TORONTO – Vernon counsellor Wade Cook has been working to break down the stigma around mental health for years.
“It’s not weak to speak,” Cook said. “Mental health is just as real as physical health.”
Cook sees his role as a counsellor as a way to help others feel comfortable talking about their feelings.
“You don’t have to be ashamed,” he said. “Talking about mental health can actually be helpful.”
Cook is one of a number of people working to help break down the stigma around mental health in Vernon.
Pamela Dyck is the founder of the Vernon chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
She said the stigma around mental health is often based on stereotypes.
“We tend to think of people with mental health issues as being crazy, or weak, or having a low self-esteem,” she said.
Dyck said it’s important for people to realize that mental health is just as real as physical health.
“Mental health is a normal part of being human,” she said. “It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”
Dyck said it’s also important to remember that mental health can be affected by things outside of the individual’s control.
“Sometimes things happen in life that can make someone with mental health issues feel really upset,” she said.
Cook said he’s seen a lot of progress in Vernon over the years.
“People are starting to open up and talk about their feelings,” he said. “That’s really important.”