Now a tradition across Canada, the Bell Let’s Talk campaign opens the door to dialogue with the goal of destigmatizing mental health issues. After years of public discussion, the recognition of the importance of mental health has made its way into the public consciousness. And this issue is not losing momentum, especially in a time of pandemic.
Mental health problems are not like a cold that you catch and then cure with a little rest and a cup of chicken broth. They are often closely linked to other major social issues such as poverty, violence, sexism and exclusion, experienced over long periods of time.
Poverty as a primary risk factor
It has been recognized by the Réseau québécois d’action pour la santé des femmes that “poverty is one of the most powerful indicators of the increase, burden and persistence of mental health problems in the population. Statistics show that women, particularly mothers who head households and elderly women, are among the poorest segments of society.”
Considering that :
- 45% of women with employment income in Montreal earn less than $20,000 per year
- 81.4% of single-parent families are headed by the mother
- the price of housing is rising sharply
- there isn’t enough affordable family housing
- food prices are rising at an alarming rate
…it is not surprising that anxiety and stress affect women more often and more severely, especially in this time of pandemic when predominantly female employment sectors are the hardest hit.
Intersectionality increases the risks
In addition to being among the most vulnerable people due to their socio-economic situation, women who are at the intersection of other risk factors such as being an immigrant, black, racialized, aboriginal, physically or psychologically handicapped, in a situation of conjugal or sexual violence, or being part of the LGBTQ+ community, experience an increase in mental health problems.
At the YWCA Montreal, we see on a daily basis that mental health difficulties are many-faceted and cannot be detached from the comprehensive support that we offer when a woman wants to improve her living conditions.
The importance of mental health at the YWCA Montreal
Recognizing and understanding the social and societal causes behind the difficulties experienced by the participants in our various programs is only the first step in providing appropriate and meaningful support. The YWCA Montreal takes a holistic approach and assists women and gender diverse people to develop a solid foundation for stability and control over their lives and their physical and mental health. This is why psychosocial support is offered in the majority of our programs, such as housing, employability and caregiver support, to name a few.
We believe in the power of communication and education. Days like #BellLetsTalk provide opportunities for understanding and dialogue that make our society more open and sensitive to these important issues.