Posts Tagged "Mental Health"


Want to be happier in 2020? Make mental health a priority – National

by BBG Hub

Three weeks ago, you may have written down a list of new year’s resolutions with goals like “save $20 a week” or “meditate for 20 minutes each day.”

It’s also highly likely that you’ve already abandoned your resolutions — according to one 2017 survey, 80 per cent of people drop their resolutions by February.

That’s why, this year, we’re hoping to take the focus away from making resolutions and, instead, put it towards resetting the most important parts of our lives.

READ MORE: Forget making resolutions — here’s how to reset the new year

When it comes to your mental health, happiness expert Gillian Mandich says it’s all about starting the new year at a slow, gentle pace.

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“When we get busy at the holidays, things get so hectic that we’re just rushing from one thing to the next and we aren’t able to put as much intention into what we’re doing,” Mandich told Global News.

“When we talk about resetting, it means stopping for a moment to take stock, take inventory of where you are, how you’re feeling, if you’re feeling the way you want to feel or if you’d like it to change.”

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Alberta documentary sheds light on men in the oilpatch and mental health

Alberta documentary sheds light on men in the oilpatch and mental health

Once you do that, you can look forward to the future and determine what you want your life to look like at the end of the year.

“You can determine what type of life you want to create and work towards that, as opposed to being reactive and just taking things as they come,” said Mandich.

“Being proactive [means] deliberately choosing where you want to go and how you want to feel this year as much as possible.”

Here, Mandich and other mental health professionals offer some tips and tricks for resetting your approach in 2020.

Take the good with the bad

All your emotions and feelings are important — even the bad ones.

“If you’re feeling sad, angry, frustrated, anxious … all of those feelings are totally OK and part of the human experience,” said Mandich.

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The next time you inevitably have a bad day, focus not on closing yourself off from the world but investigating what made you feel that way.

READ MORE: Postpartum euphoria is more than just feeling happy — experts say it can be a ‘lethal condition’

“Get clear on where those feelings are coming from and then you can go from there,” she said.

“The first step is really that awareness piece: what is in your life or your environment, and who are you surrounding yourself with? [Who and what] are contributing to the feelings that you’re having?”

Once you know the answers to these questions, you can make decisions about who and what you want to keep in your life for the new year.

Write things down

You can use anything from an app to a journal to a document on your computer. The important part is that you’re documenting your plans for the future.

“When we talk about resetting our mental health, part of it is planning for how you want to feel,” said Mandich.

“Research shows that when we write things down, we’re more likely to follow through with it.”

READ MORE: How to talk to your kids about the death of a loved one

Another way you hold yourself accountable is to share your plans with a trusted friend or family member.

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“That can really help to make your goals more realistic,” she said.

“Write it down, plug things into your calendar and then … every week or every month, check back in. Create a habit where you start to regularly check in with your feelings and course-correct throughout the year.”

Keep this simple mood-booster in your back pocket

Caring for your mental health doesn’t mean trying to be happy all the time, but boosting your mood can make the difference between a bad day and a good day.

Christine Korol, a registered psychologist at the Vancouver Anxiety Centre, recommends something called “behavioural activation,” which is when you “track what you are doing and how it makes you feel.”

Lack of friendships impacts men’s mental health — here’s how to deal with it

Lack of friendships impacts men’s mental health — here’s how to deal with it

In addition to tracking your actions, try to add “ACE activities” to your day-to-day life:

  1. Achievement: An example of this would be doing the dishes or finishing your taxes.
  2. Closeness: You could call a friend or go get a coffee with someone you love.
  3. Enjoyment: This could be as simple as listening to your favourite music. “Enjoyment is really important for busy people who cut out all fun to stay on top of their to-do list,” said Korol.

Korol believes this is one of the “most effective treatments” for depression and low mood.

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Consider seeing a therapist

“Mental health is the accumulation of your thoughts, feelings and actions,” said Rana Khan, a registered psychotherapist at Couple Therapy Toronto. “Now let’s break that apart, and you can see where you stand.”

Once you do that, you’ll be able to determine more clearly whether 2020 is the year you should see a therapist.

  1. Thoughts. Are you having too many thoughts? Are you have too few thoughts? Are your thoughts really dark and negative? Do you think that whatever you think never happens? If so, you might need to talk to someone about those concerns.
  2. Feelings. Do you find that your feelings match the situation that you’re in? Are you able to be happy when others around you are happy? Are you able to be sad when others around you are sad? Do you get angry when the situation doesn’t call for anger? If you find that feelings don’t match the setting, you might need to talk to someone about those concerns.
  3. Actions. Do you know why you do the things you do? Do you have reasons for acting the way you act? If you don’t know why you do the things you do and struggle with that, you might need to talk to someone about those concerns.

READ MORE: Vast majority of workers with mental health issues keep it secret from their boss: study

If you’re uncomfortable seeking professional help, there are some tools — Khan recommends exercise or journalling — you can try on your own.

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“See if they help you cross the finish line. If you aren’t able to, that is completely OK,” he said.

“There are people who can help you cross that finish line, and that’s when you can seek that extra support.”

This year, we’re hoping to take the focus away from making resolutions and put it towards resetting some of the most important parts of our lifestyle: everything from our finances to parenting and more. Each day this week, we will tackle a new topic with the help of the Global News’ ‘The Morning Show.’ Read them all here

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Don’t comment on someone’s weight loss — even if you mean well – National

by BBG Hub

Singer Adele ended 2019 with over a decade full of achievements, including 15 Grammys, millions of records sold worldwide, and welcoming a son.

But, instead of celebrating such milestones, the year ended with much media attention around her recent weight loss after she posted holiday photos online.

Many people complimented the British performer’s “transformation,” saying she looked “gorgeous” and “skinny.”

Others pointed out that praising weight loss is fat-phobic, and potentially harmful to not only the person who lost weight, but others, too.

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“Commenting on her weight really just boils all of her talent down to her appearance,” Rachael Hartley, a South Carolina-based registered dietitian told Global News.

“She was a majorly talented force before losing weight and still is.”

Instead of putting kids on a diet, teach them healthy habits, experts say

The interest in Adele’s physical appearance also highlights a serious societal problem experts say we need to move away from: commenting on people’s weight loss altogether.

“It’s a really peculiar way of complimenting someone because if you say, ‘Oh, you look great because you’ve lost weight,’ that implies they didn’t look good before,” said Dr. Valerie Taylor, the head of the department of psychiatry at the University of Calgary.

Why you shouldn’t comment on someone’s weight

Aside from implying thinner bodies are more attractive, Hartley says commenting on someone’s weight loss can be harmful for a number of reasons.

Oftentimes, people’s weight goes up or down without others knowing “what’s going on behind the scenes,” she says. Someone could be sick, for example, or struggling with a condition that has caused them to lose weight.

Selena Gomez says people were ‘attacking’ her for weight gain after lupus diagnosis

Selena Gomez says people were ‘attacking’ her for weight gain after lupus diagnosis

Depression can also cause changes in weight, as can personal issues like experiencing a death in the family or divorce, Taylor adds.

