One in Five

Posted: 31st January 2018 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

Me about 8 years ago at a board workshop:  “One in five people will be affected in their lifetime by mental illness?  That number can’t be right.  Maybe they mean one in five of us will know someone affected; not that one if five will ACTUALLY face challenges to our mental health.  Yeah, that must be what it means.”

Today is Bell Let’s Talk day.  It is a corporate social media initiative that raises funds and awareness for Canadian mental health support services.  I started to think, as I read the many tweets and posts today about it, how much my understanding of mental health has changed since that board workshop.

Here’s a little of what I know now:

  • mental illness and other challenges to mental health affect many, many men, women and children.
  • we are masters at hiding or masking challenges we are facing, including those that affect our mental well being
  • you can’t always believe those happy face selfies on social media.  No one is immune to mental health challenges
  • in schools, we deal with an inordinate amount of inappropriate behaviour that, when we dig into it, can often be related to issues of mental health and well being
  • challenges to student well being has sobering ripple effects:  caretakers of those students (educators, parents, health practitioners) are having their own well being compromised as they struggle to support everyone
  • there is not enough help, not enough resources, not enough time to adequately support all of the people in our lives who need help with their mental illness or well being

In schools, educators are under incredible pressure to begin with.  We have a challenging curriculum, with a finite amount of time and resources, to teach a wide variety of students with various needs, while facing parent/administrator/board/ministry pressure to deliver certain results.  Now throw in not just one challenging student in the class, but try ten.  And those challenging students aren’t just pulling someone’s pigtails or calling others mean names.  They are:  threatening to cut themselves or commit suicide, threatening to hurt or kill their teacher or parent or classmate, worrying about everyday things to the extent that they can’t function in class or at home, not able to get out of bed or leave their house without paralyzing fear, lashing out with extreme acts of physical aggression towards adults and children without control or remorse.  How are you feeling about getting through that curriculum now?  How is your own mental well being now?

I am all for the Bell tagline “Let’s Talk About It”, but even more, I think we need to figure out “Let’s Do Something About It”.  We need trained health care professionals supporting our students and others when they need it, not when they get to the top of a 3 year waiting list.  We need supports in our schools that will help alleviate the pressures this is putting on educators so that they can help ensure student well being is supported so students can learn and educators can teach.

I appreciate that in Ontario we are mandated to set board and school goals around well being each year.  We will work diligently at educating ourselves more about what we are up against.  We’ll also try out new initiatives that provide supports to those who need it, and other initiatives for everyone to hopefully teach students well being strategies that they can use throughout their lives.  We’ll use kindness, respect, patience, care and compassion to treat these little guys as if they are our own children, even when we are drained and in need of some well being support of our own.  We’ll work together to try to share the difficult load because we are all in the same boat.  But, it seems that each year that boat rides a little lower in the water and our bailing bucket isn’t equipped to keep us from sinking.

Me now:  “One in five people will be affected in our lifetime by mental illness?  That number seems a little low, doesn’t it?”


  1. Aviva says:

    Kristi, you always cause me to think, and this post is no different. As you outline it, maybe this 1:5 ratio is a conservative one. (I feel as though I heard that same speaker, by the way.) Maybe looking at mental health though, as you did, helps us realize how pervasive these problems are, and maybe feel more comfortable addressing them in ways that we haven’t before. But how do we do this? I’m starting to hear more about mental health, and I definitely think we’re raising more awareness, but what comes next?