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A black & white stencil of eight silhouetted birds in flight, encircled by text reading "YOU ARE NOT ALONE".

Mental Health Stigma & Community Acupuncture

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

by Stef Cordes and Lisa Baird

Mental health challenges affect many of us. As many as 1 in 5 Canadians have been given a diagnosis or label relating to mental health (CMHA), and over the course of their lifetime 1 in 4 Canadians “will have at least one anxiety disorder” (Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada). But it’s so tricky to talk about. Mental health stigma prevents compassionate and healthy conversations about mental health struggles as well as strengths, talents & gifts. This lack of positive conversation around our mental/emotional strengths and concerns interferes with people getting the support they need, and causes isolation and shame.

A black & white stencil of eight silhouetted birds in flight, encircled by text reading "YOU ARE NOT ALONE".

You Are Not Alone stencil by Jacks McNamara, co-founder of the Icarus Project.

We at GCA know that mental health struggles are complex and intensely personal and that people have a wide range of experiences (not all of which are necessarily negative). Some find diagnoses and labels to be not-useful, inaccurate, or downright harmful. Others are empowered by the language of diagnosis. Many people have traumatic experiences while trying to access care for their mental health, while some find the support they need. Some people benefit from using medication as a tool/therapy, short-term or long-term, while others have horrible experiences with being medicated and getting off medications.

Really, the only generalization we feel comfortable making on this topic is that mental health stigma hurts everyone. Community acupuncture can be a valuable tool for people seeking support with their mental/emotional health (we’ll be sharing more posts very soon about these topics), whether it be to balance out emotions, calm the mind, help you get some sleep, take the edge off of medication side effects, or help with the challenges of withdrawing from addictive and/or psychoactive medication. We are here to support you in whatever ways we can.

It’s a serious challenge to navigate the best course of action when you or someone you love is in crisis, never mind our overburdened healthcare system. Our health system is often unprepared to provide effective support for those in mental/emotional crisis, which can also be incredibly stressful for friends and family who try to act in their best interest. We also recognize that supporting someone through mental health challenges can be very confusing, sometimes even traumatizing, and often isolating.

We can use acupuncture to support mental health whether you’ve decided to use medication or not, whether you’re comfortable with using a diagnosis/label or not, or whether or not you experience the stress of being a support for someone. As healthcare practitioners, we are deeply invested in interrupting & challenging mental health stigma and breaking isolation. If you have questions about how acupuncture can support mental health, stay tuned to our blog, or get in touch.

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GIA