Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

Today wraps up Mental Health Awareness Week and it’s interesting that even though it was trending on Twitter on Monday, throughout the week, the messages, tips and stories of hope seemed to slow down as each day went by.

That’s the thing with discussions, not just on mental health but so many important topics.  They peak, then slide and hopefully, peak again.  And that’s OK.  Life happens.  The car breaks down. Work piles up. Kids get sick.  You plan to post social media something, but life just gets in the way. 

Today, I like it when life gets in the way.  I’m OK with it.  The good, the bad and the ugly: regardless of the feels it creates within, I’m grateful that I still have the privilege to feel.  Now, don’t get me wrong as I’ll take warm and fuzzy over other kind of feelings, yet they all remind me that I’m alive.  And that’s where the gratitude comes from. 

There have been periods of my life where I wasn’t sure; and in fact, never assumed I would be alive this long.  When I was younger there were several times where I survived crisis’s even if at the time, I wasn’t sure I wanted to.  I was surrounded by love and support.  When I was ready, I needed to say enough is enough.  I wanted a different path. 

Being dually diagnosed with mental illnesses has meant that different path had me needing to learn to live my life with them in tow.  They won’t go away.  They’re here as long as I am.  Yet I can treat them.  And I do the very best way I can.  Ceremony.  Supports.  Groups.  Counseling.  Journaling. Sharing. These are just some of them – because like anyone with a disease that can’t be ‘cured’ I needed to learn to not just cope with it – but live with it.  That’s how I got to where I am today.

Not alone. Not by being tough.  Not even by being brave, (well, maybe a little brave here and there). Really it was about being loved, supported and being sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I needed to stand up and save myself, with my people surrounding me.  In 2008 the road I walked on turned red…where I really began to work on how I wanted to live my life: clean and sober, rooted in values and the teachings from our grandparents and ancestors.  Not every day is easy – but every day is easier than it was before.  Again, have I mentioned gratitude?

So even though we didn’t tweet as much as we wanted here at the Three Things office we talked about mental health.  We shared and we wrote.  Below are some ideas and tips from Saimaniq and Jeff and I hope you find them helpful.  Because even as this week comes to an end the conversations don’t need to.  Let’s keep talking – more than one day, one week and one month.  Because talking heals. 

And you’re worth healing.

I should mention that we’re not doctors.  These tips and ideas are just that.  Take them for what they are: things that work for us.  If you are in crisis right now and think you might hurt yourself or others: call 911 or other emergency number in your community.  Talk to someone you trust and ask – even beg for help.  Again, you’re worth it.

If you are under 18 and need help now – call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.  If you just want to learn more – visit their website as well – they have great supports in place. 

If you are First Nations or Inuit call Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 which gives free national telephone crisis intervention and counselling support toll-free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Anyone can visit https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/ where you can find a support resource near you on the online map. 

Do something.  Because you matter. 

So big news – Saimaniq is back for the summer after finishing his second year of college.  Here are his thoughts on mental health and self-care.  We’ve known Saimaniq since he was 17 and it’s been wonderful to watch him to learn how to take care of himself.  He knows what he needs and what triggers exist in the world for him.  It doesn’t mean, like any of us, that life is always easy and perfect – but he practices self-care to ensure that he lives his life in the best way he can.  His own lived experiences make him a valuable part of our team and his suggestions, as you’ll see can be very helpful for all of us. 

Mental health… it can be a tricky thing sometimes to make sure that it is doing well, especially in a world where many social interactions are on a screen rather than in person.

Having good mental health can be hard to maintain and for some, it can be harder to work on than their physical health, because they don’t think of it an equal priority.   This is lie that will tell ourselves because if we are not taking care of our mental health, it can be difficult for us take care of ourselves physical and emotionally.

I try my best to take care of myself through different self-care techniques I learned worked best for me over the last few years.  For me, these include:

  • making time to be in nature
  • talking about my thoughts/feelings to some someone I trust
  • staying active whenever I can

These strategies had helped me during my struggles to try and maintain good mental health throughout my time at school and in work, and they help me on my every day basis to make sure I stay healthy.

Self-care isn’t a one and done kind of thing, you really have to work on it consistently and continually. Doing somethings once isn’t a strategy. After having a rough day at work, in school, or just in life, you have to be constantly working on your self-care to help keep you grounded and mentally healthy. You can’t work to repair something that is constantly being used and needs ongoing work with just some major fixes here and there… you need the regular maintenance and need to work on the things in the long run.

Taking time to spend in nature is something I don’t practice as often as I’d like but is very beneficial for me. Being born and living in an isolated community in Nunavut, I had access to the great outdoors easily and had enjoyed my connection with nature ever since a young age. Being on the land is so crucial for me and Indigenous people because it is where we belong and how we had survived for generations upon generations, and reconnecting to the land is important for me to ground myself and let me enjoy the beauty in the world instead of being on technology all the time.

Speaking out to friends or family can really help people remain mentally healthy, because you never know if someone you know and care for has gone through something similar and had gotten through it relatively well.

These people can help share their own tips and strategies or just be there to let you share with them if you are comfortable enough. It’s important to have someone there to let out your emotions about something bothering you. Don’t underestimate the help it can provide by just sharing with someone how you are doing in the moment.

I do my best to try and stay active on a regular basis because throughout my life I had always been physically active whether that be through sports or training at a gym, but I know for myself, I need that physical activity. Having a regular routine and being active allows me (and you) to be physically healthy which can help maintain good mental health as well. It certainly helped me through my anxieties and tough times in my later adolescence, by allowing me to have an outlet to clear my mind and focus on the workout at hand, rather than have my thoughts scrambling about a bunch of ‘what if’ scenarios that were fogging up my thoughts.

