Mental illness has touched everyone. It encompasses all areas of our lives – social, physical and emotional.
In September 2010, Bell developed the #BellLetsTalk campaign to challenge the stigma of mental illness, engaging Canadians in a conversation about their mental wellness. With the leadership, and honesty of their spokespeople, millions of Canadians have shared their stories of struggle, offering hope and solidarity to those who feel alone.
In Canada, suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15-24 year olds, second only to accidents; 4,000 people die prematurely each year by suicide.
We need to talk about this. I need to talk about this. I was that statistic for a really long time. I thought that was the life I was destined to live. I really didn’t see a way out. Depressions steals everything from you – especially your hope. I felt like I was watching my life pass before me as though it were a movie. Everything felt covered in a dark layer of haze resting atop my brain that darkened my vision.
There were days where I couldn’t get out of bed, because I was afraid for the worst if I didn't. I can’t tell you the shame that comes with saying that. The guilt was all consuming. It’s a precarious position.
In Canada, only 1 out of 5 children who need mental health services receives them.
I know how incredibly lucky I am. I received the help I needed. I have a wonderful support system of family and friends who were able to recognize that I wasn’t okay, and took me to the hospital. It has taken me years, and a mixture of medication, therapy and mindfulness to be able to say that I feel okay. I am in a good place now.
Surpassed only by injuries, mental disorders in youth are ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada.
It’s important to remember that mental illness is not your fault, and it’s okay to not be okay. We all need each other, and being mentally healthy takes work. There is no magical cure, but there are ways to stay mindful.
Working for the Duke of Ed has helped my mental wellness in countless ways, but most importantly, working here has reminded me that I have a purpose, and my voice matters.
The Duke of Ed empowers youth to utilize their passions by helping them to believe in the power of their own potential. Being a part of the Duke of Ed keeps participants active in body, spirit and mind. In honour of #BellLetsTalk day, we have asked our participants how the Duke of Ed has helped their mental wellness. Each individual has an answer that is unique to them. Here are five ways that living the #dukelife will help your mental health.
1. Helping others helps yourself
The best thing you can do when you aren’t feeling well is to open your heart, and help someone else. There will always be people suffering, but at the Duke of Ed we believe that we can create real change one person at a time. That is why, in order to earn an Award, participants must volunteer a service to their community. There truly is no greater feeling than knowing that you made someone’s day a little easier, or a little brighter. Community service may not cure your anxiety or depression, but trust me, it helps in the moment. And life is made up of moments. Try to do all you can to create as many good ones as possible. Because when you help others, it always, always comes back to you in the most extraordinary of ways.
2. You’re getting exercise and spending time in nature.
The Duke of Ed puts a strong emphasis on physical education for the obvious reasons that exercises improves your physical health, but we also know the positive impact it has on a person’s mental well-being. Exercise releases endorphins similar to medications prescribed for clinical depression. In fact, exercising often can be just as effective as taking medication.
And what better way to exercise than spending time in the great outdoors? Anyone who has ever spent an afternoon wandering through the forest can attest to nature being good for the soul. The Duke of Ed participants often site their Adventurous Journeys as the most challenging, and yet most rewarding aspect of their Award. Not only are you learning how to be one with the elements, but when you take time to ‘unplug’ from the world, it’s easier to listen to that little voice in your heart, encouraging you to be yourself.
3. You’re constantly challenging yourself
The Duke of Ed instills confidence in participants by encouraging the development of new skills as they work toward earning their Award. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone makes you realize that your potential is limitless. The more you set and accomplish smaller goals, the easier it becomes to propel yourself to greater undertakings. Nothing in life is easy, but if you take it one day at a time it allows you to see the bigger picture of who you can be.
4. You are a part of something greater than yourself
When you sign up to complete your Award, you understand that you are a part of a community of people who are constantly striving to better themselves, as well as the world around them. In addition to community service, when earning Gold, participants partake in a residential project that often takes them to different countries to volunteer in numerous ways. Going to different countries to build hospitals, rehab centers, and houses can really opens your eyes to how lucky we are here in Canada. Life can be tough here, but sometimes, a global perspective really changes the lens with which you view your life.
5. You are not alone
Perhaps most importantly, when you join the Duke of Ed, you become a part of the family. One of the best ways to feel better is to surround yourself with positive, ambitious and compassionate individuals. While participating in the Duke of Ed, you will meet so many kind, and loving people who genuinely care about you, want to see you succeed.
Meeting these people throughout your community service, physical recreation, skill building, adventure and residential projects builds a familial support system to train you for the necessities of life by pushing you to be your best, listening when you need advice, and teaching you when you aren’t sure how to move forward.
Your youth are your most formidable years, and therefore it is important to have older mentors who guide you through different experiences, and present you with new insights, knowledge and opportunity. The Duke of Ed has Award Leaders who serve as mentors who will help you throughout your Duke journey. Not to mention the countless other people who will take you under your wing in the form of coaches, teachers, scout guide and cadet leaders, and the friends you make.
At the Duke of Ed, you are valued, and you matter. If you or anyone you know are in a crisis, take the first step. There are a number of resources for you. Talk to someone. You don’t have to go through this life alone.
Join in on the conversation with Alisha Fournier when you subscribe to Duke of Ed Canada.