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Supporting Someone with Mental Health Issues

When it comes to talking to a loved one about mental health, it can be very uncomfortable. As a society, we are still living with a lot of stigma when

 it comes to mental health. There is not enough information out there to help us know how to start; however, we are making some great strides in mental health awareness, for example, with Canada’s annual Bell Let’s Talk Day this past Wednesday.

 

Try these R-E-S-P-E-C-T tips to support your loved one with mental health issues:

 

Realize it will take them time to understand where you are coming from.

When you approach the topic of mental illness with a loved one you know/ suspect are struggling, they might be having a hard time coming to terms with their mental health condition. Some might experience “anosognosia”, a symptom where one does not have self-awareness of the condition they are experiencing. Their acknowledgement of your concerns may take time. This TED Talk by Dr. Xavier Amador might be helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXxytf6kfPM

 

Educate yourself and others.

It can be really helpful to speak to a professional about your concerns and what you are observing. While you may not be suffering from mental health symptoms as a primary patient, you certainly experience secondary symptoms, which are equally deserving of support and conversations with a professional.

 

Say to yourself “it’s okay to feel what I’m feeling”.

It can be really challenging for family members to support a loved one with mental health concerns. Caregiver burnout is a feeling of mental, physical, and/or emotional exhaustion due to the demands of providing care. It is important to have support if you relate to feelings of this ‘caregiver burnout’. Your loved one needs you to be healthy in order for them to be healthy.

 

Patience is a virtue, and definitely hard to practice.

Not only will you need to be patient with your loved one, but it is also important to be patient with yourself and the difficult feelings that might come up for you. We want ourselves and others to stop feeling bad right now, and we want the solution to our problem to come more quickly. Remember: recovery usually takes longer than we thought it would, and it can become frustrating… but you can push through. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

 

Expect that there will be good days and bad days.

In supporting a loved one with mental illness, it is important to know that healing is not a linear path. There are ups and downs and some days feel like you are taking 10 steps backwards instead of forwards.This can trigger feelings of anxiety and/ or depression. When we are not intentional in caring for our mental health, we can be more susceptible to experiencing bad mental health days. Remind your loved one of the simple self-care items they could try to get back on track.

 

Crisis plans are important.

A crisis plan is a plan that is discussed in calm moments to decide which supports (personal and professional) to access and how we can keep our loved ones safe. Here is a great template to use: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/samhs/mentalhealth/rights-legal/crisis-plan/home.html.

 

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Think about who to involve in your “team” to support your loved one and you as well. List out people like mental health professionals (e.g. psychiatrists, family doctors, therapists), peer support (e.g. groups, crisis helplines), and family and/or friends. It can be a lot easier, and less painful, if we all contribute to one’s healing together.

 

To learn more about how we can support you in managing your stress and feelings of anxiety about your loved one, please contact Vivian Zhang at vivian@balancedmindandwellness.com.

Please see our previous blog post for some more tips on how to talk about mental health.

Rise Above Stigma! Mental Health Awareness

Rise Above Stigma! Bell Let’s Talk Day: Wednesday, January 28, 2015!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 is an important reminder of how we should think about, talk about, act, and treat others with mental illness. Not just today, but every day.

WHY? Most people cannot afford treatment to or are on a wait list for months.

MESSAGE:

If you are currently experiencing concerns about your own mental health, having difficulty managing emotions, or having trouble creating or maintaining healthy relationships, please act now. Remember that it takes courage and strength to reach out for help from loved ones or a mental health professional. This help is one difficult, yet life-changing step away. Help yourself and get help from people who care about you (and want to help you)!

We all struggle in life from time to time in our own ways. Take the time to assess your own self-esteem and emotional well-being, noticing any negative changes in your usual behaviours. Awareness of such changes, a strong desire for the suffering to end, and a willingness to help others is that next step you need toward reestablishing more meaning and positivity.

