250.718.9291
16
Sep

You Just Might Save A Life

September – Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month

Suicide and suicide ideation can be a difficult topic to discuss. It can conjure powerful and scary images as well as bring up strong emotions like grief and hopelessness. As a result, so much can go unsaid by those who want to help and those who are in need of help.    

With over 10 Canadians dying every day to suicide [1], it is so important to bring awareness to this topic. Particularly when COVID-19 has been challenging our mental wellness over the past few months in so many ways. It appears suicidal thoughts and ideation are no exception and are reportedly on the rise for many Canadians [2].

In this article I want to go over ways to talk about suicide and signs that someone may be at risk for suicide. As well as providing some pointers on what could be said if someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts. But before I delve deeper into this topic, I suggest you take a moment to check in with yourself. This can be a difficult and potentially triggering topic for many readers, and I hope you seek out the care you need at this time. Make a tea, walk outside, connect with a loved one or scroll down to one of the resources at the end of the article if you feel you require some support.

The Language of Suicide

To begin, I want to talk about recent changes to the language around suicidality. A few years ago it came to my attention that the term “committed suicide” is an outdated way of talking about ending one’s life. Reason being, this phrase stems from the criminal justice system during a time when it used to be illegal to end one’s life [3]. Although few may know of the history of the phrase, it still carries a stigmatizing effect and may deter those who want to seek help but don’t feel they can. Instead, the phrase “died by suicide” is now being used. Additionally, other terms to update include using the phrase “non-fatal suicide attempt” or “suicide attempt” instead of the terms “failed suicide attempt” and “completed/successful suicide attempt” [4].

It may seem like a small change to some, but those in the bereavement and suicide prevention community believe these small changes may help encourage dialogue for those who need help. Its their hope these efforts can allow space for individuals to talk about their struggles openly without the fear of being judged. Although you may find yourself wanting to initiate a conversation, but are unsure if what you are seeing is cause for concern or just someone having an ‘off’ day. Below are some signs that could indicate someone is at risk.

Signs That Someone May Be At Risk Of Suicide.

There is no one path that leads someone to end their life. A variety of factors can come together to impact someone’s mental health and cause them to feel suicidal. Even so, you may have a ‘gut’ feeling that something is not right. The Canadian Mental Health Association has put together the acronym IS PATH WARM as a guide to help you determine if someone could be at risk of suicide [5]:

  • I Ideation: thinking about suicide
  • S Substance use: demonstrating problems with drugs and/or alcohol
  • P Purposelessness: feeling like there is no purpose in life or reason for living
  • A Anxiety: feeling intense anxiety or feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
  • Trapped: feeling trapped or feeling like there is no way out of a situation
  • H Hopelessness or Helplessness: feeling no hope for the future, feeling like things will never get better
  • W Withdrawal: avoiding family, friends, or activities
  • A Anger: feeling unreasonable anger
  • R Recklessness: engaging in risky or harmful activities normally avoided
  • M Mood change: a significant change in mood

Please note that these are not all the signs that someone is at risk, but they may be some indicators that something is wrong. If you are unsure, asking the individual with care and concern if they are suicidal can be one of the most helpful things you can do to assist them.

Is It Okay To Ask If Someone Is Feeling Suicidal?

Some folks may fear that asking someone if they are having suicidal thoughts will make a person feel more suicidal. This is not the case. Crisis Services Canada [6] explains if someone approaches this topic with care and respect then asking someone if they are experiencing thoughts of suicide can have a potentially life-saving and preventative effect. You are letting the person know they are not alone, and in most cases, the person is relieved to know someone is listening to them.

But I hear you, having this conversation can be extremely challenging. As a former Crisis Line Worker, I found my heart racing whenever I felt it was necessary to ask THE question, “are you feeling suicidal?”. The fear was always around, “what if they are? What do I do?”. And what gave me the courage to ask the question was knowing I would rather be informed about what their level of safety was so I knew what direction to take the conversation, then being too afraid to ask and unsure about their situation.

What If Someone Says They Are Feeling Suicidal?

If you ask someone whether they are feeling suicidal and they answer yes, take a deep breath to ground yourself.  Sometimes the person may want to vent and it may not require more serious action outside of listening without judgement. However, if you sense they may be in imminent danger, some action you may take could involve the following [7]:

  • Connect them with crisis services or supports right away. Call 911 in the event of an emergency.
  • Ask them if they have a plan.
    • If they answer yes- are you able to ask them to remove any obvious means of suicide from their immediate location (e.g. drugs, weapons, rope).
    • If they answer no- the concern may not be as serious, but listen carefully in case there are other signs of concern (Remember: IS PATH WARM).
  • Do not do anything that puts yourself at risk, but if possible try not to leave them alone until help is on the way. If you are on the phone, ask if you can stay on the line or check in at a specified time later if they need to keep the line open for emergency services to contact them.
  • Let them know you care for them.

