Many of my colleagues from my days at The University of British Columbia are in Montreal, Quebec (Central Canada) as I write this blog. The conference is one of the largest post-secondary-focused conferences of the year in Canada: CACUSS.
A big theme at this year’s, and at many recent CACUSS annual conferences, surrounds mental health. In fact, my definition about health is more than just the absence of disease, so really I say they’re talking about mental illness/disease as most of the presentations are really on illness and not health. It is a tough topic.
However, it got me thinking about mental illnesses, one’s overall health, etc a little bit on a recent walk.
I read a recent article about the great boxer, Muhammed Ali. He is an interesting individual – a ‘killer’ of other humans in the ring, and a devout Muslim outside the ring. There was a passage:
“I think every […] person who’s able to overcome the problems that surround them […] serve as a role model […] Kids today are in desperate need of role models who not only succeed in the sports world, but once they’ve done that, have the ability […] to change social attitudes.”
This was said by the late, and great Joe Paterno, the infamous head football coach at Penn State University.
Role Models for the Ill
I look at some role models for those with ‘physical’ illness. (I put physical in quotation marks because a ‘physical’ illness will likely also have an impact on mental, social, and spiritual well-being.)
A kid who has lost his leg due to cancer (let’s classify this as a ‘physical’ illness for the time being). He may look up to a role model, let’s say Terry Fox. I am oversimplifying disease, illness, and health for the time being to try to illustrate an example.
Now let’s look at a child with a mental illness. Pick one that seems to be prevalent at this time. Depression.
Who is a child going to look up to? Who is the face of depression?
Terry Fox was the face of the Marathon of Hope. Is there a face of the Marathon of Happiness? I don’t know if there is.
I think role models are a huge important part of one’s development. They set an example. They model ethical behaviour (I separate this from good behaviour, as a protest for human rights is ethical but may be seen as not-so-good by those who believe in authoritative or compliant leadership/society). The role model is someone to mimic and look up to. A goal or objective. Higher purpose (and there is endless research supporting a person with a strong sense of purpose and his or her longevity).
I call on mental health associations, school districts, schools, student organizations and groups, and health boards to find Depression Heros and Mental Health Heros. Someone for young children with depression, or anxiety to see as role models. Someone who they know has fought through what they have gone through.
This isn’t to say that everyone with a mental illness has the same journey, experiences, pain, functional level, etc. Each individual with a mental illness needs a different mix of support and help to provide the strength and energy to regain balance.
Your Call to Action
Poor mental health is affecting millions of individuals. We need to pressure governments, policy makers, schools, and most importantly, families and parents, to provide a strong foundation for mental health and wellness in our young children. Set them up for life long success.
As a member of Okanagan Elite Athlete, and as a huge supporter of #TakeTheaactivePledge, I believe we need to get society more active to help promote a healthy body. Join and support Okanagan Elite Athlete by visiting www.okanaganathlete.com.
I welcome and strive to get your feedback and own thoughts. Feel free to comment below or connect with me via social media.
Through this blog (Adam Goodwin’s Blog 13), I am trying to help connect individuals and organizations with content, ideas, and services that can enable themselves to change the world. Join me today to continue to better the world and this generation.