Empathy is the theme of mental health week

During Mental Health Week, officials are focusing on public education about empathy and the impact it can have on community mental health.

This focus comes after a recent study found a decline in the number of Canadians feeling empathetic.

The study by the Canadian Mental Health Association and UBC found just 13 per cent of Canadians feel empathetic, down from 23 per cent at the onset of the pandemic.

"Empathy is all about putting yourself in someone else's shoes. It's really important to identify your own feelings, to be able to help someone else and identify their feelings," said Michaela Penwarden-Watson, a mental health educator with the Canadian Mental Health Association.

"When we empathize with other people it brings us closer -- it brings people, communities and families closer together."

During Mental Health Week, Penwarden-Watson will be presenting Mental Health 101 sessions.

"We go over the cost of stigma, why language is important and we talk about a couple of mental health concerns," she said.

"It's really to help people understand what is mental health and what they can do about it relating to empathy."

At Algonquin Public School, empathy is a focus all year. There is even an empathy street in the school.

"We focus on empathy here at the school to help create positive behaviours with students," said principal Trevor Dewit.

"When you are able to put yourself in someone else's shoes, you are less likely to do something to them."

Dewit said empathy can lead to higher learning.

"When you know your classmates and your teachers have your back and able to support you, it's easier to say that you don't understand something," he said.

"That allows us to be able to learn at a higher level."