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History of Mental Health Week

The Canadian Mental Health Association introduced the first annual Mental Health Week across Canada in 1951, to raise awareness of mental illness. This year, from May 3 – 9, CMHA branches across Canada proudly celebrate the 70th annual Mental Health Week.

Mental Health Week offers practical ways to maintain and improve our mental health as well as practical solutions to support recovery from mental illness. This year, the theme of Mental Health Week will focus on understanding our emotions.

CMHA defines mental health as “more than the absence of a mental health condition or illness: it is a positive sense of well-being, or the capacity to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face”.[1] We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Learning how to name, express, and deal with our emotions is important to our mental health.

People are experiencing unprecedented stresses and feelings of anxiety related to COVID-19. 40% of Canadians say their mental health has deteriorated since the onset of the pandemic.[2] Mental Health Week seeks to raise awareness about mental health, and to change some of our beliefs and perceptions about mental health by reducing some of the stigma surrounding mental health. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health, and it should be just as acceptable to discuss our mental health as it is to talk about our physical health.

During this year’s Mental Health Week, CMHA is challenging all of us to face the emotions that we are experiencing by putting a name to them. It’s okay to say, “I feel sad” or “I feel lonely”.  An important part of dealing with our emotions is expressing what we are feeling and giving a name to these emotions.     

This Mental Health Week, don’t be uncomfortably numb. #GetReal about how you feel. And name it, don’t numb it.


[2] CMHA/UBC study on the effects of COVID-19 on the mental health of vulnerable populations.

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