Hodan Aden: Your Mental Health is Important

Hodan Aden, Public Health Nurse

Hodan Aden, Public Health Nurse

Hodan Aden   RN, BScN, MHScN,   has been a nurse for 11 years and is currently a Public Health Nurse with the City of Ottawa.  She has worked in many different portfolios within Ottawa Public Health, including Multicultural Health, School Health, Mental Health and Youth.  Hodan is currently the Public Health Nurse in the Health Equity Section working on the immigrant health portfolio.


   Your Mental Health is Important

“An illness of the mind is like an illness of the body”

Many people, including health professionals believe that there is no health without mental health.  They think that poor emotional health can weaken the body’s immune system.  When this happens, you are more likely to get colds and other infections leading to problems with your physical health.  Mental health and physical health are closely linked because body and mind are connected. This is why mental health is important for everyone to be healthy.

Mental Health and Mental Illness

Mental health is the ability to think, feel and improve our ability to deal with the ups and down we face in life.  It is the ability to take part in activities you enjoy, have positive relationships with family and friends and adapt to changes.  Mental health is an important part of life.

Mental illness is the term used to describe mental health problems that are diagnosed by a health professional.  It is defined as a significant change in how a person thinks and feels which makes it harder to cope with difficult situations.  Many people experience a mental health problem in their lives.  With the right treatment and support, they can bounce back and continue to have healthy lives. There are many things that can cause mental health problems such as genetics, biological factors, and life experiences like trauma.  However, no matter how or why people develop mental health problems, these are health issues just like cancer, arthritis, diabetes and heart attacks.

There are many ties between mental health and physical health, which affect a person’s quality of life. Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease.  This means people who have good emotional health are aware of their thoughts, feelings and actions.  They are able to deal with the stress and problems that are a normal part of life.

Stigma and Mental Health

Negative attitudes or behaviour towards people with mental health problems is defined as stigma.  It includes having fixed ideas and judgements which change how we think and act towards people.  Cultural and religious teachings can also influence beliefs about the cause and nature of mental illness.  These teachings shape attitudes towards people experiencing mental health problems. In many cultures, mental illness is often seen as shameful, which can cause people to feel stigmatized.  In some cultures people believe mental illness is caused by devils, spirits, witchcraft, and God’s or parental curse.

Stigma leads to people being treated unfairly.  It can also stop people from seeking help and getting treatment.  Stigma causes people with mental health problems to believe the negative things people say about them.  In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) found stigma and discrimination towards mentally ill individuals as “the single most important barrier to overcome in the community”, and the WHO’s Mental Health Global Action Programme (MHGAP) said awareness against stigma and discrimination is one of their four core strategies for improving the state of global mental health.

We all have a role to play if we want to stop stigma.  This includes learning more about mental health and the facts; being aware of our own thoughts and actions; and helping people build their self-esteem and confidence.  This will help heal self-doubt, shame, isolation and reduce fear.

How can you take care of your mental health?

Mental health is more than the lack of mental health problems.  It is a positive sense of well-being, and the ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face.  It is about finding a balance in all areas of your life: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  Just as life always changes, so does your mood, thoughts and feelings.

Here are some ways you can take care of your mental health:

  • Have a support system and close relationships with family and friends.
  • Be optimistic and have a positive, hopeful attitude.
  • Change the way you think about things, which can change how you feel and act.
  • Talk to others.
  • Include relaxation activities.
  • Have a positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities.
  • Be able to manage strong feelings and impulses positively.
  • Seek help and resources when you need to.
  • See yourself as strong and in control.
  • Cope with stress in a healthy way and avoid harmful actions, such using drugs and alcohol.
  • Help others.
  • Find positive meaning in your life when you face tough times.

The role of Ottawa Public Health in mental health promotion

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 1 in every 5 Canadians or six million people will experience a mental health problem in their life time. Ottawa Public Health is committed to mental health promotion in many ways. Our commitment is stated in our mission statement as, Ottawa Public Health promotes mental health to improve health and quality of life overall…”  

Health Canada also shares how stigma can stop people from getting help, finding employment, and living their best in communities.  Ottawa Public Health works with communities and mental health services to promote good mental health and prevent mental illness and we support programs that address stigma and discrimination.  Ottawa Public Health increases awareness and knowledge, and takes a leading role in the Ottawa Suicide Prevention Strategy with special care to youth and children. These plans are set to improve individuals, communities and health services to have better physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Where to go to for help……

  • www.ementalhealth.ca
  • Ottawa Public Health  www.ottawa.ca/residents/public-health  or call 613-580-6744 – Ottawa Public Health Information Line
  • Ottawa Distress Centre  613-238-3311
  • Mental Health Crisis Line 613-722-6914
  • Youth Services Bureau walk in clinic 613562-3004
  • Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO) 613-725-0202
  • Coalition of Community Health Centres http://www.coalitionottawa.ca/


Canadian Mental Health Association. (2006). Mental Health Promotion-Definition and Action framework. Retrieved August 2014 from http:www.Ontario.cmha.ca/backgrounder.asp?

Stuart, H. (2005). Fighting stigma and discrimination in fighting for mental health. Canadian Public Policy, 31: S21-28.

World Health Organization. 2003. “Investing in mental health”. Retrieved 8/2/2014.

World Health Organization. (2001). The World Health Report 2011. Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope. Geneva: World Health Organization.

Bailey, R.K., Milapkumar, P., Barker, N.C., Ali, S., Jabeen, S. (2011). Major depressive disorder in the African American population. J Natl Med Assoc., 103: 548-557.






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