One of a kind

Recently I spent an entire day with a beautiful individual giving our time and raising money to a great charity organization. No one knew that as he was giving so much to others, he was the one that needed the help. Trevor O’Keefe was a decorated RCMP officer, he lived his life constantly giving to other people in need and pushing his personal needs aside. Corporal O’Keefe is one of countless first responders that are suffering from PTSD quietly. First responders are constantly witnessing horrific things and then expected to “suck it up” and continue with their everyday lives. Now that we are more comfortable with speaking out about mental health issues we need to bring the awareness to absolutely everyone regardless of occupation, race, gender, etc. “When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘we’ illness becomes wellness.” First responders are constantly keeping us safe and making us their first priority but when it comes to their mental health no one is putting them first.

‘One of a kind’: RCMP officer’s death highlights gaps in mental health support for first responders

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More Mental Health Apps

Here is a list of some additional mental health apps:

More Mental Health Apps

Anxiety

Stop Panic & Anxiety Self-Help: Meditate, Sleep, Relax

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.excelatlife.panic&hl=en

Android Rating: 4 stars

This friendly app offers a range of self-help methods for individuals who are serious about learning to manage their anxiety. Established methods of self-help are provided in this engaging, flexible, practical resource.

Anxiety Reliever

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/anxiety-reliever-stress-anxiety/id1029839288?mt=8

iPhone Rating: 4 stars

This app consists of a collection of calming audio recordings, helpful guidelines, an insightful anxiety tracker, breathing tools, and supportive messages. Calming audio sessions are divided into categories such as De-Stress, Anxiety, Sleepy Time, Binaural Sounds, and ASMR. The built in tracker allows users to monitor their triggers, and habitual thoughts.

Relaxation

OMG. I Can Meditate!         

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/omg.-i-can-meditate-!-meditation/id920161006?mt=8

iPhone Rating: 5 stars

Android Rating: 4.5 stars

This app provides users with their own personal meditation coach, resulting in better sleep and de-stresses in a mere 10 minutes. Learn simple mindfulness and mediation techniques which bring happiness, calm, and peace of mind into your life.

Depression

MoodTools – Depression Aid

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.moodtools.moodtools&hl=en

Android Rating: 4 stars

MoodTools is designed to help combat depression and alleviate users negative moods. Assistance is provided through the research-supported tools within this app to aid users on their road to recovery. Some of the tools included are a thought diary, various activities, a safety plan, and helpful videos.

Depression CBT Self-Help Guide

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.excelatlife.depression&hl=en

Android Rating: 4 stars

This app serves as a wonderful resource as it contains numerous articles about clinical depression and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Depression Assistance Audio is offered to aid in comprehension of clinical depression, as well as a screening test accompanied by a graph to monitor severity of depressed mood. Relaxation audios are also provided to help deep relaxation.

Pacifica – Anxiety, Stress & Depression Relief

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/pacifica-anxiety-stress-depression/id922968861?mt=8

iPhone Rating: 4.5 stars

Android Rating: 4 stars

Psychologist-designed tools addressed through a Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy route are provided in this app. Mindfulness meditation, relaxation, and mood tracking are included. Tools which target stress, anxiety, and depression are provided to help break the ongoing cycle of negative thoughts.

Sleep

CBT-I Coach

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.t2.cbti&hl=en

Android Rating: 4 stars

This app is for individuals who are engaged in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for insomnia with a health provider, as well as those who have experienced symptoms of insomnia and wish to improve their sleeping habits. Users are guided through the process of learning about sleeping, developing positive sleep routines, and improving one’s sleep environment. A structured program is outline which teaches users strategies proven to improve sleep and aid with alleviating symptoms of insomnia.

Thought Record

CBT Thought Record Diary

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.moodtools.cbtassistant.app&hl=en

Android Rating: 4 stars

This thought diary will help you evaluate, understand, and change both your thoughts and feelings. Users can work to identify their emotions, analyze how and why they are feeling a particular way, challenge their beliefs, and change their thinking patterns for future situations.

#smileforkyle

When I was in high school something tragic happened, a student named Kyle took his own life.