TAKE ACTION:

Take care of yourself, first and foremost. Practice mental wellness. Do what it takes to make you happy. Actively set aside that extra time in a day, week, and month to focus on you and how you can continually contribute to your overall wellbeing.
-Spend less on takeout, and more on pampering yourself.

Refrain from judging or criticizing those who have been labelled with or who have symptoms of a mental health disorder.
-Be conscious to avoid derogatory or hurtful terms that may offend those suffering with a disease.

Talk about therapy and encourage those around you to go. Never judge or criticize those who are seeking treatment for mental illness.
-Why don’t question medication for physical illness?

Listen to those around you with mental illness and ask questions.
-Learn about what they are going through and how you can help them, or how you can help prevent others from experiencing the negative effects of a similar disease.

Educate yourself on how you can help to spread awareness of the life-threatening effects of a mental health disorder (and how it impacts you or loved ones).

FAQS

– Mental health problems and illnesses also account for more than $6 billion in lost productivity costs due to absenteeism and presenteeism. (The Mental Health Commission of Canada)

– 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life. (Canadian Institute of Health Research)

– At this very moment, some 3 million Canadians are suffering from depression. (CMHA)

MOTIVATION TO END STIGMA:

**Make the choice to rise above stigma and be more aware of your acceptance and non-judgment, toward yourself, those around you, and society in general.

**We need to make mental healthcare more accessible, affordable, and acceptable. You, as members in society, as a collective, have the power to influence that. Start by taking care of ‘you’ and others around you!

Here is more information on how psychotherapy or counselling can benefit you or those around you: https://www.etobicokepsychotherapy.com/etobicoke-psychotherapy-counselling/

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is unfortunately commonly misconceptualized in our society. People often think of people who binge as ‘lazy overeaters’ who do not actually have a problem. This comes with the assumption that people with BED possibly ‘eat for the joy of eating’. This is not the case and is a significant underestimate of the issues someone with BED is dealing with. The typical patient with BED may or may not look different than typical patients struggling with eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia. Patients with Binge Eating Disorder may actually have a thin appearance, where their physical representation would not automatically indicate they are struggling with BED. Here are some important facts to consider when understanding Binge Eating Disorder, or BED. It is important not to stereotype and to consider that it is not always obvious who may be suffering from this disorder.

– Just because someone is overweight does not mean he or she binges or overeats.

– Likewise, just because someone is underweight or of normal weight does not mean they don’t binge or overeat. In other words, you do not have to be overweight to be diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder.

– As with other eating disorders, people who binge or compulsively overeat, tend to eat very restricted diets during the day, leaving them vulnerable to binging at night.

– Most binge and compulsive eaters feel shame and anxiety when eating in front of others. Similar to anorexics, they feel that everyone is watching and evaluating their food intake.

– As with anorexia and bulimia, overcoming Binge Eating Disorder is not about learning more discipline or self-control. This is the most common misconception when treating this disorder. Instead, healing is about understanding how the person has come to use food (or lack of food) as a mechanism of emotional survival.

– Binge eaters are no more or less “out of control” than anorexics, bulimics or those struggling with other addictions. Individuals with BED are often associated with ‘extremist’ ideologies or with unattractive or ‘gross’ qualities.

– Binge and compulsive eaters- overweight or not- are not lazy. In fact, like with anorexia, binge and compulsive eaters tend to be perfectionists and work non-stop. This is normally the trigger, which makes them more susceptible to binging and overeating. The management of binge eating (or any eating disorder) can be extremely hard work.

– Binge and compulsive eaters tend feel a great deal of shame about their behaviors and their bodies. Many state that they feel damaged and inferior. If you have judged or inflicted criticism upon someone like this, they have already thought the same, or worse.

– As with any eating disorder, criticism, lectures and “pep talks” focusing on what binge eaters should and should not do, do not motivate permanent change. Binge eaters know what they should and should not do. Long lasting results come from compassion and deeper insight into the function of the disorder. Commenting on their food and exercise choices does NOT help.