Most importantly, there is no one way of talking to someone in this state, nor is there a perfect combination of words that is going to work every time to defuse a situation. It will rely largely on your instincts. But people connect with emotion, so in addition to the above action steps, conveying empathy, care, and concern through your tone and body language can work wonders.

At the end of the day this article is to help you feel more informed and aware about what options are available when you are talking to someone about suicide. If you feel like you are struggling, or know someone who is please seek out one of the resources I’ve listed here.

Resources

BC Bereavement Helpline: 604-738-9950, toll free at 1-877-779-2223 (M-F, 9am-5pm)

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1.833.456.4566 (available 24/7/365)- calling and texting available.

Crisis Line Association of BC:  1800SUICIDE (24 hours): 1-800-784-2433; Mental Health Support (24 hours): 310-6789

Crisis Line Options by Region in BC

  • https://www.crisislines.bc.ca/mapcrisis-lines

CTC Telecare Crisis & Caring Line (Providing Christian Crisis Intervention, Listening & Referrals)

  • Toll Free: 1-888-852-9099
  • Crisis Line: (604) 852-9099

Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1-855-242-3310

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (24/7) or Text 686868

KUU-US Aboriginal Crisis Line

  • Toll Free (24 hours): 1-800-588-8717
  • Adult/Elders Crisis Line (24 hours): (250) 723-4050
  • Child/Youth Crisis Line (24 hours): (250) 723-2040

S.U.C.C.E.S.S Chinese Help Lines

  • Cantonese Crisis Line (10am-10pm): (604) 270-8233
  • Mandarin Crisis Line (10am-10pm): (604) 270-8222

Trans Lifeline: 1-877-330-6366

Youthspace.ca (online crisis and emotional support chat)

Sources

[1] https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/suicide-prevention/suicide-canada.html#a2

[2],  https://cmha.ca/news/warning-signs-more-canadians-thinking-about-suicide-during-pandemic

[3] https://www.beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/in-focus/why-you-shouldn-t-say-committed-suicide

[4] https://www.suicideinfo.ca/resource/suicideandlanguage/

[5] https://cmha.bc.ca/suicide-what-to-look-for/

[6] https://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/en/faq/

[7] https://cmha.bc.ca/suicide-how-to-ask/

Image Source: Loneliness. Carrot Health, Sept 11, 2020, https://carrothealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Loneliness-scaled.jpg (this could go directly under

Written by: Melissa Campos, RSW

Email:

6
Apr

When is Too Much Togetherness Too Much ?


A blog addressing intimate partner violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

*While the behaviours and the impact may be the same for same sex relationships, I am using the language of a heterosexual relationship.

We know from research that isolation is a tactic that men, who abuse, use to gain more power and control over their partner.  Though not all men who are abusive try to isolate their partner, many do.  While we have come a long way from the Elizabethan era, some men still think they ‘OWN’ their wife.  This belief leads men to believe that their wife should not need anyone else in their life except them.  They feed their ego by exerting the assumption that their way is the only way, and anything else is wrong.  They tell you they are the only one that has your best interest at heart – no one cares for you the way they do.  They need to keep ‘their woman’ totally dependent on them.  Any form of outside support, encouragement, accolades is a threat to the man who is abusive. 

The current Coronavirus Pandemic, that the world is facing right now, also has side effects.  When the forced isolation falls into the hands of a man who uses this tactic, it is an ideal breeding ground for more abuse to flourish.  While the advisable isolation is necessary at this time for our physical health, for some, it can be a danger to their health. 

Now what do you do?  You are stuck in the house all day and all night with someone who is trying to control and manipulate you.  You may begin to think that you are safer outside in a pandemic than you are in your own home.  There are safety measures you can take to try to contradict the messages you are experiencing from your abuser.  Social media – listen to therapeutic podcasts; Face Time; even old fashioned phone conversations with friends.  Of course, there are the obvious ones which really do work, like deep breathing; relaxation techniques; yoga; bubble baths; going for a walk outside even if it’s just going around and around your own home.  The crisis line is there – you don’t need to be in a life and death situation to call them, they are there to talk about whatever you need (1-888-353-2273).  You can’t go wrong with journaling (just have a safe place to keep it).  Remember to keep up the positive self-talk.  Listening to your favourite music works as well.  If it is safe to do so, call a counsellor – many have adapted their sessions to phone or video sessions. 

Of course not all these ideas will work if your abuser is active and escalating in his abuse.  You may need to be more creative and put in a bit of preparation towards a safety plan.  For instance, it may be necessary to have a code word or text to a trusted friend that knows when it is time to call and distract you or call 9-1-1 for help.  You could also check out Robin McGraw’s Aspire News App.

Essentially, you need to nurture yourself through this struggling time and reach out safely when you can.  It is obvious to me that you are a very strong person to have survived an abusive relationship this long.  A sign of strength is knowing when to reach out for help and acting upon it.  Stay safe.

