LITTLE CURRENT—In honour of National Mental Health Week, May 1 to 7, the Northeast Town hosted a mental health awareness workshop with Allison Hall, a social worker with the Manitoulin Community Clinic (Health Sciences North Little Current site).
Ms. Hall facilitated discussion with the group about mental health and discussed signs and symptoms, resources available on the Island and how to help someone in need.
“The quality of our mental health impacts our physical health, how we feel about ourselves, how we relate to others, our ability to cope, our ability to form relationships, our sense of purpose, our skills development and overall capacity and our safety,” Ms. Hall shared.
She discussed depression, explaining that it “differs from feeling sad or blue for a few days.”
“Symptoms are more severe and longer lasting and impact how we think, feel and act,” Ms. Hall said. “A major depressive episode is characterized by either a depressed mood or the loss of interest or enjoyment in nearly all activities, as well as additional symptoms for a period of at least two weeks and interferes with our relationships and daily function.”
Some of the symptoms of depression Ms. Hall listed are: unusually sad mood most of the day; loss of pleasure and interest in activities they used to enjoy; unintentional weight gain or loss; sleeping too much or too little, feeling slowed up or unable to settle down; chronic lack of energy; inappropriate feelings of guilt or worthlessness; difficulty concentrating or making decisions and recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation.
She also identified signs of depression you might see in someone such as: the appearance of sadness or anxiety, speaking more slowly than usual; the individual may disregard their appearance or hygiene; they may struggle to make decisions or demonstrate poor memory; they may also show restricted emotional responses, have a negative outlook or show significant self-criticism.
Next Ms. Hall discussed anxiety disorders. She explained that you can tell if it is a problem based on the severity of it, the duration, if it is interfering with your life or is disproportionate to the situation.
“Some of the symptoms of anxiety are: excessive worry, sense of impending doom, difficulty sleeping, rapid, tangential thinking, irritability and an inability to relax,” said Ms. Hall.
She explained that our natural inclination when a place or activity causes anxiety is to avoid it, but this only perpetuates anxiety.
Ms. Hall also discussed the stigmas around mental health during the workshop.
“Stigma refers to the negative thoughts and beliefs many of us have about people with mental health issues,” she said.
Some examples are that because people have mental health issues they ‘just can’t deal with reality’ they are ‘attention seeking’ or they have a ‘weak character.’
“This leads to a negative way in treating the individual such as avoidance, ignoring, making fun of or gossiping about people or judgmental actions,” said Ms. Hall.
“The impact of stigmas is that they create challenges to admitting we need help, not only to our friends, family and health care providers, but even to ourselves,” she noted. “The longer we struggle on our own, the more our condition decompensates and the more likely we are to begin self-medicating.”
Self-medicating refuses to using/abusing substances in order to try to address the symptoms of mental health or to feel better, Ms. Hall explained.
Ms. Hall spoke of where people can get help—to get assessment and diagnose of mental health concerns. She listed physicians, nurse practitioners, psychologists, and psychiatrists as people to reach out to.
“Help and support can be accessed through community mental health clinics, primary care clinic and hospitals,” she said. “There is also 24/7 crisis line that can be called, 1-877-841-1101.”
In addition to community clinics on Manitoulin, there is also the Health Sciences North Little Current Site in Little Current that Ms. Hall works for. She said that the site (located at the Little Current Hospital) offers addictions, mental health and crisis services.
Ms. Hall reviewed some self-care and maintenance advice. “When we have mental health problems, our symptoms interfere with quality self-care that allows us to feel well and maintain our resilience to stress,” she explained. “With poor self-care our condition can worsen much more quickly. Daily practices can keep us feeling well longer, and prevent the progression from mental health problem to mental illness.”
She recommended eating well, getting enough sleep, physical activity, avoiding substance use, leisure and fun and talking to someone you trust as ways to help cope with mental health problems.
“By recognizing that self-care assists us in managing stress, we can increase our resilience to mental health problems,” concluded Ms. Hall. “It is important to remember that there isn’t a certain ‘kind’ of person who is vulnerable to mental health problems—none of us are immune. Noticing when we are feeling stressed and taking good care of ourselves is good preventative care.”