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If someone is dealing with an eating disorder, complimenting their weight loss can reinforce unhealthy and dangerous behaviours, Hartley says. Even if you don’t have a diagnosed eating disorder, hearing others discuss weight loss can be triggering.

“I think about all the people who have lived so much of their life chronically dieting and trying to get back to this body size in which they feel like they were perceived to be better because of compliments other people gave,” she said.

What’s more, Taylor says people can get incredibly uncomfortable with too much attention on their bodies.

4 unscientific — and sometimes dangerous — health trends of 2019

“I’ve seen lots of people in my work … get really overwhelmed with all of the comments from people who constantly mentioned their weight and weight loss,” Taylor said.

“[It can] actually derail them from getting healthy because they’re not comfortable with the focus always being about their weight.”

How to talk about weight in a healthier way

Hartley says it’s important to talk about weight and weight loss in a way that does not make people feel bad about their bodies.

If you know the context of someone’s weight loss, as in they’ve been openly trying to lose weight, it’s OK to acknowledge it in a healthy and sensitive way, Taylor says.

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Study says regular exercise can help prevent certain types of cancer

Study says regular exercise can help prevent certain types of cancer

They may be proud they’ve adopted new lifestyle habits and welcome conversation, but you still need to take their lead.

“[You can say], ‘You look well-rested, has something changed?’ and then let them direct the conversation,” Taylor said.

If you don’t know a person well or they’ve never discussed weight with you, it’s best to not comment on their appearance at all. Again, it comes back to not knowing the context of their weight loss.

4 health myths that need to disappear in 2020

If someone comments on your weight, Taylor and Hartley both suggest simply saying “thank you” and changing the topic, if that’s what you’re most comfortable doing.

You don’t need to give any further reaction or explanation for your body.

The important thing to keep in mind?

“Weight loss, regardless of whether it’s intentional or not, is not necessarily equal to health, and it’s not necessarily equal to happiness,” Taylor said.

“It’s important to be healthy and happy — those are priorities — regardless of your weight.”

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Men struggle to keep friends — and it’s hurting their mental health – National

by BBG Hub

Friendships are an important part of a healthy life, but research shows men struggle to keep them.

Men often have fewer close friends as they age, experts say, which directly impacts their mental well-being.

According to a 2016 survey by U.K.’s Movember organization, men lack “social connectedness.” The survey found one in 10 men couldn’t recall the last time they made contact with their friends, and older men were at greater risk of social isolation.

What’s more, over half of the men surveyed reported having two or less friends they would discuss “a serious topic” with, and 19 per cent of men over 55 said they lacked a close friend — period.

READ MORE: 28 per cent of men believe they could lose their job if they discuss mental health at work

“Men tend to not have deep friendships in the way that many women do, which denies them the opportunity to share deeply personal and emotionally sensitive information with others,” said John Ogrodniczuk, the director of the University of British Columbia’s psychotherapy program and founder of men’s depression resource HeadsUpGuy.

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“Because of this, many men can end up feeling lonely, even though they may indicate that they have friends in their lives. In fact, after surveying more than 5,000 men who had visited HeadsUpGuys, we learned that loneliness is one of the most frequent stressors in men’s lives.”

Why friends are important

A lack of close friendships can negatively affect not only men’s mental health, but overall well-being, says Dr. Ari Zaretsky, the psychiatrist-in-chief at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

“Having a social support system has been shown to promote resilience, not only for mental illness but even for physical illness,” Zaretsky said.

How to help take care of your mental health while in school

How to help take care of your mental health while in school

Research also shows that social interactions have a positive effect on life satisfaction.

A recent study on the role of friends found that good-quality friendships help people feel supported. When people have less frequent social interactions, researchers found, they reported lower life satisfaction.

Joshua Beharry, a B.C.-based mental health advocate and project coordinator at HeadsUpGuys, experienced this first-hand. When he was dealing with severe depression 10 years ago, he hid his symptoms from his friends.

He believed he could handle his mental health issues on his own, even as his condition worsened.

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“This led me to basically waiting until I was so sick that I couldn’t hide my symptoms anymore,” Beharry said.

Beharry says his friends realized something was wrong when he kept cancelling plans and became increasingly withdrawn. Once he admitted he was struggling with depression and sought treatment, his friends were supportive.

READ MORE: Cancer can severely damage your mental health. Why don’t we talk about it?

“Instead of having to continue to hide how sick I was from my friends, I could finally be open with them,” Beharry said.

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“They were much more supportive and understanding than I had expected, asking lots of questions about what I was going through and what they could do to help.”

This is not surprising to Zaretsky, who says social support is key to dealing with mental health issues like depression.

While Zaretsky believes in a comprehensive approach when it comes to tackling mental health issues — which can include medication and psychotherapy — friendships are an integral part of the recovery process.

Focusing on men’s mental health

Focusing on men’s mental health

And you don’t need a large group of friends to notice the benefits, Ogrodniczuk points out. The amount of friends one has is less important than the quality of those friendships.

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“Strength is demonstrated by actually allowing yourself to be vulnerable,” Ogrodniczuk said.

“It’s often a very scary thing for many men, but when they actually do open up to others, they find that they deepen their relationships and have a stronger sense of self.”

Why men may have fewer friends

There are a few reasons men may have fewer friendships — especially as they age.

When men get into romantic partnerships, they often become inclined to lean on their spouse for emotional support and therefore put less emphasis on maintaining outside friendships.

READ MORE: Vast majority of workers with mental health issues keep it secret from their boss

“A lot of guys recognize that friendships are important, but don’t make the maintenance of such relationships a priority in their lives, instead prioritizing other things like work and family,” Ogrodniczuk said.

Men may also rely on their partner’s social network, meaning should a separation occur, they are left with fewer close relationships.

Notions of masculinity are also factors. Experts say it’s common for men to view mental health struggles as signs of weakness, and avoid talking to friends about problems as a result.

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Ogrodniczuk says the influence of “masculine socialization” can cause men to doubt what is “permissible” in friendships. For example, men may question whether or not it is OK to tell a friend they need help or open up to them about something serious.

This can lead to more surface-level friendships or acquaintances rather than deep, meaningful friendships. Casual friendships may be harder to maintain, too, experts say.

New study says more men are working themselves to an early grave

New study says more men are working themselves to an early grave

Zaretsky echoes this, adding when men do speak about their issues with others, they’re often self-conscious.

“They sometimes do it reluctantly,” he explained, “and I think that they have difficulty many times with talking about feelings and thoughts.”

How can men improve friendships

So how can more men move past these factors and develop meaningful connections? In order to improve and maintain friendships, men need to recognize the importance of close relationships and make them a priority, Ogrodniczuk said.

If a man is struggling with mental health issues, Ogrodniczuk suggests starting a conversation with someone they trust.

READ MORE: ‘It feels like failure’: Why Canadian workplaces should offer stress leave

“Sometimes it’s as simple as saying something like, ‘I’ve been feeling like sh-t lately and I’m not really sure what’s going on. Can I run some things by you to get your take on them?’” he said.

