Demystifying Mental illness

Mental illness affects one in six Canadians. However, there are still many myths surrounding this subject. Let’s shed some light on this misunderstood illness.

Why speak about mental illness?

When all is well, we underestimate the importance of being mentally healthy. We often tell ourselves that mental illness only affects others. And yet, no family is immune to this reality.

Statistics show that one in every six Canadians will experience this type of health problem at one point in their life.

Mental illness is a disease that disrupts a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour, to the extent that their social integration becomes problematic, and their ability to function, and their relationships become compromised. The key element of mental illness is the suffering that is often associated with it.

Many people fear mental illness or do not understand it very well. This fear dissipates as they become more informed.

How does mental illness manifest itself?

Mental illness has many faces. The term “mental illness” refers to a wide variety of disorders, each with its own distinctive features. Because of the complexity and diversity of symptoms, it is sometimes difficult to accurately diagnose. Oftentimes, it is the affected person’s loved ones that first notice certain peculiar signs and behaviour.

Mental illness includes:

To diagnose a mental illness, a thorough evaluation must be carried out by a competent healthcare professional, skilled to make this type of diagnosis such as a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist. Contact the CLSC nearest you to find out what resources are available in your area.

How can mental illness be treated?

Many people hesitate to seek help because they are afraid to be judged, misunderstood or “labelled”. Too often, mental illnesses are detected late. Yet, the sooner the problem is treated, the better the results! Do not neglect to consult a specialist as soon as possible if you or a loved one appears to be developing signs of a mental illness.

Many strategies can be used to help a person with a mental health problem. Here are the most common ones:

Therapy and medical monitoring

An approach including treatment and ongoing medical monitoring is advisable in most cases. There are a number of different treatment options (psychotherapy, rehabilitation, behavioral therapy, etc.). The types of therapies and monitoring needed must be determined on a case-by-case basis, according to the needs and situation of each person. Putting a lot into these two key management elements will help the person better control his/her disease.


Medication constitutes an important aspect of the treatment, but does not normally “cure” the disease. Since mental illness often stems from an imbalance in the brain, drugs usually help to regain a balance or stabilize symptoms. Many people may be unwilling to undergo drug treatment. However, it is often the key to them feeling better and to regaining their health.

Support from family and friends

We can never stress enough the importance of support from family and friends when trying to take control of a mental illness. Sufferers need to feel as though they’re being heard, understood, supported and accepted. Isolation can be a real handicap. Joining a support group to share one's experience and enrich oneself with the experiences of others can be very beneficial.


There are many resources available to help both those suffering from mental illness and their loved ones. Among these, there is the Fédération des familles et amis de la personne atteinte de maladie mentale (FFAPAMM), a non-profit organization that groups together over 40 associations operating in the province of Quebec. It offers a wide range of services to the family and friends of people suffering from mental illness. You can contact them at418-687-0474 (toll free: 1-855-272-7837) or visit their website at:

Don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist if you have any questions about mental illness, particularly the different treatments and resources available.


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Demystifying Mental illness

Mental illness affects one in six Canadians. However, there are still many myths surrounding this subject. In this section we shine a light on this misunderstood illness, and dispel some of the misconceptions associated with it.