In my experience, mental health is an ongoing, consistent pursuit. I think many people still view themselves as either ‘normal’ or ‘mentally ill’ – two permanent and mutually exclusive states of being. But there is a large grey area between normal and mentally ill, a zone that most of us navigate on a daily basis. Every day is different. Our mindset shifts, our energy level fluctuates, and new challenges arise without warning.
On a particularly rough day (or week, or month) it can feel like we’re all alone with our struggle. Depression and anxiety, coupled with societal stigma, often create a vicious cycle of isolation. Silence and withdrawal can leave us paralyzed – unable to reach for the resources we need to feel healthy.
When I first discovered the Mental Health All-Stars cartoon, I thought it was fun and quaint. I liked how silly the giant muscles looked on each character (especially the guy with the tweed jacket). And then I realized just how meaningful and timely the graphic is. We are living in a time where we simply cannot ignore the vast consequences of mental illness. A couple of startling facts from CMHA:
In any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness.
• By age 40, about 50% of the population will have or have had a mental illness.
• Almost one half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem.
• Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds.
• Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women from adolescence to middle age.
So I started sharing the cartoon with friends, especially those going through a rough time. I saved the graphic as a file on my desktop: a gentle reminder to look at it when I needed to. Most importantly, I have used the resources in the graphic to help improve my mental health. These silly characters truly are allies in the fight against the void.
I like that the strategies presented in the cartoon are simple and effective. Almost all are free or cheap. Yet, in the depths of depression and anxiety, it’s easy to forget that most of these resources are readily available to us. We might just need a reminder (ideally a lime-green Lucha libre wildly leaping at us with HUMOUR emblazoned on his shirt). And maybe a friend who ‘gets it’ to help us rally our mental health all-stars.
I hope you enjoy the cartoon as much as I do. And I encourage you to share with friends that might need it.
– Evan Freeman