About one in three Canadians will have a mental health problem at some point in their life.
(Don’t miss the fun exercise and the cool video at the end of this article… keep reading)
While people often know a lot about physical illness, most people have little knowledge about mental illness.
This lack of understanding promotes FEAR and STIGMA. It prevents people from seeking help early and seeking the most effective help.
It also keeps people from providing appropriate support to friends, colleagues, family members and people around them simply because they don’t know how.
Mental Health Definition
“The Public Health Agency of Canada” defines mental health as:
“…the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity”
Mental health influences how we think and feel about ourselves and others and how we interpret events. It affects our capacity to learn, communicate, and form, sustain or end relationships. It also influences our ability to cope with change, transition and life events, such as having a baby, moving to a new home or experiencing bereavement.
A person will often have reactions that are considered normal or realistic for the situation. These can become a disorder when the length, intensity or effect they have on the person’s life are considerable and prolonged.
Why do we think Mental Health is important?
We deal closely with clients who are facing big life events like divorce, moving homes, new job, new baby, the death of a loved one. Sometimes they are suffering from mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), just to name some examples.
Clutter could be a consequence of mental health problems. Most times we need to understand the reasons of why clutter exists and then help our clients to find new ways and habits to overcome it. Patience, consistency, being supportive and understanding the symptoms of mental health problems can help us be way more effective.
Our goal is to provide help and resources to make our community stronger and more resilient. This is why we decided to get trained in Mental Health First Aid. We encourage everybody to take the course. It’s a great opportunity to learn more and be ready to help your loved ones when they need assistance but they feel too ashamed and afraid to ask for it.
Up to $51 Billion per year are lost in the Canadian economy to mental health issues. (Mental health commission of Canada).
Recovery from Mental Health Problems
People can, and do, recover from even the most severe mental health problems. A wide variety of factors can influence recovery, including:
- Supportive social networks.
- Access to education and employment opportunities.
- Early intervention and the quality and availability of treatments.
- The person’s ability and willingness to participate in treatment.
The Importance of Self-Care
I would like to mention the importance of living a balanced lifestyle nurturing your body, mind, family, social relationships, and giving back. Taking time for Self-care, enjoying time with friends and family, doing exercise, eating well… will help you feel great!
We shared a few ideas in our “Recipe for an Extraordinary Life”
Helping a Person Who is Having a Crisis
One of the main takeaways of the Mental Health First Aid course is how to help a person who is having a crisis. These are the steps they recommend (ALGEE):
- Assess the risk of suicide and/or harm.
- Listen non-judgmentally.
- Give reassurance and information.
- Encourage the person to get appropriate professional help.
- Encourage other supports.
Assess the risk of suicide and/or harm
It is important that any time that mental health first aid is provided, the first aider assess the risk of suicide and/or harm to the other person. It is also important for the first aider to ensure their own personal safety at all times.
The goal is to evaluate the situation and decide how best to help and try to reduce or remove any risk that is present.
Non-judgmental listening means adopting a set of attitudes and listening skills (verbal and non-verbal) that allow the listener to hear and understand what is being said and enable the person to talk freely and comfortably about problems without feeling that they are being judged.
Give reassurance and information
Help the person feel hope and optimism and realize that they have a real medical condition and that there are effective treatments, and encourage them to access that help.
Encourage the person to get appropriate help
Help the person to identify the most appropriate professional person/service that can help for their particular mental health problem.
Encourage other supports
Help the person find ways to help themselves through self-help strategies or by reaching out to family, friends, and other supports.
It is important that the first aider takes appropriate action and arrange for professional help if someone is at risk of harming themselves or someone else, even if the person does not want help at that time. Help can include the mental health professional, emergency medical services, the police or other professionals.
One of the main resources in Waterloo-Wellington-Dufferin Area is HERE24SEVEN (1 844 437 3247). You can call them any time to access Addictions, Mental Health & Crisis Services. They will be able to handle the situation and point you in the right direction.
Being Aware of the Symptoms
If you notice changes in the behavior of a loved one, friend, family member or colleague they may be experiencing mental health issues. Some examples of symptoms to look for are:
- Sleep disturbances.
- Loss of appetite.
- Withdrawal from activities and social contacts.
- Deterioration in personal hygiene.
- Sudden excesses.
- Deterioration in studies and work.
- Physical symptoms (e.g., weakness, pains, bizarre body sensations).
- Reduced energy and motivation.
- Increased anxiety.
- Irrational, angry or fearful responses to friends and family.
- Mood swings.
- Difficulties with concentration.
- Increased energy and overactivity.
- Lack of insight.
I invite you to use the ALGEE method if you notice any of these changes in a friend, colleague or family member. Just listening to them could be a HUGE therapy that will help them cope with whatever is happening in their lives.
“…(Recovery) is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful and contributing life even with the limitations caused by illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness”
Fun exercise: “Life Stress Inventory”(Image below). Write down all the “Life Event # (1 to 43)” that applies to you and the “Mean Value” of each one. Once you are done add up all the points to have your score.
I hope this blog is helpful. If you have any comments or feel like sharing please leave a comment below.
I would like to finish this post with a TED video about “Emotional First Aid”. Sometimes sharing a good video like this one could be a good way to help someone understand and reflect. Enjoy and thanks for reading!
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