The causes of mental illness and addiction in Manitoba aren’t one in the same, but they definitely overlap, experts say.
At Winnipeg’s Vital Signs Mental Health, Addictions and Healing gathering on Mon. Jan. 23, panelists Tessa Blaikie Whitecloud, Dr. Lisa Monkman and Sean Miller discussed what resources are necessary to address stigma around mental illness and get those afflicted the help they need.
Robb Nash gave the keynote address at the conference, drawing on his experience in overcoming mental health problems and sharing his story with youth.
On multiple occasions, speakers were sure not to “discount” the importance of medical attention to mental health, but the conversation seemed to keep coming back to environmental, systemic and societal influences on mental health.
Monkman proposed a “nurture vs. nature” concept, acknowledging the power of genetics, neurochemistry and predisposition, while also stressing the impact of chronic stress, oppression, abuse and marginalization.
Whitecloud stressed the “systems” we are part of as a society as the most inescapable causes of mental health, which seemed to echo a popular opinion among attendees.
“It’s no wonder we have problems when we attack every person,” said Angeline Rivard, program coordinator for Youth Agencies Alliance. Rivard said the public education system in its competitive nature, instills in children “social anxiety and the feeling that you aren’t good enough.
“But you can’t really say, ‘These are the causes of mental health disorders,’ because it’s such a spectrum,” said Rivard.
Jimmy Bang, who works in mental health at Ste. Anne Southern Regional Health Authority, said those who are disadvantaged or impoverished are at much higher risk of developing both addictions and mental illness.
“You could say poverty is a cause,” said Bang. “You could even say most mental illnesses stem from anxiety.”
Anxiety in such cases can often come from the pressures of living in a stressful, disadvantaged or abusive environment.
Going forward, the panelists said Winnipeg needs more “preventative” resources for mental health and to encourage speaking openly about mental illness.
Winnipeg’s Vital Signs® initiative, a project of The Winnipeg Foundation, is a check-up on the vitality of our community. As part of Vital Signs®, the first in a series of Vital Conversations was held on Mon. Jan. 23, focused on Mental Health, Addictions and Healing.
For more stories on this event, go to “Digging deep on mental health and well-being“. You can also view a full recording or a recap of highlights from the discussion by visiting The Winnipeg Foundation’s Facebook page.