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Plus, Beharry says stigma around mental health issues is slowly eroding, and there’s less taboo around talking about struggles today than there was 10 years ago.

“There are a lot of male celebrities and athletes who have spoken out about depression as well, which I think goes a long way in opening up important conversations and helping to shed ideas that associate mental health issues with weakness,” he added.

Beharry now understands the benefit of opening up.

Becoming a dad can take a toll on men’s mental health

Becoming a dad can take a toll on men’s mental health

He says since being upfront about his mental health struggles, more men have reached out to him with similar experiences, too.

“Some people are better at listening and others are better at helping you out with tasks and keeping up with life,” he said.

“If the first person you talk to doesn’t really help, don’t get discouraged and shut down more; keep reaching out and building supports.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Cancer can severely damage your mental health. Why don’t we talk about it? – National

by BBG Hub

At first, it didn’t register with Serena F. that she’d been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

(Global News has agreed to withhold her last name to protect her anonymity.)

The Winnipeg resident was just 23 when she walked into the emergency room with a persistent cough and trouble breathing. It had become so bad, she couldn’t lie flat on her back without feeling like she was choking.

Eventually, Serena was given a chest x-ray, and doctors discovered she had a large tumour behind her sternum, crushing her lungs and her windpipe, and cutting off her vena cava artery.

READ MORE: Want to cut your cancer risk? Try changing these behaviours

It turned into a three-week hospital stay, where she was given a biopsy, emergency surgery and her first round of chemotherapy and radiation. For the first week, Serena was still focused on typical 23-year-old concerns — like when she could go back to work.

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“I was very disillusioned … about what cancer treatment entailed and how it would affect me.”

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Then the reality of her diagnosis hit her like a ton of bricks, the 33-year-old told Global News. “I just started crying … it started sinking in.”

Serena F. was just 23 when she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and it severely affected her mental health.

Serena F. was just 23 when she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and it severely affected her mental health.

Photo courtesy: Serena F. / Illustration: Laura Whelan

Serena’s experience is, unfortunately, very common for cancer patients.

A person’s mental health is hugely impacted by a cancer diagnosis, but it’s rarely prioritized in the treatment plan.

Serena’s mental health took a nosedive, so she started to use a journal to work through her thoughts. She was also assigned a psychiatrist for the duration of her stay, which she found extremely helpful.

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But once she left the hospital, she was on her own. Before the chemotherapy started to cause severe physical symptoms, she thought she was doing well.

Soon, the cumulative physical impact of treatment took hold and she struggled to do basic physical tasks. She was angry.

“At that point, I was pretty much still a newlywed — we’d only been married two years. We had plans to have kids, buy a house … get a career on track. That was the plan,” Serena said.

“Now, with the cancer, it was like, ‘well, f**k you.’”

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New guidelines on exercise during cancer recovery

New guidelines on exercise during cancer recovery

At the same time, she struggled to connect with her friends, none of whom knew what it was like to have cancer. All of this, in combination with the stress of undergoing a particularly intense form of chemotherapy called R-CHOP, led Serena to seek mental health support again.

“Every time you visit your doctor, you’re given this little chart and asked to fill it out. It says, ‘on a scale of one to 10, how are you feeling?’” she said.

“They had the right idea with the chart, but I found that as I went more on the scale feeling depressed, feeling angry, they didn’t actually ask about it. It wasn’t until I started telling them (that) I was constantly angry.”

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How a cancer diagnosis can damage your mental health

Experts say it’s totally normal for someone’s mental health to be impacted by their diagnosis.

“It varies a little bit depending on a patient’s situation, but the first common reaction (to hearing you have cancer) is overwhelming … anxiety and fear,” said Dr. Gary Rodin, head of the department of supportive care at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto.

“You get (something like) an acute stress disorder.”

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There’s plenty of data to support Rodin’s claims.

A 2018 study found that in patients with cancer, an average of 20 per cent develop depression and 10 per cent suffer from anxiety — both of which, left untreated, can lead to a reduced quality of life.

In severe cases, cancer diagnoses have been proven to increase the risk of suicide. A recent study of more than four million adults in England showed that cancer patients had a 20 per cent increased risk of suicide compared to the general population.

READ MORE: These two cancers aren’t detected early enough, and it’s costing Canadian lives

In her experience as a registered counselling therapist, Aimee Wilson has seen the way cancer can damage a person’s mental health.

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“A patient can start to grieve the loss of their health and the changes that come from their failing health,” she said. “This grief can bring … a host of feelings like anger, sadness, depression, anxiety and fear.”

Every patient copes differently, but it’s not uncommon to need professional help.

“(Some people), prior to their diagnosis, may have had a better outlook on life and are able to cope with such … devastating news,” she said. “On the other hand, people who struggle with everyday stressors may have a harder time with negative feelings, depression and anxiety.”

Stigma persists, even though mental illness can be life-threatening

Stigma surrounding mental health can prevent patients from coming forward about their concerns, but it can also prevent doctors from being proactive about mental health during cancer treatment.

This can cause patients who require mental health support to slip through the cracks, according to Todd Leader, vice president of support programs for Atlantic Canada at the Canadian Cancer Society.

“(Patients) talk about not knowing where to get help, not having timely access to mental health services and feeling embarrassed to ask for help,” he said. “Most report feeling unsupported.”

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Study says B.C.’s HPV vaccine program has cut pre-cancer rates in women

This gets even worse when cancer treatment ends because patients lose that tangible point of contact with their health-care providers.

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“People feel dropped or set adrift. They lose access to whatever minimal supports were available,” Leader said.

“In this survivorship period, they often have access to follow-up and management of their physical symptoms, but even less access to management of their mental health symptoms because of stigma, as well as … design problems in the public mental health programs.”

READ MORE: Precision medicine helping more people survive blood cancers: report

Mental illness can wreak havoc on a person’s quality of life — something that, in Rodin’s view, should be a priority for cancer patients.

“What we’re trying to do is help people manage cancer and face the progressive disease, but also to live their life at the same time,” Rodin said.

“That is something that gets lost. There’s only one life to live, and sometimes, there’s no later life to live. So how can they live their life as well as they can, even as they go through cancer treatment?”

Talking about mental health care from the start

When it comes to incorporating mental health into the typical cancer treatment plan, there are several factors to consider.

For Leader, it means to transition towards what he calls a “client-centred system of care.”

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“In a client-centred system, we would treat someone as a whole person and not as two parts: the cancer and the mental health,” he said.

“Mental illness symptoms are a part of cancer, not a separate or secondary issue.”

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Currently, most cancer care systems do have some psycho-social support built in, but Leader says most are under-resourced. This often means only those patients with the most severe mental illness receive care.

Dense breasts make breast cancer harder to spot

Dense breasts make breast cancer harder to spot

With this approach, both Leader and Rodin aim to confront mental health issues before they develop into something more serious.

“We know that many mental illnesses are progressive. That means when early symptoms begin, the problem will get worse if untreated,” said Leader. “Therefore, the less access people have to the right service, the more likely they are to become more ill and require even more intensive (and expensive) interventions.”

“Early support would help us keep healthy people healthy.”

