878

Mental Health: Let's Talk

Mental Health: Let's Talk


First of all I want to start by saying that some the bravest, most resilient and brilliant people I know suffer from mental illness. That comes in many forms: addiction, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and bi-polar disorder. The lessons that these individuals have taught me about survival, determination and grace are beyond what is imaginable. Each of them has a very unique story, some have found a path to wellness while others have not.
I have spent a great deal of my adult life working with individuals with mental health issues. I first began my journey in 1990 when I worked at the Canadian Mental Health Association in Guelph, Ontario during my undergraduate degree co-op placement. From there I went on to work at Homewood a psychiatric hospital that served patients from 16- 100 and specialized in many areas of mental illness from eating disorders to dementia. I later took a job at a shelter for abused women and children and supported many of these women on their journey from abuse and mental health to safety and wellness.
What I learned from these experiences is that mental illness is something that does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any point in their lives. Some are chronic, some acute, some are brought on my trauma or crisis, some appear early in life and some much later. I will never ever forget the day when I was working on one of the inpatient wards at Homewood and I was checking on patients and I opened the door to a patient’s room and saw standing in front of me one of my acquaintances from my teens. I was shocked and taken aback. I could not help but wonder what had happened and why they were there. That experience really stuck with me as I began to discover that mental illness can happen to anyone at any point in their lives. I also learned how cyclical it is. People who have mental health issues often ride a rollercoaster of highs and lows. At Homewood we used to see individuals return every few months to few years in crisis, off their meds or just tired and worn out from managing their mental health.
As an educator I have had first hand experience working with staff, students and parents with mental illness. Sadly there are still not enough supports available for families and children. Schools are being forced to manage and support students with severe mental health disorders and do not feel equipped to do so. We often see first hand those children who live with parents suffering from mental health issues and the toll it takes on them. Parents are struggling to survive and often find themselves in a loop of poverty, Children’s Aid, addictions, abuse and social assistance that takes its toll on them and their families. Agencies like CAS, Ontario Works, CMHA etc are facing shortages in funding and are forced to make many difficult and painful decisions that affect families and children. Students are suffering at much higher rates with depression, anxiety and trauma. The effects are being felt in schools and the communities across the country.
I myself have struggled with my own mental health at times. I have found myself at some low points during my life. Transition times from University to the work force, a relationship breakup, adjusting to marriage, being a new mom, moving away from family and friends, dealing with difficult parenting issues, the death of my grandparents, the stress of a being a principal in a school that had so many needs, a botched hip replacement, menopause and aging. All of these times were low times for me. I felt anxious and depressed. I questioned everything and felt like I had little control of my life. I was emotional, moody, worried, tired, confused and afraid.
Fortunately for me I was surrounded by a very strong support system and was able to reach out when I needed help. I know that I am lucky and that my struggles pale in comparison to many but at the time they seemed overwhelming and impossible. I knew where to turn and what I needed to do for my own well-being. I had strategies and was able to use them to move through the difficult times. I am fortunate!
Many others are not so what can we do to help:
Remove judgement.
Take the time to listen to the person’s story.
Treat others with kindness and compassion.
Ask how you can help.
Listen.
Find supports in the community or medical field.
See a therapist.
Join a support group.
Find proactive coping strategies that will help you get through the difficult times.
Treat mental illness like a physical illness.
Educate yourself about mental health.
Make sure you are mentally healthily before trying to help others.
Be patient with yourselves and others.
By talking openly about our struggles we can help remove the stigma associated with mental illness. #Bellletstalk

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.