeism from school or work and even recurring illnesses are all potential signs someone is having difficulty coping. While they can’t be forced to disclose a mental illness, creating an open and supportive environment can lead to productive dialogue.

Challenge your assumptions
Mental illness is a health problem and can be disabling just like a physical illness such as diabetes or cancer. It is not a sign of weakness or an excuse for poor behaviour. Miseducation and myths only lead to exclusion and isolation, and create barriers to well-being.

Promote mental health
Be an advocate at home and at work to help stop the discrimination around mental illness. Check in with others; ask how they are feeling and really listen. Foster understanding and kindness and promote the use of sensitive language so others feel safe opening up.

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