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The power of people who understand what you’re going through

Charlene Charles, 42, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015, and she’s found the experience extremely isolating.

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The Markham, Ont., native has supportive friends and family, but none of them really understand what she’s going through.

“I have fear and anxiety about the unknown. I have a terminal diagnosis, and there are days when I’m just feeling hopeless … like I can’t go on,” Charles said.

Cancer now the number one killer in wealthy countries: study

Cancer now the number one killer in wealthy countries: study

She has accessed several mental health professionals throughout her treatment, and she’s currently working with a psychologist on a regular basis, which has been helpful. However, her mental health has improved most significantly since she started attending the Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) peer-to-peer support group.

“When I went to a retreat for the first time … that was the first time I had people like me actually in a room,” she said.

“I didn’t have to sit there and explain everything. They just got it.”

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Charlene Charles, who has a terminal diagnosis, has found strength and comfort in peer-to-peer support groups.

Charlene Charles, who has a terminal diagnosis, has found strength and comfort in peer-to-peer support groups.

Photo courtesy: Charlene Charles / Illustration: Laura Whelan

Peer-to-peer support is a big part of the Canadian Cancer Society’s approach to mental health care.

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Leader advocates for a peer support network so cancer patients can “talk with someone who has been there, understands and can provide basic support to manage their mental health,” he said. When this support is successful, it can even prevent “escalation” to mental illness.

Currently, the Society has a program that connects cancer patients or survivors to others with similar experiences, and Leader says it’s been very effective.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Election hangover: How to cope with not getting the leader you wanted – National

by BBG Hub

The Liberals won the most seats in Monday’s election and Justin Trudeau was re-elected as Canada’s prime minister.

The Liberals will form a minority government — winning 157 seats — and will need to negotiate support from at least one other party in order to pass any legislation while they are in office.

The Conservatives took 121 seats, the Bloc Quebecois 32 seats and the NDP 24 seats. The Green Party won three seats and Jody Wilson-Raybould was the only independent candidate to capture a seat.

READ MORE: Live Canada election results 2019

For some, the results are welcomed. But those not happy with the outcome may be waking up with post-election stress and disappointment.

“I’ve heard people have extreme anxiety to the point of having severe panic attacks the day after the election when they realize who is going to be their new president or prime minister,” says Dr. Ingrid Söchting, a clinical psychologist and director of the University of British Columbia Psychology Clinic.

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According to Rana Khan, a Toronto-based registered psychotherapist, it is common for people to feel personally impacted by the results of an election.

“This is particularly true if the elected party has major implications for you as an individual, or it has major implications for a specific group that you belong to or interact with,” Khan says.

“Generally, people have feelings of uncertainty or a general sense of loss, defeat or hopelessness.”

Söchting says she’s seen such reactions in her clinical experience, too, and points to these types of responses south of the border following the 2016 U.S. federal election.

After Donald Trump became president, politics-induced anxiety was given the unofficial name of post-election stress disorder. Several mental health professionals also wrote a book called The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, which examines the “mental health consequences” of Trump’s presidency.

Federal Election 2019: Trudeau greets supporters at Metro station following election win

Federal Election 2019: Trudeau greets supporters at Metro station following election win

While these cases may be more extreme, Söchting says people may experience more general symptoms of depression, or feel demoralized and discouraged by election results.

So how can you cope with not getting the political outcome you desired? The first step is accepting your emotions.

Process and accept

“Absolutely pay attention to your feelings and give yourself permission to feel them,” Söchting says.

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Feelings are not permanent, Söchting says, and for people who do not have a pre-existing anxiety or mood disorder, these emotions are typically short-lasting.

READ MORE: Separatist talk renews in Alberta following Justin Trudeau Liberal victory

Still, it’s important people sit with their post-election feelings so they can process them. Ignoring them is not a helpful response.

“They may be kind of ugly feelings of anger or even despair, but don’t feel you have to rush into some kind of action mode or new belief about what people are like or our country is like,” Söchting says.

Avoid thinking traps

While dealing with disappointment or anxiety, it’s common to fall into “thinking traps,” Söchting says. These can include “black and white” thinking, catastrophizing or “fortune-telling,” which is when you think you can predict the future.

READ MORE: Trudeau won the most seats, but not a majority. What now?

“Human beings are prone to cognitive biases,” Söchting explains.

“We humans tend to catastrophize when we are feeling something intensely. So for elections, when the party we voted for doesn’t win, we may catastrophize and believe that our country will be ‘ruined’ or ‘pushed back into the dark ages’ or led ‘by immature people.’”

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It’s important for citizens to recognize these thinking traps and challenge them. These exaggerated ways of thinking are not helpful and usually not true, Söchting says.

Federal Election 2019: Justin Trudeau FULL victory speech

Federal Election 2019: Justin Trudeau FULL victory speech

“We need to de-catastrophize and remind ourselves we live in a strong democracy and we can influence, hold our politicians accountable and follow fair and responsible media outlets over the next four years before the next election,” she says.

Take a break from screens

Leading up to elections, TV and social media are flooded with political news. Once election results are revealed, it’s perfectly OK to take a break from your screens.

“When you are feeling raw and vulnerable, it’s never good to be too obsessed with media and social media,” Söchting says.

READ MORE: Full results of the 2019 federal election

“The election outcome has happened; there’s nothing you can do at this point. … The analysis and what people are saying, you don’t need to know all that on day one or two. It can wait.”

Practise self-care

It’s important to look after your well-being at all times, but especially when your mental health is suffering.

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To help cope with anxiety, sadness and feelings of disappointment, do things that make you feel good. This may be exercising, seeing friends or spending time doing something you enjoy, like baking.

Federal Election 2019: Jagmeet Singh full concession speech

Federal Election 2019: Jagmeet Singh full concession speech

“Get into your routine. Keep moving. Don’t neglect eating well [and] if you are prone to unhelpful ways of coping, maybe this is not a day to drink more,” Söchting says.

“Be really kind to your body and your mind.”

Söchting says it’s also important to spend time with people you trust, like family and friends. These people don’t need to vote the same way as you, but they should be folks whom you feel safe sharing your feelings with.

Khan echoes this, and says a sense of community can “go a long way in being able to deal with uncertainty, loss, defeat and hopelessness.”

Get involved

Once you’ve allowed yourself to process your emotions, you may want to take action.

Federal Election 2019: Andrew Scheer full concession speech

Federal Election 2019: Andrew Scheer full concession speech

If you’re unhappy with the election outcome, you can get involved in local political groups or grassroots organizations to spark change.

“What can you do on an individual or day-to-day level to contribute to the change that you want to see at the macro-level?” Khan says.

Picking a cause you care about can help ease feelings of powerlessness, Söchting adds.

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“It’s always healthy to confront and to engage,” Söchting says.

“The worst is probably just to become detached and increasingly hopeless and isolated.”

— With a file from Amanda Connolly 

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘Money disorder’: When spending leads to cycles of self-destructive behaviour – National

by BBG Hub

It’s not uncommon to have a complicated relationship with money. Some people love to save, and others love to spend.