Our school community was devastated. Walking through the halls like zombies were numerous students who not only knew Kyle, but were close friends with him. I remember seeing a girl I know who was best friends with him in the hall the day after it happened. I could tell she needed comforting so I simply walked up to her and gave her a big hug, letting her cry on my shoulder. Another one of my close friends who knew Kyle very well and was devastated by his death. I made sure to let him know that I was there if he wanted to talk and gave him a comforting hug each time I passed him in the halls.

It was truly amazing to see our school community (students, teachers, parents) come together and support each other in this time of grief. All throughout the school you could witness students being comforted by each other. Counsellors were available for those who desired them, and the Chapel was open for anyone who needed space.

I only wish that someone would have been able to see that he was struggling. That someone was able to save him.

Kyle always had a smile on his face and appeared to be extremely happy. Students at my school began using the hashtag #smileforkyle and so many tweets were made that the hashtag was trending on Twitter. We all hoped that this would raise awareness on how serious and real suicide is. Each day we remind each other to smile for Kyle.

Someone to Talk to

It is so important to find someone you feel comfortable talking to. Someone you can tell anything to and know they will support you. Someone whose always ready to listen, to ask if you’re okay, to see if you are drowning.

I am so thankful that I have found 2 of these people. I know that both my best friend of 10 years and my boyfriend of 2 years are there for me when I need them. I can tell them anything whether it involves stress, my mental health, school struggles, family issues, or anything else which may be bothering or worrying me at the time. They have both shown to me that they are listening when I open up by asking meaningful questions, checking in on me when they know I am going through something difficult, and most importantly asking me “Are you okay?”.

Sometimes when we open up to someone and tell them how we are feeling or what we are going through, it seems as though they aren’t really listening. They aren’t really hearing what we are saying. Perhaps they are and they just don’t know how to respond. But we can’t always determine if this is the case.

It can be difficult finding someone you are completely comfortable with and can talk about anything to, but once you do life becomes much easier. I used to always bottle up my feelings and then cry when no one was around. Hiding your feelings and tears is a lot harder than just letting them out once in a while.

I hope that all of you are as fortunate as myself in that you have found someone to talk to when you are feeling anxious, depression, or stressed. And if not, I hope you feel safe expressing your feelings and thoughts on this blog, knowing that we are all here to listen.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Recently I watched the movie It’s Kind of a Funny Story. For those of you who have not seen this movie, it is about a clinically depressed teenage boy named Craig, who checks himself into the psychiatric ward of a hospital after contemplating suicide. There were quite a few things I learned from this movie:

  1. People think mental illness can be cured almost instantaneously. In the movie Craig check himself into the hospital in hopes of being given a quick fix to end his suicidal thoughts. He learns that this is not going to happen as depression can’t be cured overnight.
  2. A lot of people may not accept or understand your mental illness. Craig’s father is aware of why he checked himself into the hospital and about Craig’s constant struggle with depression, however he still places a lot of stress on his son. He does not realize that one of the reasons Craig was suicidal in the first place was because of this constant stress.
  3. Not all mental illnesses look the same. When Craig’s friends find out he is in the hospital, they are both shocked and confused. It was not apparent that Craig was suffering from depression and would consider ending his life. On the other hand, when Craig first enters the psychiatric ward, he sees another patient talking to himself about what seems to be nothing. He is quick to question who this man is, and informed that he suffers from schizophrenia.
  4. It is important to find escapes or activities which make you happy. While in the hospital Craig attend an arts and crafts class in which he begins to draw a map. He realizes that this is something he loves to do and plans to continue drawing once he is released as it helps him forgot about all his problems and worries.
  5. There are people who love and care about you. When seeing the hospitals psychologist Craig reveals that he did not actually attempt suicide because he knows he has his friends and family who love him. Throughout his stay he comes to realize how important these individuals truly are.

funnystory-2

Reacting To Loss

I attended a small rural high school about three hours west of Oshawa. When I think of a small high school like the one I attended, I think of closeness and simplicity. I think of a place where everyone knows everyone, where news travels fast, and where your prom takes place in the high school gym. Nothing bad ever seems to happen, so when it does, it hits the community hard.

