Christine Elias is a counsellor at Pembina Counselling Centre. In light of Mental Health Awareness Week in Canada (May 6-10), and International Mental Health Awareness Week (May 13-19), we asked Elias, in her opinion, what the most important message is that people need to hear.

“I think we need to hear that we don’t have worth because someone’s words or actions demonstrate that we do, nor do we have worth because we’ve accomplished something great or kept everybody happy. Our worth is not in the hands of other people. Each one of us has worth because God says we do. It can’t be earned, hustled for, or bought. We just have it, and no one can take it away.”

Questioning their worth seems to be a common theme for clients coming to Pembina Counselling Centre as of late, says Elias.

“Sometimes we question our worth because other people’s actions and words have communicated to us that we don’t have worth. For some of us, we come to believe negative things about ourselves that are completely untrue, and it’s based upon what we perceive, or maybe failures or character flaws. And sometimes this leads to the way that we hustle for our worth by striving for perfection or working extra hard at keeping everybody happy, eager to gain some affirmation, or maybe some reassurance.”

Elias noticed that this year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week in Canada was ‘healing through compassion’.

“I think oftentimes we are more compassionate with others than we are with ourselves. We’ve often heard it said that hurt people hurt people. It is also true that when we are compassionate with ourselves and when we recognize our worth, we can be compassionate with others because we recognize that they have worth too.”

Elias did some research to find that Mental Health Awareness Week was established in Canada in 1951.

“That’s well before my time, but I can imagine how far we have come in talking about the emotional and mental health aspects of our health.”

Elias is encouraged by the progress she’s seen. More people are seeking help and are more willing to talk about their positive experiences in getting help.

“A student described this progress well. They explained [to me] that when they were in high school, and left school for counseling, they would say they ‘had an appointment’. Now when they leave university for counselling, they say they’re ‘going to counselling’ because their friends are also talking to counsellors. What a beautiful recognition that it is. It’s not only OK to ask for help, but it is normal.”

by: Connie Bailey (Pembina Valley Online News)

Learn more about the Pembina Counselling Centre here.

Listen to the full interview with Christine Elias and Connie Bailey below.