Minister Bennett and Senator Kutcher on Mental Health Literacy



Minister Bennett: This is so exciting. You're able to join us here in my office on the traditional Unceded territory of the Algonquin people and in Mental Illness Awareness Week. And it's well, I've learned so much from you over the years, and it's just great that we get to share with Canadians a little bit about what you think they should know. And I think today where we've been focused on mental health literacy. And so tell me why you've really focused on mental health literacy and what we've got to do.

Senator Stan Kutcher: Well, first of all, thank you very much for having me, Minister. It's delightful to be here and thank you for your leadership in mental health and addictions across all of Canada. I think that it's awesome that we have a minister dedicated to this really important area, and thanks for taking that on. It's just wonderful. Look, you're a physician. I'm a physician. We both know that health literacy is one of the foundational drivers of good health and also the creator of competencies to take care of yourself if you have an illness. So it does both. And we know that it is a very, very powerful tool at population level and also at the individual level. And mental health literacy is part of health literacy. You can't separate out of the brain is attached to the body and vice versa and they do interact somewhat. So mental health literacy is really the foundation for good mental health, but also for knowing if you need care and for dealing with a mental disorder, if you have a mental disorder. It's all of those things together and it's essential to have.

Minister Bennett: So it's when people don't have mental health literacy, they don't understand really what's happening to them. They can't name things. And I think that, you know, they're the First People, the First Nations, in terms of the Medicine Wheel finding balance, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. There seems to be a concern that people right now are misnaming things. The difference between the grief one feels when you've lost a loved one and an actual depression, or the stress for an exam and an anxiety state. Can you tell me some of the things that you think maybe people need to be helped to be more accurate as to what actually is trouble?

Senator Stan Kutcher: Well, you know, I think that that's a really, really prescient observation. The issue that we're dealing with now is we've had a lot of awareness building about mental health and mental disorders, and that's been good. But it hasn't been supported with mental health literacy. So people are aware, but they sometimes aren't aware what they're aware of. So, you know, an example, I didn't make the football team and I'm upset. I have a depression. No, you don't have a depression. You have a normal response to not making the football team. So, you know, Michael Jordan was cut from his first basketball team. What did he do, go into a depressive funk? No, he actually went practice, practice, practice, practice. I wonder who the coach was to cut Michael Jordan. But that's another story.

But the mental health literacy, as we think about it, has four interrelated components. One is understood ending what is good mental health and how to obtain it and maintain it. And part of that is good mental health isn't feeling good all the time. You know, if someone you love dies and you're feeling like crap, well, that's good mental health. The other part of it is having knowledge about mental disorders, how to identify them and knowledge about their treatments, not this wellness nonsense that you buy off the shelf in the drugstore, but what actually is effective in evidence-based treatment for a mental disorder and how do you access it and how do you use it? Decreasing stigma against the disorders, against people who have the disorder, but also against the treatments for disorders. There are a lot of stigmas against treatments for mental disorders. And the final one is having competencies is so that when you do go to get care, you know where to go and you have the capacity to talk to your care provider so that you're more likely to get good care than not get good care. So all those things together make up mental health literacy.

Minister Bennett: Well, we're very grateful that you, with all your skills and wisdom, have dedicated yourself to now have the system as your patient, doctor and we're really grateful for what you're doing every day to just be able to help us, you know, achieve our goal of appropriate, the most appropriate care in the most appropriate place by the most appropriate provider at the most appropriate time in both health and mental health and we're grateful and I hope we get to do this again because I've really enjoyed it and I hope everybody watching has enjoyed it too.

Senator Stan Kutcher: Well, the enjoyment and pleasure is mine. Thank you so much, Minister.

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