Mental Illness Awareness Week 

By Jonathan Hutton, Clinician at Wood’s Homes Eastside Community Mental Health Services 

When ‘mental illness’ is mentioned there are many reactions in society as to what this means. Invariably the conversation that ensues, if at all, can be often characterized as awkward, unsure, confusing and many other words that place mental illness in a category that continues to be not well understood. 

When viewing mainstream media, mental health is mentioned far more often now and there are more discussions about this, its meaning and how to best mind one’s own mental health and support others. There is power in the knowledge gained when this is discussed, and it can create an environment where mental health can be understood as synonymous with physical health and an understanding that as humans, we all have times when we struggle. 

Mental Health is not an event to be achieved but a process that requires ongoing attention and as needed, support from others so that we can experience an optimal level of living. An emphasis needs to be placed on quality of the relationships we have in our lives as mental health is not privy to just an individual but is contained within a highly relational world where are we interconnected in a manner with others where we have far more similarities than differences among us. 

Yet, when mental health is discussed, it seems so often it can be a word that divides and does not join us. Perhaps this is because we cannot see mental health like we can observe physical health or perhaps that our society is not ready to embrace being human as being fallible and at the same time recognizing that mental health is part of a rich tapestry of merely existing within a highly connected world.  

Notice though that I said, ‘mental health’ which seems to be often conflated with ‘mental illness’. To be human is having mental health and even if an individual is diagnosed with a mental illness, are they less worthy than others? 

Romeo Dallaire, United Nations Force Commander, during the 1994 Rwanda genocide was once quoted as saying, “Are we all human or are there some humans that are more human than others?”. 

Regardless of the presence of mental illness we are all unique and complex human beings that thrive when there is understanding, compassion, and acceptance from others in our daily living. Furthermore, we all contain rich and meaningful stories that we create and share with others to navigate our way through life and be part of a society that demonstrates caring and love for one another. 

Mental Illness Awareness Week is an opportunity to show ‘we’ are one in solidarity with our fellow humans towards a more tolerant and inclusive way of being. 


Eastside Community Mental Health Services offers immediate, no-cost, mental health support from an integrated ethnocultural team. It’s a place you can rely on when you have troubles at home or need someone to talk to. Call 403-299-9699.