Kelowna Women’s Shelter 24/7 counselling support ~ 250-763-1040

Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society ~ 250-763-4613 M-F

Connect Counselling ~ 250-860-3181 M-F

Written by: Dolores, Gooliaff, Registered Social Worker.

Email:

Tel: 250 718 9291

24
Mar

Managing your Mental Health and Overall Wellbeing During the COVID 19 Pandemic

With increased uncertainty, loss of control, and growing concerns that are prevalent in all areas of our lives from social media, conversations with others, email, and media it’s almost inevitable to not feel some form of anxiety and fear. Schools and businesses are closing; our lives are changing day-by-day, minute-by-minute with no certainty in what the future holds. It is understandable that with this uncertainty comes a lot of emotional distress, as a pandemic is something that I am sure none of us were expecting or prepared for. As a Registered Nurse (RN) working in the hospital, I can tell you that I too feel this anxiety due to the fear of the unknown. Even when we try to remain calm and positive, it can be difficult at times with all of the information that is coming our way and seeing others panic around us. For those of us that already struggle with our mental wellness, it is highly likely that this fear and social distancing may exacerbate conditions such as depression, bipolar disorders, and anxiety disorders. Both your mental and physical wellbeing is important, not only for yourself but also your loved ones. I can reassure you that you are not alone during this difficult time. With that being said, what can we do in order to manage our anxiety and stress during this pandemic?

Tips/Strategies

Develop a Routine

As many of you have already come to know, the pandemic has caused a tremendous disruption to our daily routine and life in general. I encourage you to develop a healthy routine, all while adhering to the social distancing measures that have been put into place. Set an alarm like you would any other day, shower, and get dressed for the day. Staying in bed or staying in your pyjamas the entire day can lead to a vicious cycle of low mood and low motivation. Go to bed at a reasonable time every night and avoid taking naps throughout the day. This is a time when you may need to get creative. Schedule a daily time to connect with your friends or family or both via video platforms, text messaging or a phone call. Find proactive activities that you find enjoyable or start a project such as scrapbooking, painting, gardening, etc.

Find Balance

While it is important to stay informed it is just as important to remind yourself to take a breather and limit the amount of time you are spending watching the news, checking social media, etc. Balance during this time is crucial. I hear you; it is difficult not to be constantly checking for new updates, as things are changing at a rapid rate. However, while staying informed is helpful, a large amount of information can lead to further anxiety and stress. For example, set a time during the day for a specific amount of hours to unplug or disconnect your electronics devices and replace them with a healthy activity such as going for a walk or working on a puzzle at home.

Use Credible Sources for Factual Information

There is information coming from various sources and people sharing posts to their social media pages from sites that we have never even heard of. With much of this information being inaccurate and not factual, it makes sense that this false news will increase our fears and anxiety. Here are a few credible sources that you can follow for updates:

            -The World Health Organization (WHO)

            -Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

            -Public Health Agency

Healthy Eating and Exercise

I cannot emphasize the importance of healthy eating habits and creating an exercise routine. With all the stress and panic, our health and nutrition is likely to be placed on the backburner. With local gyms, pools, and activity centers being closed I ask from you once again, to get creative! Get outside if it is possible. This can mean going for a walk, a hike, or a bike ride. If you are unable to get outside, there are some local businesses that are offering online workouts, or there is the option to use online search engines to find free videos. Avoid comfort foods and large amounts of alcohol. While alcohol may seem like a good option in the moment it can negatively affect your body’s immune response and also increase anxiety and depression.

Seek Support and Maintain Social Connection

It is very important to maintain connections with those closest to us, ensuring that we do not emotionally isolate ourselves. As mentioned above, many platforms exist in order to remain in contact with others. You may not realize it but when we make contact with others it not only benefits us but can also benefit the helper. If you are struggling with your mental health I want you to know that it is ok to reach out for professional support. Seek out what resources are still available in your community. While many places have closed their offices, many places such as doctors’ offices and counselling services are still providing online and telephone services.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment and bringing awareness and focus to our thoughts. With all the “what-ifs” it is easy to get stuck in a pattern of negative thinking and ruminating, which in turn results in overwhelming emotions. Challenging these negative thoughts and exploring the evidence for the thoughts will allow you to manage the situation from a more positive perspective.

Sleep Hygiene

Remember that your bed is a place of sleep and relaxation and only that. Do not use the bed for watching TV or checking your social media as it may lead to anxiety and overwhelming thoughts, resulting in difficulty falling asleep or a disrupted sleep pattern. Establish a calming nightly sleep routine such as having a bath before bed, deep breathing, meditation, or listening to calm music.

