CMHA shines light on the importance of empathy for mental health week

May 19, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Zachary Roman

Oftentimes, people can be empathetic and show kindness to others, yet not take the time to give that same care and attention to themselves.

Aditi Kaul, Clinical Team Lead of the Brampton Care Collaborative for Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Peel Dufferin, said she even sees this among her colleagues — and they’re mental health professionals.

That’s one of the main reasons why CMHA Peel Dufferin chose empathy as its theme for mental health week this year, which took place from May 2 to 8.

“If I had to tell someone what empathy is, in the loosest terms of the word, I’d say empathy really is the ability to understand and to maybe even share the feelings of another person… really getting where the other person is coming from, and where they’re at,” said Kaul.

She explained that sometimes, the words “sympathy” and “compassion” are used interchangeably with empathy even though they mean different things. Kaul said sympathy still involves understanding, but that it takes place from one’s own perspective.

“I like to say that empathy is kind of like a precursor to compassion. When I feel empathy, then behaving compassionately is the action that I’ll take,” said Kaul.

People are running on empty after living through a pandemic for two-plus years, said Kaul, adding when they’re not in a good place emotionally themselves, it can be harder to be there emotionally for others.

“Being conscious of what empathy means, and trying to engage in activities, to not just increase awareness about empathy, but also increase empathy for ourselves and those around us, that’s the biggest reason why we wanted to have empathy as the theme this year,” said Kaul.

She said it is going to take time for people to recover from the loss they have experienced during the pandemic. While everyone has lost time, some people have lost loved ones, jobs, financial stability and more.

“I’m hearing of people saying that their lives are changed because of the pandemic and it’ll possibly never go back to being what it was for them, and that’s where mental health comes… what has happened has happened, how do we reconcile that in our mind, and heal from that, and learn how to then move forward?” said Kaul.

With Ontario’s election just around the corner, Kaul said the CMHA is advocating for all parties to keep mental health care top of mind in terms of not only health care, but pandemic recovery too. She said being mentally healthy is just as important as being physically healthy and that CMHA wants whatever government is formed to support them in their efforts to support mentally healthy communities.

Due to the pandemic, Kaul said CMHA has seen a rise in the number of people seeking out mental health services. CMHA has tried to support the community as best it can, said Kaul, but that requires resources.

“Resources and funding always help us to do more and better… as the awareness increases people realize they need it and so the need keeps increasing as well. We want to be able to cater and fulfill that need,” said Kaul.

Those interested in learning more about mental health and mental health care can visit CMHA Peel Dufferin’s website at Individuals are able to fill out a form on the website requesting mental health support; they are also able to call CMHA’s triage line at 905-451-2123 from Monday to Friday during the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For anyone in a mental health crisis, CMHA’s 24/7 crisis phone line is 1-888-811-2222 for Dufferin and Caledon.

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