Last week, the small high school I attended had to grieve the loss of a sixteen-year-old student. He committed suicide. I didn’t know him personally, but like hundreds of other community members, I feel the loss with a heavy heart. My brothers still attend the high school, and my mom still supplies as a vice principal there. I see friends on Facebook sharing his obituary with comments suggesting he was “always smiling” and was “always nice to everyone.” After a week of trying to make sense of the event, I decided to finally put my thoughts into words.

My dad called me the other night and told me how upset my mom was about this student’s passing, and how as a principal she always has the mentality that things can become better for every student. She said, only weeks before his passing, he was singing karaoke at a school assembly, to which he said “I didn’t think I had it in me.” From an educator’s perspective, this only seemed like progress. A student that was usually shy and uncomfortable was coming out of his shell, and was doing things that made him seem fearless. My dad then proceeded to tell me that when he was a teenager, he never heard of anyone committing suicide. In my short nineteen years, I can name four people. I can name four high school students that struggled so much with their mental illness that they decided to take their own lives, all of which had peers post things like “they were always smiling” and “they were so friendly to everyone” with a link connecting to an obituary that should not yet exist.

Losses like this confuse and frustrate me. I see so easily online the amount of support that is offered. Unfortunately, this support becomes so evident when it is too late. I’m not saying support doesn’t exist offline – it certainly does – but I’m saying that it breaks my heart to see the utmost support when it is too late. I wish that someone had recognized the hurt in each person lost to suicide before they were gone. I wish that instead of hiding behind a smile, people were real and honest about how they feel, and I wish the receivers of those messages only listened to understand and were empathetic. Again, I’m not saying this is always the case. I know a lot of people that express the need for support while dealing with mental health issues. I mean, UOIT’s Mental Health Services are always busy assisting a number of students. To me, that is excellent news because it means that people care about themselves enough to get help they feel they need.

I don’t know if I still have completely comprehended how I feel about writing this post. I think we will always be confused about suicide, and mental illness as a whole. I think overall, I want the experiences I have had as a community member who has witnessed the devastation of suicide on a community to help others. Please, please, PLEASE – if you ever feel lost, if you ever feel worthless, talk to someone. I have seen so often how willing people are to help a stranger. It’s human nature. We help one another. Look for the Campus Connected stickers on laptops, seek out the help of your friends, teachers, parents, whoever you trust; people want you around. I wish I didn’t have this weight on my chest. I wish I didn’t have to feel so sad for the family and friends of the boy who attended my old high school. I wish he knew how missed he is. I wish he knew that someone he never even met wishes he was still here.

I hope someday that all suicidal thoughts can be overcome. I hope all people will one day realize that there is so much more to life than what is happening in the moments you feel worthless. I hope someday, all people believe that the world wants more for them, and that there are so many people that want to help conquer mental illness.

I’m going to leave off with a quote by Phil Donahue: “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Please let people in. Let them help you if you feel you need it. No matter who you are, you’re too much to lose.

The State of Our Mental Health System

I called into the office of a psychiatrist in Barrie, ON sometime last month. I spoke with the receptionist, who while lovely and helpful, presented me with the next available appointment date for a psychiatric diagnostic appointment: Friday, October 25, 2017 at 9:15 am. As she read off the date and time, the only thing I found myself saying was “Oh god.”

In ten months time I will be able to speak to a psychiatrist and tell him everything that has happened to me and everything that I feel and live with daily. Ten. Months. I am on the cancellation list as of now, leaving my appointment potentially within the next few months if someone cancels.While I tried my best not to be angry, I am still disappointed. My heart aches and I grow tired. I was hoping for an appointment within a month to show this doctor the worst of my sadness and anxiety. But it will have to work much longer, once again.

It still baffles me that in a country with a praised health care system can have such long waitlists and such large date gaps when it comes to psychiatric appointments. For a field that is pursued by a number of students in universities across Canada and the world, there seems to be a lack of these doctors here. It saddens me that while I have the patience and ability to wait this long, others may be near-crisis or creeping towards a breakdown and can’t receive this treatment sooner. I am aware of crisis hotlines and hospitals that provide counsellors for crisis, but I sincerely doubt anyone wants to reach that point. It also disappoints me that while one can see a therapist in the mean time, typically therapists are not covered directly by health insurance, especially if they are in-home or have a private practise. I have seen one therapist and one psychologist in the past three years. The therapist I saw for one session and cost me $100, which forced me to discontinue as I could not claim it under my insurance. The psychologist I saw twice and cost me $150 a session, which I only received 80% coverage over.

