Thumbs Up Foundation will once again place a spotlight on issues of mental health and addiction during the month of June.
At a regular meeting May 19, Airdrie City council approved a proclamation request by the local foundation to have June declared Mental Health and Addictions Awareness Month in Airdrie. According to Kim Titus, chair of Thumbs Up Foundation, this is the third year the proclamation request has been submitted.
“Now, more than ever, with COVID and all that, it seems that much more pressing to have it again this year,” she said.
As families have self-isolated and practised social distancing in the last few months, Titus said people’s mental health has likely been negatively impacted.
“We know that isolation, at the best of times, can be a negative impact on people’s mental health,” she said.
The measures meant to limit the spread of the virus have also restricted people’s ability to socialize, touch and hug, which Titus said are important to maintaining mental health. She added she’s heard from people who previously thought their mental health was not at risk who are now finding themselves struggling.
“There’s more stress and worry, in terms of home schooling kids, financials and economics and all that kind of stuff,” she said. “We know that stress is a huge factor in mental health and addiction. COVID has really widened some of the cracks.”
Titus added that the full impacts on people’s mental health may still be felt.
“The fires of Fort McMurray and the floods of High River taught us that the tsunami of these things really comes after the fact,” she said. “I think that the weight of it has yet to be seen.”
With that in mind, Titus said she felt it’s important to take one month out of the year to highlight mental health and addiction issues. While there are national and international campaigns dedicated to mental health awareness – Mental Health Awareness Week was observed May 4 to 10 – this month-long awareness campaign is an Airdrie initiative.
“This is our own,” Titus said. “We really wanted our city and our citizens to focus on our own here at home, because [Thumbs Up Foundation] is a grassroots, home-based, Airdrie-based foundation. We really want to remind our neighbours in our community of the importance [of mental health], because the healthier our mental health is individually, the healthier our mental health is collectively as a community.”
One way Thumbs Up Foundation will be raising awareness throughout the month of June is by posting photos of people taking care of their mental health. Titus said the foundation is inviting members of the community to take pictures of themselves and their loved ones doing the activities that maintain and promote their mental health.
“Whether it’s walking the dog or a walk in the park or baking or reading or sewing or whatever it is,” she said.
People are encourage to give a thumbs up in the pictures, she added. The photos will then shared on Thumbs Up Foundation’s social media accounts with the hashtags #TUFonsuicide, #mentalhealthmatters and #bridgesnotfences.
This year, due to restrictions on gatherings, the foundation is not planning other events, Titus said.
For anyone struggling with mental illness or addiction, Titus’ message is simple – reach out.
“It doesn’t have to be an agency,” she said. “A friend, a colleague, a loved one, a trusted person, your work. Just talk to someone.”
Titus is careful not to place the responsibility only on those who are suffering and said everyone should be paying attention to the people in their lives and checking in on their well-being.
“We are only as mentally healthy as the least healthy amongst us,” she said.
Anyone struggling with a mental health or addiction issue can contact Thumbs Up Foundation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Titus said a number of other resources, like Community Links and Alberta Health Services Addiction and Mental Health, are also available in Airdrie for people struggling with mental illness or addiction.