Gratitude

Research has shown that stress and feeling overwhelmed causes our nervous system to go into overdrive and leads to our body being flooded with stress hormones, which can eventually lead to both physical and mental health problems. Positive feelings associated with gratitude trigger our parasympathetic nervous system, which allow us to feel calm. Just the other day I took my dog for a hike and found a large rock to sit on overlooking the lake. The sun was shining down on my face and I thought to myself, I am so grateful for the warmth I feel on my face, the air that I am breathing, and feeling of the wind as it lightly blew against my skin. I can remember this very moment as I sit here writing this blog as I truly allowed myself to be in the present moment. Remember to be grateful for “the little things” that we so often forget or lose sight of. An option may be to start a daily gratitude journal!

It is during difficult times that we need to be reminded to practice self-care. I encourage you to identify and post a list of coping strategies in a place that you access everyday/many times a day to refer to when you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

Stay safe and remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Written By: Rubina Gill, Registered Nurse (RN), MACP Candidate

I will be offering low cost online and telephone services to support you through these difficult times (sliding scale available). To book an appointment you can email me at , by calling (250) 718-9291, or online at okclinical.com

21
Feb

Overcoming Our Inner Critic

You may be familiar with the saying, “Actions speak louder than words;” But how often have you heard someone say, “Words speak louder than actions?” It is no surprise that words are powerful. Words can impact all areas of your life including your relationships, career, and overall well-being. Now don’t get me wrong, words can be positive and have the ability to make us feel empowered and boost our confidence. However, they can also cause us grief, sadness, and frustration.

Lets take a minute to think about a time in your life when someone made a promise and did not follow through, or, how about a time when someone you deeply cared about made a negative comment towards you? How did that make you feel?

Why is it that we become upset when others speak poorly of us or criticize us, yet we are our own biggest critics? How is it that we allow that voice in our heads to belittle us, judge us, and tell us that we are not good enough?

It is estimated that humans have approximately 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts per day, with a majority of them being negative. Negative self-talk can prevent us from achieving our goals and has been linked to depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety.

I can admit that my internal dialogue has dragged me down on numerous occasions. The unfortunate part is that often time’s people do not realize that they are even having these thoughts. Negative self-talk is not only our conscious thoughts but also includes unconscious beliefs and biases. Our actions are inspired by our thoughts, and if we can begin to make changes to the way we think, we can begin to change the actions we take.

Some common forms of negative self-talk include:

Mind reading: A distorted thought pattern in which an individual assumes that they know what others are thinking and feeling. People with this type of thinking tend to jump to conclusions.

Example: You are sitting in class and see two of your classmates whispering to one another. You instantly assume that they are gossiping about you. 

Polarizing: Also known as “black or white” thinking. These individuals have an all or nothing mindset and tend to see things in extremes.

Example: “I am always wrong.” “I can never do anything right.”

Personalizing: These people tend to automatically blame themselves for something that may not even be in their control.

Example: Your partner is in a bad mood. You believe that it is your fault that they are unhappy because of something you may have said.

Filtering: Filtering refers to a tendency to disregard the positive aspects of a situation and exclusively focus on the negative details of the situation.

Example: You complete a presentation for your class and receive positive remarks from 90% of the class, while the remaining 10% provide suggestions for improvement. Rather than focusing on the 90%, you perseverate on the 10% and convince yourself that are not smart and will never succeed.

Here are a few suggestions that can help break the cycle of negative self talk for a healthier and happier you.

  1. Positive affirmations: Replace a negative thought with a positive affirmation! This can be anything from writing a positive word or phrase such as “I am beautiful” or “I trust myself” on a cue card or maybe even writing on a sticky note and placing it on your bathroom mirror. 
  2. Challenge your negative thoughts: When you catch yourself having a negative thought, recognize that you are having the thought and say “STOP1” in your head or maybe even out loud, if appropriate. Challenge the thought by asking yourself “what evidence do I have that this thought is true?” Follow by replacing the negative thought with a positive one.
  3. Keep a thought record: A thought record is great for monitoring your thoughts throughout the day and allows you to reflect on these thoughts. Thought records commonly include: the situation that has caused the thought, the emotions/mood related to the situation, negative thoughts experienced from the situation, and evidence that supports the thought and evidence that does not support the thought.

Written By: Rubina Gill, MACP Candidate

20
Jan

Journey to Wellness: Self

What are you thinking about at this very moment? Maybe the loads of laundry that you have to get done by this evening, or maybe you’re thinking about how you should probably start prepping dinner for tonight, or how about the errands that you need to complete, oh and then there’s also the vacuuming that needs to get done. Did self-care come to mind?

I’m sure you have heard of the term ‘self-care’ more than you would like. It’s all over the Internet, social media, and magazine articles. But come on, who has time for that, right? Believe me, I totally get it; it’s so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day lives. There’s the kids, school, and of course we have to go to work because those bills aren’t going to pay themselves. It’s no wonder we often put our own health and wellness on the back burner. But when does forgetting to take care of yourself become detrimental?