– Eating-disordered behaviors including binging or overeating cause the brain to release dopamine (the pleasure neurotransmitter) and opioids (the active ingredient in heroin, cocaine and other narcotics). This chemical release makes disordered eating literally addictive

Fore more information on Binge Eating Disorder (BED), or other eating disorders, https://www.etobicokepsychotherapy.com/eating-disorder-counselling-etobicoke/.

Alternatively, please email Carly at carlyclifton@gmail.com, or call to speak to her 647-961-9669.

 

What is Social Anxiety? Learn more for you or someone you know

Social anxiety is one of the most common psychological disorders that is affecting more people than we may realize. It is important to be aware of you or people around you who may be showing variations of these symptoms. Extreme shyness is one way to think of social anxiety. Social anxiety exists along a continuum, ranging from normal shyness to high degrees of social anxiety. Social anxiety can be characterized by an intense fear of specific or all social settings. This usually also involves a heightened self-focus, and avoidance or escaping social situations. Sound familiar? This could be finding excuses not to attend a certain party or to socialize with certain people that make you feel uncomfortable. And if you do go to an uncomfortable event or surround yourself with people who make you feel this way, you may often leave early.

People who experience this social anxiety are extremely attentive to other people’s feelings, but they misread them, over-interpreting anything that could be taken as a negative reaction. They are oversensitive to criticism or negative comments. As a result, people who are highly sensitive tend to be overly aware of one’s behavior and how they think they should act in certain situations. They are so caught up in how they may appear to others that they often do not enjoy many simple experiences, for fear of negative evaluation by others.

This anxious feeling and desire to avoid an event manifests in physical ways, even before they encounter the social situation. This could be shortness of breath, faster heart rates, sweating, and stomach pains. Of course, then one would worry that people around them notice these physical signs of what they are thinking and feeling. After the encounter, they replay the situation over and over in their mind. They are so hard on themselves, and falsely accuse themselves of being ineffective or appearing insecure compared to others. Consequently, these individuals want to avoid situations with people and in places that these situations have occurred in the past.

Social anxiety is highly linked to eating disorders as well. This comes from the fear of people negatively evaluating them as overweight or unattractive, leading to dietary restriction and purging behaviours. (Please see https://www.etobicokepsychotherapy.com/eating-disorder-counselling-etobicoke/ for more information on eating disorders).

There are many basic techniques that you can work on to feel more confident and worry less about what others think of you. Please be aware if you or someone around you seems to be displaying signs of anxiety or social anxiety. Start enjoying, be comfortable with, and stop avoiding social events and people where you want to be yourself!

 

Recover from an Eating Disorder

The road to eating disorder recovery starts with admitting you have a problem. This can be the most difficult part of the recovery process, especially if you’re still clinging to the belief that weight loss is the key to happiness, confidence, and success. The most important roadblock to a successful recovery is when old habits are still hard to break.

If you are  motivated to change, these unhealthy habits and routines can be broken. A more important part of the recovery process, however, is about rediscovering who you are beyond your eating habits, weight, and body image. True recovery from anorexia and bulimia involves learning to listen to your body, listen to your feelings, trust yourself, accept yourself, and to love yourself. These are all major milestones in eating disorder recovery.

Another big step is asking for help. It can be scary and embarrassing to seek help for an eating disorder; however, gaining support from a trusted friend, family member, or work colleague is for many people a major advance on the path to recovery. Alternately, some people find it less threatening to confide in a treatment specialist, such as an eating disorder counsellor.

 

Whoever you select as a confidant, set aside a specific time to discuss your situation with them, ideally in a quiet, comfortable place away from other people and distractions. Whoever you do confide in may be shocked at the news you are telling them, or they may expect it. Chances are, they will be unsure of how to respond or the best way to help you. This is where it is important to take time to educate them about your specific eating disorder and how you would like their support in the eating disorder recovery process.

https://www.etobicokepsychotherapy.com/eating-disorder-counselling-etobicoke/