Mental health problems are common, especially depression, anxiety and misuse of alcohol and other drugs. One person in three will experience some form of problem with their mental health at some point in their life.
There is a stigma associated with mental health problems. This may hinder people from seeking help. People are often ashamed to discuss mental health problems with family, friends and work colleagues. They may also be reluctant to seek professional help for such problems because of their concerns about what others will think of them.
Many people are not well informed. Understanding how to recognize mental health problems and what effective treatments are available is not widespread. With greater community awareness, people will be able to recognize their own or others' problems and feel more comfortable about seeking professional assistance.
Professional help is not always on hand. Family doctors, counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists can all assist people with mental health problems. However, just as with accidents and other medical emergencies, such assistance is not always available when a problem first arises. This is when members of the public can offer immediate aid and support the person until they get appropriate professional help.
People may lack the insight to realize they need help or that help is available. Some mental health problems cloud clear thinking and good decision-making. A person experiencing such problems may not realize that they need help or that effective help is available for them. They may be in such a state of distress and not able to think clearly about what they should do.
Members of the general public often do not know how to respond. In a mental health crisis situation, the helper’s actions may determine how quickly the person with the problem gets help and/or recovers. In Mental Health First Aid Canada, they learn an approach to help them to be calm and confident and to respond in an appropriate way to give the best help.