Sure, stress is a normal response to the pressures and demands of everyday life and as you may be aware, small doses of stress can sometimes be beneficial as it can help motivate us to complete projects or meet certain deadlines. But, what if the level of stress you are experiencing begins to affect both your mental and physical health? We often hear about how stress can lead to a number of health issues including headaches, gastrointestinal issues, anxiety, and insomnia.

Self-care involves taking part in behaviors that assist in the maintenance and promotion of both physical and mental well-being. Throughout the years I have had many people express that they feel “selfish” for taking time out for themselves or the most common response being, “I don’t have time for that.” But here’s the thing, self-care doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. For example, self-care can be two minutes of deep breathing or five minutes of stretching. Self-care doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to book a spa day or go on a vacation because trust me; I know I definitely don’t always have time for that either. A number of benefits can be achieved by taking just a few minutes out of your day for yourself. Benefits include increased energy, mental clarity, and increased self-esteem.

I would like to share a few of my self-care activities that have helped me throughout the years and have lead to a number of positive benefits!

1. Physical exercise:

Physical exercise has been found to decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression; improve quality of sleep, and social interactions. Did you know that exercise improves mood due to an increase in serotonin and endorphins? Or how about the fact that exercise has not only been linked to psychological well-being but has also been found to prevent the suppression of the immune system?

Exercise can include taking 15 minutes out of your day to go for a walk. For others it can mean going for a swim or a hike. Exercise doesn’t mean that you have to spend an hour or two at the gym; it can be something that you enjoy that gets your body moving!

2. Mindfulness:

Mindfulness can be described as a non-judgemental, non-evaluative approach that involves letting go of ones past and future thoughts and focusing awareness on the present moment. Mindfulness is beneficial for a wide range of mental and physical health concerns including stress reduction, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and addiction. Give it a try!

Maybe start by focusing on your breathing by simply focusing on each breath you take. Pay attention to the rising and falling of your chest and the sensation you feel as the air passes in and out of your nostrils. If you find your mind wandering, it’s ok! This is very common. Simply be aware that it is happening and bring your attention back to each breath.

 3. Sleep hygiene:

Sleep hygiene is referred to as habits and behaviors that help improve sleep quality and regularity.  Examples of these behaviors include decreased alcohol and caffeine consumption, a healthy diet, and avoiding stimulating activities before bed. Maybe try something different like having a bath before bed or rather than turning on the TV, give some relaxation music a try.

As you can see, there are many forms of self-care. Not everything is for everyone and that is perfectly fine. It is important that you find something that you enjoy and look forward to.

Self-care is not selfish. Make your health and wellness a priority.

Written By: Rubina Gill

6
Jun

Managing Anxiety

Anxiety keeps us preoccupied with a hypothetical future. Moreover, anxiety fights to keep our mind focused on worries and danger that lurks ahead. And it doesn’t stop with a passing thought, anxiety thrives on our concerns and fears. In anticipation, the lead up to some task, some place we need to go or people we must see – anxiety works over-time to assert its presence.

That’s not to discount the experience of anxiety in the present moment. In fact, this form of anxiety – the omg the room is closing in on me, I think I’m having a panic attack – can be the most potent dose of anxiety one can feel. This form of acute anxiety is generally a more intense, frightening experience that typically (fortunately) does not last long. In such cases, its helpful to sit or lay down, focus on slowing down your breathing, and repeating to yourself a comforting phrase such as “I am safe”; if possible, it can be helpful to find a trusted friend or family member to support you while you weather the storm.

The more constant, nagging form of anxiety – the seconds, minutes, and hours of fear, worry, and rumination – keeps us focused on two troubling words: What if?! This form of anxiety feeds itself in a perpetual cycle. The more “what if?” questions we ask ourselves, the more anxiety keeps us stuck, fixated on worry and fear.

Experiencing anxiety in this way can begin to negatively impact our vision for the future; it can replace an optimistic and pleasant outlook with doom and gloom. The effects of this can be far reaching and leave us feeling physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually exhausted.

It sounds bleak, I know. But there are powerful cognitive strategies one can use to combat this particular form of anxiety. In fact, there are many. For everyone’s attention spans sake, I’ve narrowed one strategy into 3 steps:

  1. Take a breath – Inhale, breathing in through your nose, for a count of 7. Hold on the inhale for a count of 2. Exhale through the mouth for a count of 6. This 15 second breath calms the body and mind by engaging our parasympathetic nervous system.
  2. Create a vision – Decide what you want to happen. Not necessarily a goal, simply a vision of how things would look and feel if the situation went well. This means really seeing (in your mind’s eye) and feeling the experience of things going well.  
  3. Talk to yourself – Create a short phrase or word that captures the essence of what it is you want and are hoping to have come to fruition. You can repeat this out loud or in your head. The more frequently you repeat this word or phrase, the more you will believe it!

