Building mental well-being can help with the winter blues

November 27, 2011
Free public forum on the importance of mental well-being for everyone
St. Andrew’s Wesley Church in downtown Vancouver, and is open to the public
Doors open at 6:30, event begins at 7:00 pm

Feeling low in energy and having difficulty concentrating during these darker winter months? You’re not the only one.

As many as 15% of Canadians say they experience what is often described as “winter blues”. Up to 3% of Canadians suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a more serious, recognized mental health condition thought to be caused by the decrease in light levels during winter.

Regardless of the time of year, 1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental health issue at some point in their life. What can everyday Canadians do?

This time of year reminds us why it is important for everyone to promote and maintain their mental well-being.

“Mental well-being is as important to our overall well-being as exercise and eating a balanced diet,” said Bev Gutray, chief executive officer, Canadian Mental Health Association – BC Division.

Mental health is something that affects the lives of all Canadians – whether they suffer a mental illness or not.

Looking after one’s mental health is an important part of overall health, vitality and well-being of all Canadians.

Tips for improving your own mental well-being:

  • Spend more time outdoors during the day and maximize your exposure to natural light.
  • Exercise to relieve stress and build energy. Try taking a walk everyday at lunchtime.
  • Limit your consumption of foods with refined sugar and carbohydrates.
  • Practice stress-relieving activities like yoga and meditation.
  • Be sure to get enough sleep.
  • Make time for your hobbies and interests.
  • Stay connected to family and friends.
  • Reach out and seek support from your health care providers.

“Mental well-being is not only critical to the quality of life of Canadians, but also an important way to help achieve health equity and sustainability of our healthcare system for future generations,” said Paola Ardiles, project manager, Education and Population Health, BC Mental Health & Addiction Services and board member, Public Health Association of BC.

“We need to encourage the building of resilience, supportive environments and healthy public policy to create safe, nurturing, healthy and vibrant communities. Everyone has a role to play – you can do your part by exploring ways to support your well-being and the well-being of your loved ones and your community,” said Ardiles.

Public forum on improving mental well-being.

Join us for a free public event to share ideas and thoughts on how one’s mental health can be a resource and source of strength for everyday living. This event also includes tips on building and maintaining one’s mental wellbeing and resilience, from an individual and community perspective.

The event features Dr. Gabor Mate, local physician and best-selling author, Melanie Rose, stand-up comedian and mental health advocate, and Dr. John Raeburn, adjunct professor, community health development, Auckland University of Technology.

This event is co-presented by the Public Health Association of British Columbia (PHABC) and the BC Mental Health & Addiction Services (BCMHAS), with support from the Canadian Mental Health Association’s BC Division.

The event takes place November 27 at 7pm at St. Andrew’s Wesley Church in downtown Vancouver, and is open to the public. Visit for more information.

For more information contact:
Arthur Yee
Public Health Association of BC
Tel: 604-728-1398
Email: arthuryee88(at)

About the Public Health Association of British Columbia (PHABC)

PHABC is a voluntary, non-profit, non-government organization whose mission is to preserve and promote the public’s health. The Association works toward this mission through its activities in disease and injury prevention, health promotion, health protection, and advocacy for healthy public policy. The Board of Directors is comprised of public health leaders from various locales including Health Authorities, the Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport,post secondary institutions, and the non-profit sector. The Association was founded in 1953 and is a provincial
branch of the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA).

About BC Mental Health & Addiction Services (BCMHAS)
BC Mental Health & Addiction Services, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, provides specialized provincial tertiary mental health services to the citizens of British Columbia. Programs include: Adult Tertiary Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health,
Women’s Reproductive Mental Health as well as the Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program for children and youth located at the BC Children’s Hospital. The agency also has a significant province-wide role in advancing best practices in mental health through research and knowledge exchange, and health promotion.

About the Canadian Mental Health Association – BC division

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), BC Division exists to promote the mental health of British Columbians and support the resilience and recovery of people experiencing mental illness. The CMHA, BC Division does this through information resources, educational events, direct services, research and advocacy, as well as the support we provide to the 19 CMHA branches throughout BC. CMHA-BC is part of one of the oldest voluntary organizations in Canada, which provides direct service to more than 100,000 Canadians through the combined efforts of more than 10,000 volunteers and staff across Canada.

Why should we promote mental well-being?

  1. By 2020, mental illness will be the leading cause of disability in the Western world and according to the World Health Organization, mental health problems will account for 15 percent of the global burden of disease. The number of Canadians in distress could be on the rise given trends in child poverty, income disparities, involuntary part time work, single parenting, youth unemployment and declining expenditures on health, welfare and education. Promoting mental health and preventing mental illness can reduce the enormous, wide-ranging and long-lasting economic impact of mental disorders, including, in Canada, the $14.4-billion annual price tag in terms of treatment and disability costs.
  2. People are put at risk for and develop mental illness because an array of individual, family, community and social factors erode their mental well-being. Addressing these factors is key to preserving and enhancing mental well-being. Poor mental health disproportionately affects those who are socially and economically disadvantaged while also contributing directly to poverty.
  3. Mental well-being helps reduce risk behaviours (e.g., tobacco, alcohol and drug misuse; unsafe sex); social and economic problems (e.g., school incompletion rates, crime, absenteeism from work, intimate partner violence); and the rates and severity of, and mortality from, physical and mental illness. It also contributes fundamentally to the extent to which people feel able and motivated to exercise choice and control and to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
  4. Mental illness and poor mental health significantly affect creativity and productivity in the workplace. An estimated 30–40 percent of sick days are attributable to mental illness. Finding ways to enhance productivity and creativity in the workplace is increasingly important as the baby boomer generation begins to retire and the supply of workers is reduced.
  5. Mental well-being is essential for school success. Studies show the importance of mental health for learning – anxious and depressed children perform less well academically. Mental health problems also lead to early school-leaving.

For more information, see Toward Flourishing for All: Mental Health Promotion and Mental Illness Prevention.

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