I don’t mean to sound so pessimistic, but it’s difficult to look up when money and time are not on your side. I don’t know if I would ever reach crisis point, but the thought of someone else who may not have access suffering is disheartening. I am lucky enough to have a doctor who is willing to help me and treat me as required. I hope that others who are in my position and struggling with their mental health are able to keep their head up and press on until they receive the help they need.

Good luck and much love.

How can I help?

One of the most frustrating things can be trying to help someone who refuses your help. My brother has needed help regarding his mental health for years, but has always refused. When he was younger my parents took him to various psychologists and counsellors in hopes that someone would be able to help him, or at the very least get him to open up. But every time it was the same thing. An hour would pass and he would walk out of the room having not said a single word. He would then repeatedly tell my parents how much he hated them for forcing him to see a “shrink.” We also tried family counselling, but here my brother felt as though he was being integrated and threw a fit. We left the session early and never returned.

Once my brother got a little older it became impossible to get him to even go to his appointments. And now that he is an adult he still refuses to seek help. He has been told by numerous family members and close friends that he should talk to someone and get the help he needs, but he still refuses. It has gotten to the point where myself, as well as my parents have stopped trying to convince him to speak to somebody, as it is too frustrating of a task and always ends the same way.

If anyone has any suggestions as to try and help someone who constantly refuses help, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear any and all suggestions you may have!

how-can-i-help

Continuing the Conversation

Every year on Bell Let’s Talk day we hear thousands of individuals discuss their mental health. People feel as though this is the best day to come forward and share their experiences with mental illness. It makes it much easier to come forward and talk about our own mental health when we see others doing the same, especially over social media where we can hide behind our screens. The numerous posts with the familiar hashtag #BellLetsTalk make us feel like everyone will accept our mental illness and applaud us for sharing. But this is not how we should feel.

We should not feel as though only because it is Bell Let’s Talk day our friends, family, and followers will support us and be there if we want to talk. It seems like this is the one of the only times we reassure our friends and family that we are here for them if they want to talk about their depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc. We should be doing these things everyday. A day should not go by in which anyone feels although they cannot talk about not being okay.

In order to stop the stigma we need to discuss mental health on a daily basis. We need to accept that everyone faces different struggles in life and some cannot be seen by the eye. We need to treat everyone with the respect and dignity they deserve.

And that is why I love this blog. It provides an opportunity for individuals to talk about mental health in a safe and judge-free environment everyday, not just once a year. It allows us to support one another and reassure each other that we are not alone. It allows us to continue the conversation.

Helping a friend in need

A few years ago my friend came to class with marks on his arms. It was clear these were from self-harm. Since I had met him, he never had such marks. Everyone in my friend group noticed, but none of us asked him about it. Later that day, another one of my friends told me that he had a rough night which involved a lot of tears and blood.

On the following weekend I was texting this friend, just having a normal conversation when he asked if I could call him. I was out running errands with my mom, and asked if I could call him when I got home. He said this was fine.

Many hours later, I got home. I was tired from being out all day and just wanted to go to bed. But, I knew my friend went through a rough patch earlier that week and wanted to talk. So, I called him. Almost immediately into our conversation he began telling me why he had self-harmed that week and that he used to do so regularly. I spoke with him for over an hour. I made it clear to him that I understood that he did what he did because in the moment it seemed like the only option. I advised him to first speak to someone when he’s upset, as this can often make people feel a lot better. I made sure he was alright before hanging up the phone.

After our conversation, I was very thankful he reached out to me. I was happy that I could be there to listen to him and offer a hint of advice. He has not come to me to for help since this incident, but I am still in contact and know he is doing much better today. I hope he knows I am always hear to listen.

My advice to anyone in a similar situation, is to call the individual. Even if you don’t feel like talking in that moment. Someone who reaches out, may desperately need you to listen. A call can save a life.

telephone-call-tree