Mental Health Awareness and Stigma

This week in Canada is mental health awareness week. I’ve spent 15 years working in the mental health and addiction sector. I had the opportunity to work with youth, adults and seniors. The thing I discovered very early on in my career was that the Stigma of having a mental illness was worse than the illness itself.

The stigma prevented people from getting proper Health Care. The stigma of mental illness contributed to their low self-esteem, their depression, their shame. Having a mental health diagnosis is like no other diagnosis. You are defined by your illness. You are a schizophrenic, you are manic, you are depressed. We don’t call people heart attacks cancer attic.

Your illness is made fun of and is the basis of many jokes in our society. You are thought of as being weak and not able to care for yourself. You are thought of as being dangerous.

And sometimes worst of all you are not thought of at all.

Let’s Get Loud We’ve all had moments in our life when we experience something that we needed help with. We didn’t need to be ridiculed and ashamed. We didn’t mean to be excused and ignored. Or feared and shunned.

Let’s not only talk about mental illness and addictions but let’s talk with the people that are experiencing it. I’ve had periods of depression and anxiety myself many times throughout my life.

So what can we do if we are others we know are feeling low, overwhelmed or anxious?

  1. Know You Are Not Alone

  2. Reach out to family and friends

  1. Seek Out Professional Help

  2. Your family doctor may have resources that you can access

  3. You may be able to receive OHIP covered access to a psychotherapist

  1. Work on Shifting Your Thinking

  2. Keep a Gratitude Journal – if you’re not a journal type person – begin your day thinking of three things you are grateful for in your life.

  3. Focus on what is going right in your life – no matter how small.

  4. Shift your attention to the positive thoughts when you have them.

  1. Set Small Goals

  2. This is especially helpful when you are feeling overwhelmed

  3. What is one thing you can do today that will move you closer to a goal or project that feels too large?

  4. Chunking things down make them more manageable.

  1. Keep the Humor!

  2. Watch a movie or video guaranteed to make you laugh.

  3. Remember the things that bring you joy and engage in them.

  1. Pat yourself on the back.

  2. Often in these states we put ourselves down and then feel worse

  3. Credit yourself for the steps you are taking!

  1. Eat Well

  2. Its so easy to go for quick sugary fatty foods at times like this because who wants to think about preparing food!

  3. Get some fresh fruits and vegetables that you can grab on the go and eat.

  4. Treat yourself to a healthy prepared meal.

  5. Keep hydrated – nothing worse than a dehydrated fueled headache when you are already feeling crappy.

  6. Eat enough to keep your blood sugar balanced – this has huge effects on your mood!

  1. Move your Body – Exercise is a dopamine hit! – the happy neurotransmitter in your brain!

  2. Take a walk – especially in nature if you are able

  3. Stretch in the morning as soon as you wake up

  4. It helps your body to gently prepare for the day and

  5. Is a signal that the day is beginning

  1. Hit the gym – if it suites you!

  2. Ride a Bike

  3. Dance – anywhere – like in the kitchen

  1. Sing along to Your Favourite Songs

  2. Especially if those songs remind you of happier times

If you are still feeling very low or anxious do seek professional help.  There is no need to suffer alone.  We are fortunate to have resources available to us.

If you would like to work on making changes to your though patterns and habit so that you can live a more fulfilled life contact me for a free session.

To you and your health


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