Doing this exercise once does not cure anxiety because we don’t just think anxious thoughts once, we think them over and over again. So, to combat anxiety, we must repeat this strategy with the same frequency the anxious thoughts arise. Each time you notice yourself in the cycle of anxious thoughts, repeat these 3 steps. Over time, the vision and helpful phrase you’ve created will become more powerful. With practice, the thoughts that pop into your mind will be focused on what you want rather than what you fear!

Written by: Robbie Shaw

Email:
Tel: 250 718 9291
14
Dec

Pregnancy and Mental Health

Recently I was interviewed by Kelowna Now regarding information on pregnancy and mental health. I felt so privileged to be approached on this topic as its something that I feel is not spoken about often. Women really are viewed as these powerhouse figures, able to work, grow babies, parent, lead, and truly shine!! And its true, we do, but there is also science occurring underneath our exteriors. Hormones, neurocognitive and emotional processing, nervous system responses… Sometimes we don’t have control over all that we wish we did. Sometimes we choose not to listen to what may be truly going on…

I wanted to put a few questions out there based on this interview tooffer some insight and encouragement to support women on their journey togrowing beautiful babies and bringing life into this world while supporting andthriving in one’s own life.

Enjoy!


Why do you think pregnancy can be a trigger for mental health issues?

  • physiological changes – Pregnancy creates physiological changes to our bodies which causes us to contemplate who we were, who we are becoming, and who we want to be. This self-reflection occurs for women because we are changing our identity by becoming mothers. This contemplation can manifest itself in reigniting past anxiety, but on a subclinical or subconscious level. It can simply cause us to question whether we are strongenough, calm enough, secure enough to be mothers. *And yes we truly,innately are 😉
  • Pre-ExistingMental Health Conditions – For those with pre existing mental health problems, we sometimes have to go off ourmedication or we haven’t completed managed our historical concerns, which canre-trigger our mental health issues. As mothers with babies in utero we striveto create a calm environment in which our children can grow, but sometimes thechanges associated with pregnancy as well as the impending changes to our livescan work against that goal rather than for it. 
  • New Stressors – Preparing to have a new baby is not lives can but can be stressful and challenging. Pregnancy can generate new stressors, which can trigger mental health issues in some woman. Pregnancy can also create changes in relationships and employment; it can cause challenges to fiances, future childcare, etc etc. Stress impacts the body and the mind andcan trigger mental health concerns.
  • Hormones -Hormonal changes can affect our brain chemistry and lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)panic attacks and BPD bipolar disorder (episodes of low-energy depression and high-energy mania). There are incredible amounts of shifting hormones that take place to create a beautiful baby and at times these influxes can create overwhelming emotions and changes in our thinking patterns which can lead to mental health concerns.
  • Other Major Stressors –  poverty, exposure to violence (domestic, sexual and gender-based), emergency and conflict situations, natural disasters, and low social support generally increase risks for mental health issues

What are some tips for mothers to be to ensure optimal mental health during pregnancy?

I would suggest some basic and attainable concepts that can provide optimal mental health during pregnancy:

  • Downtime – ensuring you are not overbooked with appointments, employment, social gatherings, prenatal yoga, family, shopping etc. etc. Ensuring you book downtime for your mind and body and for alone time to bond with your growing baby.
  • Self care – ensuring you are meeting some basic goals for physical, emotional, cognitive, social, spiritual and familial goals. Self care would likely include:
  • Taking time to relax
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Building a support network
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Seeing your health care provider regularly
  • Self-reflection –taking space to deeply reflect on the changes ahead, to be gentle with yourself and your growing body. To address fears and uncertainties, to admire your body’s mysterious ways. Time to be with just you – as that time will be running out!
  • Treat yourself – Time in each day to do something for oneself (nails, read a book, a tea with a friend)
  • Awareness of time – Make sure that as much time as we put into preparing for our baby – we need to put at least half that amount of time into preparing ourselves too!
  • Seek Support – join a moms group, prenatal class or other social opportunities to meet other soon-to-be moms and families. Explore educational classes around having a new baby with your partner or attend some counselling to ensure you’ve worked through any concerns you may be having.Accept help if it is offered to you, ask for help if you need it!

Are there any tips for partners and other family members to help?

  • Do your best to demonstrate patience and acceptance
  • Support their needs and offer non-judgmental support
  • Identifying strengths in your partner/family member
  • With partners – agreeing on how roles will shift and discuss potential duties before things get overwhelming
  • Accompany Her to Doctor/Midwife Appointments
  • Recognizing when things are going off track or a changeneeds to be made and approaching that with calm heads rather than blame
  • Stay positive about health changes, discussions about labour/childbirth
  • Educate yourself –learn more about pregnancy and what your partner is going through physicallyand emotionally
  • Validate your partners’ feelings – sometimes just getting it all out to a sympathetic ear is just what someone may need to turn their feelings around

What are some of the signs when an expectant mom should see a mental health professional?