But for some, it’s more complex, and spending money can lead to a vicious cycle of self-destructive behaviour.

In the book Mind Over Money, co-author Brad Klontz calls such behaviours “money disorders.” He’s an associate professor of practice in financial psychology at Creighton University in Nebraska.

READ MORE: 12 ways to save money on your next grocery bill

Money disorders are defined as “distorted beliefs about money we develop from our financial flashpoint experiences,” Klontz previously wrote in an article for Psychology Today in 2010.

“Financial flashpoints are painful, distressing, and/or dramatic life events associated with money that are so emotionally powerful, they leave a lasting imprint.”

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Klontz outlines three main kinds of money disorders: money avoidance (including financial denial and rejection), money worshipping (like compulsive buying) and relational money (such as hiding spending from your partner, also known as financial infidelity).

Election 2019: How campaign financing works

Election 2019: How campaign financing works

By identifying these kinds of disorders, Klontz hopes to help people confront their “money beliefs.” They will then be able to “spot them when they are creeping into [their] minds] and revise them into healthier, more productive ones.”

It’s more than just being “bad with money,” Klontz said in an interview with Huffpost U.S. in April.

Money disorders don’t currently appear as legitimate clinical diagnoses in the “most widely-used medical classifications of diseases and medical disorders in Canada,” said registered psychologist Melanie Badali. Namely, that’s the DSM and the ICD.

READ MORE: Canada election: What federal leaders have pledged on the economy

However, experts like psychotherapist Jupiter Vaughan see how there could be a connection between past experiences, learned behaviour and spending patterns.

He once had a client who was responsible for financially supporting their parents as a teenager, and it shaped the way the client felt about money as an adult.

“Their relationship with money became very distorted,” Vaughan said. “The appropriate [financial relationship to have with your teenager] is to say, ‘here’s an allowance. Please mow the lawn.’ Not ‘help us keep our house.’”

Money Smarts: Impact of financial abuse

Money Smarts: Impact of financial abuse

As an adult, the client had trouble accepting gifts from others. “They were more comfortable with the opposite … with buying things for other people,” he said.

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In the experience of registered psychotherapist Suzanne Dennison, it’s also common to struggle with problematic spending as a symptom of another disorder.

She’s seen people dealing with high levels of stress and anxiety buy something “to make [themselves] feel better or distract [themselves] from everything else that’s going on,” she said. “If I’m out of control, I can take control.”

The different kinds of money disorders

According to Klontz, there are six main types of money disorders.

Financial denial is trying to “minimize money problems by refusing to think about them altogether.”

Financial rejection means you experience guilt “whenever money, of any amount, is accrued.”

Hoarding happens when “stockpiling objects or money provides a sense of safety, security and relief of anxiety,” he said.

READ MORE: How to tell if a side hustle is worth the hassle

Compulsive buying is categorized as “overspending on steroids.” Klontz said people who suffer from this often learned as a child that the ritual of shopping can provide “temporary escape” from worry and anxiety.

Financial infidelity it when you make purchases “outside an agreed-upon budget” with your partner, or lying to your partner about “the cost of a big-ticket item.”

Finally, financial enabling is when you want to give money to others “whether you can afford it or not.”

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How to recognize the symptoms

The first sign that you may be spending money in self-destructive way is that the people around you voice concern.

“Multiple people in your life saying, ‘you know, I think you’re spending too much money on something,’” Vaughan said.

They’re also likely to urge you to rein in the spending, or see a financial advisor.

Why women should be more open about finances

Why women should be more open about finances

However, the problem with money-related issues is that family and friends may be less inclined to voice concern because it’s considered rude or too personal.

“Money is such a weird thing,” Vaughan said.

“It’s not uncommon for people to not be told by somebody other than their family or their spouse, because people feel it’s none of their business.”

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READ MORE: What’s the best way to generate cash from your investments in retirement?

Another sign is that you’re not actually happy about the things you’re buying.

“You realize that, when I’m doing it, I don’t feel in control,” Vaughan said.

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“I’m just buying things that afterwards, when I leave the store, I ask myself, ‘why did I buy it? I don’t even like it.’”

How to unlearn poor spending patterns

The good news is that with the help of a therapist and a financial expert, “everyone can change their money mindset,” Tracey Bissett said. She’s the president of Bissett Financial Fitness.

The first step is to “get an assessment of reality,” she said. This will likely come from those people around you who express concern about your spending habits.

“Don’t discount what they’re saying, especially if you hear the same thing from a few people.”

Stop stressing about your living costs

Stop stressing about your living costs

Once you’ve come to terms with the problem at hand, you will need to “develop a plan, which may include working with a financial coach and/or a psychologist,” said Bissett.

“When I work with people, we focus on their values and goals so that we can create a plan that aligns with what they want their life to be like. Everyone should be focused on what specifically is important to them.”

To shift your perspective away from spending, Bissett recommends focusing on gratitude.

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READ MORE: How quickly should you pay off your student loans? Two money experts share their stories

“This is a proven technique to change your money mindset,” she said. “By appreciating that you woke up in the morning, were healthy enough to get out of bed, have clothes, shelter and food and so on, you start thinking about things as possible and that your life is filled with goodness.”

The last step is to set the plan in motion, and not to worry too much if mistakes are made along the way.

“Recognize the positive changes you’ve made in your life and get yourself back on track without beating yourself up,” Bissett said.

“Be kind to yourself … you will make missteps.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Vast majority of workers with mental health issues keep it secret from their boss: study – National

by BBG Hub

The majority of adults dealing with mental health issues do not tell people at work, a recent study has found.

According to a survey conducted by Ipsos Mori, 82 per cent of people with a diagnosed mental health issue said they do not tell management or co-workers, citing concern it would have a negative impact on their job.

The study, conducted on behalf of telemedicine company Teladoc Health, also found that more than one in four employees believed it was inappropriate to even talk about mental health in the workplace.

READ MORE: Canadian campuses desperately need better mental health services

The main reasons respondents said they did not talk about their mental health were because they feared the information would have a negative impact on their job (55 per cent), they were embarrassed (21 per cent), they worried that others’ professional opinion of them would be tarnished (21 per cent), and they believed their capability at work would be questioned (18 per cent).

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Forty per cent of employees also said stigma about “poor mental health” still exists in their workplace.

Ipsos surveyed 3,974 participants online across the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia. All participants were between the ages of 18 and 65 and have full-time or part-time jobs.

Out of all the respondents, 27 per cent reported being diagnosed with a mental health condition, yet more than 25 per cent “experiencing multiple mental health episodes” do not seek help.

How to help take care of your mental health while in school

How to help take care of your mental health while in school

This data reflects other research on the topic, and the stigma that many people still believe is associated with mental health.

Recent research by the Movember Foundation found that men still struggle to talk about mental health — especially in the workplace.

Twenty-eight per cent of Canadian men surveyed said they believed their job could be at risk if they discuss mental health issues at work, and more than 33 per cent of men worry they could be overlooked for a promotion if they mention a problem.

More than four in 10 men also said they are worried about colleagues making negative comments behind their backs.

