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Statement on Mental Health Week

Honourable senators, I rise today in recognition of Mental Health Week. This year’s theme — a highly appropriate one — is empathy. This word means “to understand and share the feelings of others.” It differs from sympathy which, in simple terms, means feeling sorry for someone while perhaps not understanding why they feel the way they do.

With empathy, you put yourself in their shoes, not just to recognize their feelings but also to share them. As one commentator said, “Sympathy means I know how you feel.” With empathy, “I feel how you feel.”

That is why empathy is very important when it comes to mental health. It creates a connection between people and allows the person dealing with mental health issues to understand that they are not alone. Empathy is the bridge that connects people.

Honourable senators, it is a rare person who doesn’t at some point in their life experience mental health issues, and to varying degrees. As the Canadian Mental Health Association states on their website:

The pandemic has taken a collective toll on all of our wellness. It has created a shared experience: of fearing the disease. Of wearing masks. Of seeing our children and grandchildren wearing masks. Of working from home. Of experiencing lockdowns and quarantines. Feeling the anxiety and the stress. It is common to us all.

Most of us are not mental health experts. However, we can be aware of what is happening around us and what others are experiencing. Many of life’s experiences affect our mental health, such as the loss of our job or the death of a family member or friend. We should be empathetic towards others and offer support, encouragement and understanding to those experiencing mental health issues. Kindness only takes a moment of our time.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the Senate’s Human Resources Directorate and the Senate’s Mental Health Advisory Committee for the work they do and the support they provide year-round. Mental health is a crucial part of a person’s overall health, and we should be aware of it in our everyday lives.

And remember: Take time for your own mental health.

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