Some things to look out for that would encourage seeking some professional support would include:

  • Excessive crying
  • Consistent and overwhelming feelings of sadness or chronic worry (generally for longer than 2 weeks)
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Concerning changes in appetite or sleeping patterns
  • Feeling overwhelmed and unable to concentrate
  • Concerning loss of interest in activities you use to enjoy
  • Lack of coping skills
  • Repeated scary thoughts about your baby
  • Feeling guilty or ashamed, concerns that will not be or are not a good parent
  • On set of panic attacks or develop obsessive or compulsive behaviours
  • Mounting stress not relieved by anything
  • Suicidal thoughts 
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Substance abuse

It is very important to reach out for support and our community offers many free resources for pregnant women! Should you want specific clinical responses to some of the concerns reviewed above, our clinic offers some wonderful prenatal services including individual counselling for all mental health concerns, couples and family therapy, treatment for birth trauma,parenting consulting and more.

I am the owner of the group clinic, Registered Clinical Counsellor and mom of three beautiful children (one birthed and two inherited), and I would love to connect with you <3

This post was written by: Nicole Ripley 

21
Nov

Silver Bells

 

This month marks the beginning of my favourite time of the year. December is the month when trees become adorned with white glistening snow, we embellish our homes with twinkling lights, and we hear the sound of silver bells.

Christmas has always been my favourite time of the year. I associate this month with the smell of fresh baked cookies, drinking rich eggnog, watching old Christmas movies, and sitting by the fire. Some of us were raised to believe in Santa, and experienced elaborate gift-filled mornings, while others prefer to enjoy celebrating the birth of Christ and paying respect to the meaning of His sacrifice.

For many, Christmas is a joyous time. For some, it is a stressful time. Some find themselves overwhelmed with financial and familial obligation.   While others believe Christmas is defined by family, food, and having an appreciation for our blessings.

So what fuels these very different perspectives?

Many people have told me their past negative experiences make this time inevitably stressful for them. However, I am not sure that past negative experiences are congruent with disliking Christmas. In anticipation of this article, I was forced to contemplate my own life and wonder why Christmas is so special for me.

I absolutely love Christmas, and for the purposes of this article, I explored the question of why. Many may assume it is because I had positive past experiences, however, that is far from the truth. I grew up in a single-parent home with a parent who struggled with addiction. After my parent’s divorce my father didn’t celebrate Christmas, so the task of making our house festive fell to me each year. More recently, my own marriage ended on Christmas Eve. However, despite these experiences, I have always associated each and every Christmas with happiness and love.

I truly regard the month of December as the best time of the year. But why?

In Counselling Psychology, we refer to our internal perceptions as Schemas. These are preconceived ideas about how things “ARE or SHOULD BE”. These schemas are built by our values, past experiences, and beliefs. They provide a framework, against which we compare and align all incoming information. An example of a schema that many of us will relate to is the idea that all Psychiatrists have an office with a couch in it for patients to lay on and divulge their problems. This is not a fact, but we all believe it to be true. Similarly, many of us have been raised to believe that Christmas is a happy, joyous time full of food, family, and celebration.

But what happens when how things ARE is in stark contrast to how things SHOULD BE? What happens to those who can’t afford food, don’t have a family, and weren’t raised to believe in Jesus? Can we still love Christmas?

I invite you to consider:

Christmas is not about what we receive or about what we experience. It is about what we give, and how we influence the experiences of others.

This month I encourage you to direct your focus away from the tangible gifts we give and receive, and instead focus on giving your time and attention to others. Despite my experience with Christmas as a child, our home was always one that welcomed others to eat. Our home may not have been embellished with fancy lights or a big festive tree, but I always remember a house full of food, family and friends. Christmas was a time of simplicity where there was always room for one more at the table. I could have allowed my view of this holiday to be defined by what I did not receive, but instead, I have chosen to define it by what I learned to give. It is for that reason that my best Christmas memories include nothing more than listening to Christmas music and watching an old Christmas movie.

Shifting our perspective is uncomfortable because it requires us to accept that in order to change our perceptions we must lift the anchor to which our core beliefs are tethered. This Christmas I encourage everyone to redefine your Christmas schema, and in doing this we can shift our focus away from what we want, and instead be thankful for what we have to give.

Merry Christmas from all of us at OK Clinical.

Written by Lisa Ann Butcher, Graduate Student Counsellor

Email:

Tel: 250-718-9291

17
Oct

Redefining Family

With Halloween approaching, many of us are preparing by decorating our house, buying goodies for the neighbourhood kids, choosing costumes for our children, and carving pumpkins. However, holidays can be an emotionally stressful time for many of us. Holidays have the tendency to evoke our needs for inclusivity. We want to be a part of our community and a part of a local celebration. Often, we just want to find a way to feel like celebrating, but that celebration can be complicated by financial, relationship, familial, or domestic stress. Sometimes we might find ourselves having a hard time reconciling what we ARE feeling with what we SHOULD BE feeling.