Maintaining good mental health is definitely not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal, you really gotta look into yourself and learn what you need to do to be healthy, whether that’s taking a hot bath with a bath bomb or having a nice tea while watching your favourite sitcom. 

Taking care of YOUR mental health should be one of the highest priorities every person should have. If you can take of care yourself and your mental health, you might find that you can help those close to you with theirs, while having a more positive and enjoyable life. 

Saimaniq T.

Jeff in our office bravely shares some of his experiences and what has helped him in his journey.  Like so many others he has had to learn how to take care of himself – allowing him to support and help others along the way.  His thoughts below reinforce the idea that talking matters – and finding that person to share with is important.  Watching Jeff develop these skills has been a wonderful opportunity for us; allowing us to be reminded that the work we put into ourselves pays off. 

What positive mental health looks like to me, is being able to get through my day without thinking negatively about myself or the entire world around me. That sounds simple to some people, but to others who struggle with depression, anxiety or anger issues, it is a very real struggle.

I have spent most of my life with depression, feeling like nothing was good, including me. It took me a long time to figure out that it wasn’t true and overcome the challenges created by my poor mental health. I often thought I could not be happy, smile, or enjoy being around people. When I began my journey to healing, it changed my life drastically.

About a two years ago I experienced one of the lowest points of my life. I went through a time where I I felt like I hated everything and everyone, for no reason. I spent all of my time alone watching Netflix. When I got to this point I was fortunate enough to have someone in my life that was very knowledgeable in this area and had experience with similar feelings and situations, and they were able to help me realize I needed to help myself.

When I finally got to the point where I could admit I was in a bad place, I found ways to improve my mental well-being. I started to write about things I have been through, things I have done that were because of my mental health, and how hard relationships are with anger issues and depression. Through my writing and talking to someone I could trust, I found out how to express my feelings and work through the problems I was having.

Self-care is a very difficult thing to practice, but it is the most important thing for all of us to care for our mental health. When I started to take care of myself I realized that there is so much more to life. It was very hard at first to figure out what self-care is, and learned it is different for everyone. To me, one way of self-care was talking. Having someone to talk to that you can trust, and who loves you and is not afraid to tell you the truth is huge! When I started to write out what I was feeling or thinking, I was able to read over it and think a little differently and realize that some of these things are not real. When you are going through depression, a lot of things seem so much worse than they are.

Now that I have found the tools to work on my mental health, I am able to do things I want to do instead of sitting at home doing nothing. I can now talk to people without judging them or assuming that they won’t like me. Don’t get me wrong, self-care and improving mental health is a lifelong process and there will always be days that are worse than others, but now I can look at those days and the situation that I am in and have a different mindset.

It is pretty amazing how much you can change when you find the one thing that helps you express your feelings. Expressing my feelings was one of my biggest challenges, and now I am getting better at it which allows me to experience things in a more positive way. For some people that may be:

  • going to the gym to work out
  • singing, dancing or other interests
  • reading
  • physical activity such as boxing or another sport

Whatever it is for you that helps you overcome your barriers, find it and let it change your life.

Do not be ashamed to admit you are going through a hard time and you are struggling to handle it. The stigma around depression makes it very hard for people to allow themselves to get the help they need and deserve. Everyone has difficulties, some of us just don’t know the ways to deal with them as well as others and that is not a bad thing! Let people who care about you, help you, and most importantly take care of yourself. You are the most important thing in your life, and when you take care of yourself, it allows you to support others in your life. 

Be kind to yourself and others.  Positivity is contagious and as you get healthier pay it forward.

Jeff G.

Just ideas.  That’s all these are.  Things that have worked for us and maybe can help you along your path. 

  • Get out into nature: on the land or in the water. Touch it, feel it and connect with it. Nature heals.
  • Get physical: walk, run, workout, take a fitness class – anything to get yourself going. When we take care of one part of our well-being, it often can spill over to the other areas.
  • Talk to a healer: Whether their approach is traditional, medical or psychological – get talking. Having a professional to help process experiences, emotions and your mental well-being is very helpful for many.
  • Talk to friends and family: it’s OK to not be OK! It’s easier to accept that when you reach out and let your people know. Building on your relationships will help strengthen your circle of support!
  • Write it down – journal and share, even with yourself, your thoughts, ideas and feelings. For many writing can help flush out what we are experiencing.
  • Read about it: there are great books that can help us learn about the challenges we might face: including stories of those who have overcome the challenge. Be inspired.
  • Find the things in the world, the big and little, to be grateful for. Someday it might be as simple as having had a shower. And that’s OK. Celebrate and say a quiet thank you for those moments that you rock. For some, writing an ongoing gratitude list can be helpful to look back on when you’re having a harder day.
  • Love yourself. Just the way you are in the moment. Because, you are lovable.
  • Make me time a priority. Take time to relax, reflect and soothe your spirit and soul.

A few final thoughts we have start with hoping you know, you’re not alone.  Not for a second.  You have champions – even if you don’t know it, or have forgotten. You have great value. Your scars are reminders that your human and that you can in fact heal. With each sunrise you get another chance to change your world. And you’re worth each chance. Lastly, #the3Things, don’t forget them: You matter.  You are important.  You belong. 

Much love to you all.  May peace find its way. 

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