READ MORE: ‘It feels like failure’: Why Canadian workplaces should offer stress leave

According to Dr. Ashley Bender, an occupational psychiatrist and professor at the University of Toronto, silence on mental health in the workplace is often seen as “the safe route.”

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“Anything that is a potential threat to the loss of work or… their work status is something that could contribute to [someone] not coming forward with mental health issues,” Bender previously told Global News.

To combat this, Bender says workplaces need to do a better job at creating safe environments and ending stigma.

“One of the ways is to launch anti-stigma campaigns… to impart knowledge and change attitudes about mental health,” he said.

“This is really quite impactful, but it’s work that has to be done continuously.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘Instagram therapy’ is on the rise, but experts say it could be harmful – National

by BBG Hub

Caroline was in an abusive marriage for 27 years.

The 50-year-old got divorced about six years ago, but as a result of the abuse, Caroline, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, was left with severe depression. The diagnosis affected her diet, weight and sleep, and she has been hospitalized three times.

“He spent a large part of our marriage gaslighting me,” she told Global News. “I had often been suspicious of his behaviour, but he always had a good, convincing explanation — which I’d fall for. It’s only with hindsight that I realize to what extent he’d lied and cheated on me.

“I lost a lot of weight and hope.”

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Watch: Selfie dysmorphia, explained

In the time since she and her husband divorced, Caroline has focused on getting better. She’s tried both in-person and video therapy but prefers the latter because she can do it in the comfort of her own home.

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READ MORE: Instagram wants to hide ‘likes.’ Here’s what influencers think about that

As part of her recovery process, Caroline started using Twitter as a way to raise awareness around abusive relationships. In the process, she stumbled upon a large community of men and women with similar experiences.

“I post daily … I prepare my own graphics and choose a quote that speaks to me on that day,” she said. “We support each other through comments and sometimes via [direct message].”

“We know each others’ stories, we provide helpful advice and feedback and we generally just root for each other on our healing journeys.”

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In Caroline’s experience, Twitter has proven to be an “amazing” place to share educational information and inspiring quotes with others.

How to join the social media conversation during the federal election

How to join the social media conversation during the federal election

“It has really helped me on my healing journey,” she said.

Like Caroline, many people have found solace in online communities.

While they are typically considered positive interactions, sometimes the discussions between peers are misrepresented as a form of therapy.

It’s a phenomenon happening across all social media platforms, but it’s commonly referred to as “Instagram therapy” — and experts worry it could be doing more harm than good.

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Online support groups aren’t the same as therapy

Online peer-to-peer support groups can be an amazing place to find community.

“The benefits of this are, obviously, hearing that other people are going through a similar struggle,” said Miriam Kirmayer, a therapist in Montreal. “That can be very validating, normalizing and reduce feelings of shame.”

However, Kirmayer emphasizes that support groups are not the same as therapy.

READ MORE: Instagram can be bad for mental health — but this company wants to fix that

“Therapy doesn’t happen over social media, and it shouldn’t,” she said.

“Just because it’s not therapy doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to be helpful or healing.”

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In her experience, Kirmayer has seen folks like Caroline share articles that they’ve read or tips that work for them, ultimately cultivating a warm, accepting environment.

What you need to know about mental health and EMDR therapy

What you need to know about mental health and EMDR therapy

“There’s certainly a space for that,” she said. “But therapy is much more than meaningful quotes … it’s about having a very personal safe space where there’s an element of collaboration [with your therapist].”

It’s important to Kirmayer that a distinction is clearly drawn between therapy and what’s happening online.

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She uses social media to “share information that will help normalize hardships and common struggles people go through,” but what she does in her practice is very different.

READ MORE: Unplugged — Why these people deleted social media and prefer life offline

“We work together to figure out what your individual or unique experience has been as opposed to this kind of collective struggle we’re talking about online,” she said.

Registered psychotherapist Joshua Peters agrees: “You’re receiving advice [online] but you’re not actually contextualizing it to your experience, which is at the core of therapy.

“No one rule is going to make everyone’s life good.”

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Aimée Morrison, social media expert and associate professor at the University of Waterloo, says pseudo-therapy on social media lacks any room for reality or negativity, which can lead to unrealistic expectations for one’s own life.

ParityBOT uses AI to combat abusive tweets to female election candidates

ParityBOT uses AI to combat abusive tweets to female election candidates

“The virtue of the platform [Instagram] doesn’t let you do anything that’s ugly. You can’t be real on Instagram,” she said.

“We know that has negative effects, and it’s getting increasingly more prominent with this generation and how intensely they’re curating things.”

The spread of misinformation

Inspirational meme accounts are a growing trend on social media, and they can be a great tool for finding connection.

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However, Kirmayer is worried that some online spaces advertised as being similar to therapy are actually devoid of any licensed mental health-care professionals.

This can leave such groups more susceptible to the spread of misinformation.

READ MORE: Social media marks new battleground as Canada’s federal election looms

“This is why you see more and more licensed mental health professionals stepping into the online [space],” said Kirmayer.

“There’s this feeling that this is [the] way people are getting and sharing information, and [we need] to make it a space with accurate information.”

A common example is the use of psychological disorders — like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or bipolar disorder — in casual discourse.

“These labels are [often used to mean] something that isn’t exactly what they represent. It can be very stigmatizing,” said Kirmayer. She and other therapists have entered the online space with the goal of educating users about what these labels actually mean — and why they shouldn’t be used lightly.

Emergency room staff caution against taking photos there

Emergency room staff caution against taking photos there

Morrison fears that social media allows for mental illness to be trivialized. She recently learned that some young people are using meme culture as a defence mechanism.

“It’s a way of joking away serious things in this joke forum. There’s something kind of serious underlying that,” Morrison said. “It’s a way of having currency with your peers, where you’re like, ‘I’m so depressed’ with a Kermit meme or [something].

“It’s making light of mental health, which is a serious concern.”

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Calls for more regulation online

Peters says social media is often regarded as the “wild west” by those in his field.

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“It’s an unregulated area of therapy and psychology in general,” Peters said. “One of the major components that’s missing is that many of the regulatory boards [in Canada] haven’t created much guidance on the right end result.

“There are a lot of people out there giving therapeutic advice, [and] they themselves may not actually have the right accreditation.”

Peters worries the general public can’t differentiate between a licensed therapist and someone who is just sharing their thoughts online.

READ MORE: How does using social media affect our mental health?

“People confuse psycho-education with therapy,” he said. “When you’re scrolling through Instagram and there’s some post that gives you advice for living a better life, that’s psycho-educational, not therapeutic.”

This can trick users into thinking they’re receiving professional treatment, and as a result, placing them in danger.

Understanding ABA therapy for children with autism

Understanding ABA therapy for children with autism

“When people connect with those [accounts], they feel less lonely, but nothing actually changes,” he said.

“We want them to actually get to a point where they’re less lonely and they’re actually able to work through some of the stress with [the tools they learn in therapy].”

Peters is a firm believer that most people would benefit from actual therapy.

“Life is hard,” he said. “Human beings have an incredibly complex amount of variables thrown at them these days.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide PreventionDepression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Prince Harry, Ed Sheeran co-star in World Mental Health Day video – National

by BBG Hub

Prince Harry and Ed Sheeran suffered a slight miscommunication in their World Mental Health Day video — but it was all in good fun, of course.

In a video shared to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s Instagram account, Sheeran joins the prince to discuss what he believes to be a pressing issue: their red hair.

“I’ve been trying to write a song about this to get it out to more people,” the singer-songwriter tells the duke. “People just don’t understand what it’s like for people like us — with the jokes and the snide comments. I just feel like it’s time we stood up and said, ‘We are ginger and we are going to fight.’”

READ MORE: Prince Harry to sue more U.K. tabloids over alleged voicemail hacking

This stops Prince Harry, who had invited Sheeran over to discuss World Mental Health Day, in his tracks.

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“Um, OK. This is slightly awkward,” the prince says. “There may have been a miscommunication — this is about World Mental Health Day?”

Sheeran backtracks as the camera pans to a view of his laptop screen. He slowly deletes the words “gingers unite,” with the rest of the page outlining a proposal titled “HRH Prince Harry and the king of ging Ed Sheeran get together to change the perception of people with Moroccan sunset hair.”

London lawyer says Prince Harry, Meghan Markle have ‘credible grounds’ to bring lawsuit against U.K. tabloid

London lawyer says Prince Harry, Meghan Markle have ‘credible grounds’ to bring lawsuit against U.K. tabloid

The duo then switches gears to a more serious note, to bring awareness to the importance of World Mental Health Day. They call on everyone to “reach out” to others who may be “suffering in silence.”

The Instagram post featuring the video tagged a variety of mental health-focused organizations, including Heads Together — an organization in which Prince William and Kate Middleton are also heavily involved — the Mental Health Foundation, YoungMinds U.K. and many more.

“Both Prince Harry and Ed Sheeran want to ensure that not just today but every day, you look after yourself, your friends and those around you,” the post’s caption reads. “Be willing to ask for help when you need it and know that we are all in this together.”

READ MORE: Prince Harry vows to ‘challenge injustice’ day after announcing tabloid lawsuit

The pair first teased the video a day prior, sharing a clip to the duke and duchess’ Instagram account that shows Sheeran ringing Prince Harry’s doorbell and saying: “It’s like looking in the mirror.”

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Princes William and Harry, Middleton and Markle have put mental health awareness at the forefront of many of their philanthropic ventures.

On the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s recent African tour, the couple stopped by various organizations focused on the mental well-being of youth.

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘One size doesn’t fit all’: Canadian campuses desperately need better mental health services – National

by BBG Hub

This is the fourth story in a four-part series about the transition between high school and “the real world” — whether that’s college, university, the workforce or something completely different. Failure To Launch examines the gaps in Canada’s education system. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 here.

When Ellie needed help from a university campus counsellor, she got up extra early so she could get to the office when it opened at 8:30 a.m.

The 24-year-old, whose name has been changed for privacy reasons, is a pharmacy student at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

Ellie struggles with depression and anxiety, and her conditions were getting worse. Her university’s counselling office has limited appointments available for students, and they are on a first come, first served basis.

READ MORE: ‘Failure to Launch kids’ — Canadian students aren’t prepared for adulthood

Because of demand, these drop-in sessions book up quickly — often an hour or two after the office opens. Going in for an appointment meant she would have to skip her morning class.

Missing class made her even more anxious.

Since it was Ellie’s first time at the centre, she needed a triage appointment to determine the urgency of her needs.

“I waited and waited in the office for a couple hours until I finally got to see someone,” Ellie said.

“And then I was told that I had to wait eight weeks for an appointment with a counsellor. This was incredibly devastating.”

Ellie’s depression had worsened, and it took a lot of effort to ask for help. Being told she’d have to wait two months by a triage adviser before a counselling session was incredibly discouraging.

“I had just spent my whole morning telling someone how awful I had been feeling, and all they could tell me was that I had to wait even longer for help,” she said.

“[The triage adviser] gave me brochures for on-campus yoga, a crisis line that was open 24-7, and I was on my way.”

Why it’s so common for mental health issues to develop at school

Post-secondary students across Canada often face the same problem: they need mental health services, but schools don’t have enough resources to meet the demand.

Services are failing to catch up, and in the meantime, students are left in the lurch.

The number of students on college and university campuses with identified mental health conditions “has more than doubled over the past five years,” according to the council group Ontario’s Universities.

More students are anxious and depressed, too, the council found: 65 per cent of those surveyed reported “overwhelming anxiety” in 2016, up from 58 per cent in 2013. When it came to depression, 46 per cent said they were “too depressed to fully function” — a six per cent increase from three years prior.

The majority of people experience their first mental health issue between the ages of 15 and 25, said Tania DaSilva, a child, youth and family therapist at Toronto-based Behaviour Matters. That’s the same age range during which people usually enter or are in post-secondary institutions.

If a student enters post-secondary with an existing mental health condition, support is vital to their academic success, DaSilva said.

“There’s so many things that go into mental health, and for every child or teen, it’s different,” she said.

“They’re transitioning from childhood into adult life, and that’s something that kids struggle with a lot.”

The onset of 75 per cent of mental health disorders happens before 25, according to Ontario’s Universities. These mental health issues include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and suicidal ideation.

READ MORE: Canadian school counsellors are spread thin — and it’s our students that suffer

Then there’s the pressure of post-secondary school itself: multiple looming deadlines, social issues and homesickness, DaSilva said. All of this can affect mental well-being — especially if a student doesn’t have strong coping skills.

For women in particular, sexual assault on campus is another concern. One in five women experiences sexual assault while attending a post-secondary institution, according to a 2015 report by the Canadian Federation of Students.

Sexual violence can have psychological, emotional and physical effects on a survivor, according to the anti-sexual violence organization Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. This can include depression, flashbacks, post-traumatic stress disorder and self-harm. Proper support is needed to help deal with these effects, the organization says.

Not enough campus resources

In September, a student at the University of Toronto (U of T) died by apparent suicide in the school’s main computer science building, the Bahen Centre for Information Technology. (The university did not use the term “suicide” in reference to the student’s death, but the union representing academic workers at U of T has.)

Sadly, the student was not the first to die at Bahen.

At least two other students died by suicide in the same computer science building: one student died in March, while another died in June 2018.

Their suicides prompted a student-led protest in March decrying what they called a mental health crisis. Students cited long waiting lists and limited options for campus mental health services, a situation the university acknowledged needs to be addressed.

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Mental health “services and supports are provided in a number of ways through a number of offices,” a spokesperson for U of T said in a statement to Global News in response to the issue of student suicides.

“We have been consistently putting more resources into this over the past several years and have worked with community partners to provide additional services,” Sandy Welsh, vice-provost of students at U of T, said in the statement.

The university spent an addition $1.3 million on wellness counsellors during the 2017-18 school year, Welsh said. In the 2018-19 academic year, $1.5 million was put towards having accessibility advisers within programs “in response to the growth in students seeking mental health accommodations.”