For many people, these times are a source of stress and anxiety. Some may not have children but have tried for a long time to have them. In this instance, seeing children trick or treating can evoke feelings of longing and loss. Some people may be going through a divorce and are facing their first Halloween without their kids. Whatever the situation, I want to encourage the idea that we can create our own happiness.

What if we consider it to be a truth that ALL HAPPINESS IS SHAPED BY OUR PERSPECTIVE.

Much of what makes us happy is not actually about how life affects us, it is how we perceive our life in the context of the lives of others. Knowing this, we can shift our expectation of happiness towards the concept that we can create our happiness by doing two things: Helping others achieve happiness and being happy for others when they achieve that happiness.

We all have the power to see the joy in others. At that moment we have the choice to interpret that joy in terms of a comparison to our own happiness or interpret that joy through the eyes of the other person.

I am not trying to minimize the isolation and loss that is sometimes inherent with holiday celebrations, but I am challenging you to consider that you can choose your own outcome with a few simple steps. If we consider the statement “Happiness is wanting what you have”, we then accept that we have everything we need to be happy, we just need to believe it is enough.

This month, challenge yourself to:

  1. Do one unexpected thing for someone else that you don’t expect acknowledgement or praise for doing.
  2. Be thankful for what you have, not upset with what you don’t
  3. See the joy in others and consider how you can contribute to exacerbating that joy

As Halloween approaches, look forward to seeing the untainted joy in a child’s face as they knock on your door, truly believing in the magic of Halloween. That magic is contagious if we are willing and open to accepting that our perspective determines our ability to see that magic.

Written by Lisa Ann Butcher, Graduate Student Counsellor

Email:

Tel: 250-718-9291

28
Sep

Separation and divorce: What would happen if we change the language?

 

 

With divorce rates in Canada steadily increasing year-after-year, it’s time to consider how we look at separation and divorce, and how our children perceive it. Separation and divorce are often very ugly, leaving hurt exes rearing their angry heads suiting up for great big legal battles that they have no idea yet, may financially destroy them… yes, both of them. 

Divorce is such an ugly word. Like many other societal issues, divorce carries with it a certain stigma. As separation and divorce become more common, the stigma is slowly becoming less apparent (or maybe even “more gentle” if-you-will). That doesn’t mean that it becomes any easier, especially for the children involved. 

All too often I hear one parent or another use very colourful words to describe exes, they use tones of voice that just scream anger, and hurt, and resentment. Kids pick up on that. Even if you think that you’re “just saying it to a friend; the kids aren’t listening”—SPOILER ALERT—kids are ALWAYS listening!!

What would it be like to be gentle with ourselves? What would it be like to put hurt feelings aside (I realize that this may require professional help)? What would it be like to be slightly more gentle and more compassionate to your ex-significant-other (only to the extent that you have to change your language… but not your position on the other crappy things he/she (ex) has done)? 

By no means am I trying to minimize the excruciating emotional pain that often comes with divorce but merely suggesting a change in our family language hopefully leading to a change in perception about the situation, for the better. How do you think your kids would feel about being at school (say a parent-teacher interview) hearing their parent say… “I’m just waiting for theiiiiir dad <insert eye roll>.” Now imagine your child hearing “I’m just waiting for my ‘parenting partner’?

Terms such as: ex, deadbeat dad (or mom), yourrrrr father, <insert other nicknames here> carry such a negative connotation that the conversational tone has really already been set before the actual communication (or lack thereof) begins!! I’m not saying we all need to be happy and bubbly and have pet names for our dreadful exes. I’m merely suggesting that once separated, we refer to them with a neutral term such as ‘parenting partner’. By doing this, we not only set up a relatively neutral relationship as an example for our children, but we (our kids too) can see divorce and separation as something that happens as a family for the betterment of the family. The other good thing… when you meet someone new, the terminology doesn’t have to change—your ‘parenting partner’ will always be your ‘parenting partner’ no matter how blended families can possibly get. ‘Parenting partner’ suggests that both parents will continue to be involved—possibly one of the most important things for a child experiencing family break down… a sense of stability and consistency. Partnership also sounds long-term possibly suggesting to children that even though their parents are apart, they are BOTH in it with the kids long-term. 

If your child is struggling with separation or divorce, I encourage you to try changing your language surrounding the situation. Remember you’re the role model; you’re the adult; you get to set the tone for different conversations. Divorce and separation will never be easy, but maybe we can make it just a little less disruptive to our children by simply changing our language. 

I encourage you to really pay attention to the words you’re using, the picture you’re painting, and the impact it’s having on your children. 

For these, and other supportive parenting tips, feel free to contact one of our family counsellors with a parenting focus for a free consultation. 

This post was written by:

Chrystelle Crockford, BSc, MA (Couns Psyc) Candidate

T: 250-718-9291

Email: