CMHA’s 2022 Mental Health Week focuses on empathy

By Daniel Adam
Staff Writer

The Canadian Mental Health Association’s annual Mental Health Week is May 2-8.

As part of the Week, CMHA Fort Frances will be hosting a wellness fair at Rainy Lake Square on Thursday, May 5, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. featuring 16 community partners and inspirational speaker Joe Roberts. The event will have booths, prizes, and a free lunch.

Pauline Hyatt, director of services for CMHA Fort Frances underlined the importance of talking about mental health.

“It’s vital,” says Hyatt. “We need to reduce the stigma around mental health and addiction.”

This year’s theme is empathy. Hyatt says people often confuse empathy with sympathy.

“We often hear others say ‘I get it, I can relate, I have been there too,’” says Hyatt. “This is empathy — being able to imagine yourself in someone’s situation.”

She says the pandemic has brought stress, loneliness, anxiety, and many other emotions.

“Empathy is a skill everyone can learn,” says Hyatt.

She says a common mistake is to think we must fix others’ problems, when in reality we just need to be there.

“We don’t need to have the answers,” says Hyatt. “But just trying to understand where someone is coming from can be so helpful.”

Hyatt outlined ways to practice empathy like talking to new people, understanding them, learning to be an active listener, and focusing on the interests and needs of others.

She recommends teaching children empathy by reading books or watching movies to understand what a character might be thinking or feeling. She recommends asking the child questions to help them relate to others who might be coming from different walks of life.

This is CMHA’s 71st annual Mental Health Week. This year’s tagline is to #GetReal about how to help.