Why students have a hard time even getting in the door

Ellie’s experience with UBC’s counselling services was frustrating. She says the school’s model does not help students in a timely manner and can even make them feel like they’re being turned away.

“It honestly has a really big effect [on students],” DaSilva said.

“In most school settings you get to see a counsellor, but you’re not seeing them weekly or regularly because there’s just such a high population of people that also need the services.”

“Schools don’t have the capacity to support in the way most of the kids need.”

UBC’s counselling model includes 45-minute drop-in sessions and 15- to 20-minute “wellness advising” appointments.

READ MORE: University isn’t ‘better’ than college. Why does it get all the glory?

The school has other resources on top of counselling appointments, says Cheryl Washburn, director of counselling services at UBC, including workshops, online and telephone support services and peer support groups.

The goal of UBC’s “integrated” care system, Washburn says, is to provide students with services in a timely and effective manner — not discourage them from getting help.

“One of the things that we’ve come to be aware of over time… is that one size doesn’t fit all,” Washburn said.

“Students really do need different types of resources depending on the level of concern, the nature of the concern and also depending upon their specific goals and other circumstances that might impact access to one service or another, as well as their readiness to engage and at what level.”

Last year, UBC provided 28,000 mental health appointments to its Vancouver students, said a spokesperson for the school, including visits with physicians, counsellors, mental health nurses and psychiatrists.

An additional 4,669 appointments were provided through Empower Me, an online and telephone service that connects students with off-campus professionals.

UBC’s Vancouver campus had nearly 55,000 enrolled students in its 2018-19 academic year.

When it comes to stories of students waiting months to see a counsellor, Washburn acknowledges there is still work to do. But she maintains that eight weeks — the time Ellie said she was given — is not typical. Up to three to four weeks is more likely during busy periods, she said.

If a student is told there’s a wait to see a university counsellor, Washburn says they are reminded they have access outside therapists, too. Students have benefits that include a limited amount of money for professional services, she said, which can be used for counselling.

“We have developed a database of practitioners in the community that offer sliding-scale or lower-cost [services],” she said. “Students have the option if they want [that], and sometimes, they prefer that if they can get to see somebody closer to their home.”

But long wait times are only one of the barriers students face.

Part of the reason Sonya Sevadjian, 20, says she left the University of Waterloo was its hard-to-navigate support services. When Sevadjian was a student at the school from 2016 to 2017, she was struggling with the demands of university and needed help.

“My workload and relationships affected my well-being, but what impacted my mental [health] was the school atmosphere,” Sevadjian said.

Illustration: Laura Whelan

“It felt isolating and stressful, even when [it] didn’t need to be. Enrolled in a top university, there is constant pressure to live up to the expectation of what you need to be, what marks you have to reach, and with this constant comparison and competition, it takes a toll.”

Sevadjian said it was challenging to find out what student services Waterloo offered and how to access them. She felt like she was left on her own to figure out the system.

In a statement sent to Global News, a spokesperson for the university said the school has recently revised its services.

“Following an extensive review of student mental health services on campus in 2017-18, we learned that there was more we could do to ensure students were aware of mental health services available to them on campus and how to access them,” said Matthew Grant, the director of media relations at the University of Waterloo.

“The review, which resulted in 36 recommendations overall, resulted in increased services, more training for faculty and staff, and increased communications efforts to students to advise them of the services available and how to access them. Currently, the University of Waterloo has more than 70 professionals — including counsellors, psychiatrists, mental health nurses and intake workers — who can assist students with mental health concerns.”

Sevadjian eventually decided to transfer to Ryerson University in downtown Toronto. She hasn’t used any of Ryerson’s mental health services yet but said the school’s student services are more clearly advertised. This alone makes her feel better about the pressures of being in school.

There were approximately 36,000 students enrolled at Ryerson last year, and the school’s Centre for Student Development and Counselling (CSDC) supported 2,253 of them with on-campus mental health and counselling services, a spokesperson for Ryerson told Global News.

The CSDC currently has 18 counsellors on staff, up from 15 in 2017.

“The wait for ongoing therapy depends on student needs and can be from a few weeks to a few months,” the spokesperson said.

Numbers can also look similar at Canadian colleges. In the last academic year, Humber College — one of the largest community colleges in Ontario — had a total of 4,250 counsellor visits on campus, along with 1,500 mental health nurse visits, according to a spokesperson.

This year, the college is also offering psychiatry services for students.

For Interpreet Gill, a positive experience with campus mental health services benefited her well-being.

Gill went to Queen’s University from 2010 to 2016, and in her third year of her studies, she accessed counselling services. Gill knew Queen’s counselling office sometimes had wait times — which are roughly anywhere from two to six weeks — but was also aware there were emergency mental health services for high-need students.

The psychology student was able to book an appointment with a counsellor fairly quickly.

“The sessions are meant to help students [manage in the short-term], but I felt really comfortable with the counsellor that I had that I didn’t want to go elsewhere,” Gill said.

Nearly 3,000 students accessed counselling services during the last academic year, a spokesperson for the school told Global News — that’s roughly eight per cent of the total full-time student population.

There’s one counsellor or psychologist for every 1,225 students, and one mental health provider, such as a psychiatrist, for every 950 students.

Queen’s acknowledged that wait times for mental health appointments have been a “chronic issue” despite annual increases in resources.

“This is a sector-wide issue,” a spokesperson for the university said.

Still, Gill managed to see her Queen’s campus counsellor once every few months to check in. It was up to Gill, to schedule those appointments, but the sessions did help.

“I couldn’t see her every week just because of the regulations and the policies that they had,” Gill explained, “but I could see her every now and then, which was nice.”

What helps students?

Having a strong support system is vital for students, DaSilva said — especially if they have a recognized mental health condition.

If a student has a therapist they’ve been seeing before going off to college or university, continuing sessions via Skype or FaceTime is a way to help ensure any issues are being addressed, DaSilva said.

There are also ways students can put protective measures in place should they need help. Talking to academic advisers early on about accommodations can be useful, as can orienting yourself with a school’s mental health services off the bat, she said.

It’s also important for students to be aware of what mental health issues look like so they can get help as soon as they start struggling. This means recognizing the warning signs of conditions, including anxiety and depression, and knowing the importance of talking to someone right away.

Lastly, if campus wait times are simply too long, DaSilva suggests seeing if parents’ insurance plans cover therapy. Some plans, she says, cover kids until they are 25, meaning a student can use those benefits to see an off-campus therapist.

Ultimately, Ellie says, university mental health services just need to improve — UBC’s in particular. Students need to be able to access help when they need it. Posing barriers to access can leave students in dangerous situations, she said.

Ellie’s ability to function at school was hindered by her mental health issues. As her anxiety went untreated, her problems worsened.

She says she struggled to keep up with school because her mood was so low and she eventually started skipping classes. Sitting in a large lecture hall surrounded by hundreds of students was incredibly hard.

“I think anybody who has the courage to go out and ask for help should get help,” she said.

“I don’t think we know enough about mental health to have a risk assessment and try to decide if people should get help or not. We need to start treating it like any other disease.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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