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Letter: Here's how to start addressing mental health, addiction

One mental health advocate shares some insights about how to reach those who are struggling.
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Mental health and addiction are intertwined, and root causes are complicated. One mental health advocate shares some observations.

Editor:

Being a mental health advocate in Vancouver, one listens to and sees people's mental health issues and how this on many occasions is intertwined with addiction.

I was volunteering at a food bank near Chinatown, where I got to witness an overdose as paramedics were doing everything to help the individual. It was a sad event since the individual looked like he was in his 20s. He woke up, which was good, but it made me realize how addiction really is negatively impacting lots of young people.

One thing is how lack of affordable housing, university classes and many other events and issues directly impact mental health. An example being at UBC, where I had conversations with people who feel lonely, have anxiety and depression because they feel they don't belong or feel like a number. It's quite a paradox; out of a place with thousands of students, people struggle to make meaningful connections.

Social media and texting have replaced meaningful connections with others in many ways. I remember having a conversation with a friend on how people are really shy and reserved and instead turn to their phone on social occasions.

Many people who struggle with mental health issues turn to drugs or alcohol in order to numb the pain and fill in the emptiness inside, only to realize at the end this does not work.

Something that works, I have found as a mental health advocate, is basically listening to somebody; truly understanding why this person is feeling this way as well as why a person thinks a certain way.

Just by asking, you would be surprised how people are open about their life and struggles, and this takes a huge pressure from a person. It relieves people's emotional and mental burdens; I've noticed it myself, the before and after when I ask a person about mental health, and after you can clearly see a change in the person — how they are relieved and feel more at ease with themselves. 

I strongly feel there should be a mandatory mental health class for all students who graduate high school, basically teaching coping mechanisms and what to do and not in a mental health situation.

Brian Jones

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