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Mental Illness Awareness Week 2019: Signs to look for and How to get help

Contributors: Simi Juriasingani and Ramtin Hakimjavadi

Courtesy of

This week, from October 6th to 12th, is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in Canada. The BMSA Communications team would like to ask for a moment of your time to pause and talk about mental health, what we can do to raise awareness for mental illness, and some resources for those in need of help.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental illness in any given year and approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression in their lifetime. 

Among Canadian youth, suicide is the second most common cause of death. Approximately 4,000 people die prematurely each year by suicide, making Canada’s youth suicide rate the 3rd highest in the industrialized world. 

Canada’s Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is run in the first full week of October to raise awareness about the reality of mental illness across the country. It was established in 1992 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association. Currently, it is coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health. 

In the spirit of MIAW 2019, we thought it was important to highlight some early signs of mental illness and how students at Western can get help if they or someone they know needs help.

It can be difficult to spot mental illness - it is an invisible burden that many have to carry. However, if we all take some time to evaluate how we and those around us are feeling and acting, we may notice some changes that are indicative of mental illness. Accepting the reality of mental illness and taking notice is the first step, something that everyone should take part in. 

  • Feeling sad or down (persistently)

  • Withdrawal from friends and activities 

  • Major changes in eating habits

  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows

  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress

  • Significant tiredness, low energy and problems sleeping 

  • Suicidal thinking 

Once you have identified that you or someone around you is experiencing some of these symptoms, it can be difficult to know what to do next. 

If someone you know is suffering from mental illness, you can:

1. Have an open, honest and supportive discussion 

Express your concerns to them and listen to them sincerely. Make them feel heard by giving them your complete attention without judgement. Validate their experience so that they feel supported. Most importantly, make sure that they know you value their honesty and that you’ll respect their privacy.


2. Encourage them to get help

Emphasize that mental illness can be managed and treated medically. Offer to book a doctor’s appointment for them and to accompany them if they seem afraid or hesitant. If they’re in urgent need of medical help to address physical injuries, take them to the hospital. Most importantly, do not make decisions for them unless they are seriously injured. 

If you or someone you know needs help, here’s a list of resources for immediate and ongoing support:

For immediate/crisis support (24/7, after hours), contact:

  • Reach Out: 519-433-2023 or 1-866-933-2023

  • Police: 911 – in case of medical emergencies

  • CMHA Helpline - 1-833-456-4566 

For specific immediate inquiries:

  • LGBT Youthline – 1-800-268-9688

  • First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line – 1-855-242-3310

In cases of sexual assault/domestic violence:

  • ANOVA helpline: (519) 642-3000 or 1 (800) 265-1576

  • St. Joseph’s helpline: (519) 646-6100 ext.64224 (or dial 0 if after 4pm)

For ongoing/on campus counselling (normal working hours), contact:

For non-urgent medical support (normal working hours), contact:

The invisible yet pervasive nature of mental illness makes raising awareness an essential step towards tackling the problem. As Western students, there are many initiatives you can take to help promote mental health awareness. This week, make the effort to have an open discussion with your peers about mental health and learn about the resources available online and on campus.

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