Category Archives: PTSD

Are mental health issues within indigenous youth bearing the marks of the past?


In Oct 2017, I had the opportunity to travel to Iqaluit, Nunavut for the Arctic Youth Ambassador Summit (AYAS). Throughout this summit, I had the chance to interact with indigenous youth and learn about the mental health issues they face. Many indigenous youth with mental health issues unfortunately commit suicide. Some of the leading causes of suicide include depression, alcohol & drug abuse, hopelessness, sexual & domestic abuse, and homelessness. The suicide rate of First Nations males between the ages of 15-24 is 126 per 100,000 compared to 24 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous male youth. For First Nations females the rate is 35 per 100,000 compared to 5 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous females. Suicide rates of Inuit youth are 11 times the national average. Although the government has developed various programs to overcome the impacts of residential schools, there is still a lot that needs to be done to improve the mental health of indigenous youth. When it comes to mental health, the resources are limited and wait lists are long, making it harder for the youth to get access to proper mental health care.

Through my interaction with the indigenous youth in Iqaluit, I learnt about the stigma against the mental health issues they face and the lack of trust in the programs provided by the government. The fact that the social and mental health workers are not indigenous themselves or cannot speak indigenous languages increases this mistrust. The stigma and mistrust thus leads to youth not looking for help. One way to combat this issue is to create youth ambassadors who are from Iqaluit so that they can help other youth to come forward and get the mental health care they need through them. It may be easier to open up to someone who is young, comes from the same culture, and understands the impact that trauma has on someone. It is also better to approach this situation through someone who is from the same culture and speaks the same language, as a lot of the aboriginal communities do not fully trust the services provided by the government. These steps may help increase mental health awareness and decrease the suicide rate among indigenous youth.

By: Maleeha Khan

Maleeha is currently doing a double major in Human Biology and Neuroscience with a minor in Psychology at the University of Toronto. Her current research focuses on the sex differences in factors predicting conversion from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease. She is interested in pursuing MD after her undergraduate degree and helping third world countries dealing with neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Merging Pathways – Liberty Village and Yonge & Eglinton Locations

“Speaking with a mental health professional is no longer associated to one experiencing a crisis. Having a therapist is now a part of a healthy lifestyle” – KMA client

In thinking about the differences between the population, age groups, and many different concerns that I see at our Liberty Village and Yonge & Eglinton locations, I realized how similar we all are in terms of our human behavior. We are all striving to be happy, content, and peaceful with our work and the many relationships in our life. Where we differ is in the path we take towards feeling better about ourselves. Some choose to find their path on their own and some choose to seek professional help.

As an intake therapist, I am fortunate enough to have spoken to many people of different cultures, age groups, and populations. The one thing I find that the people at both our Liberty Village and Yonge & Eglinton locations have in common is that all of them are seeking to speak with a professional in order to maintain a fulfilled life, regardless of their presenting concern.

Let us take a look at the statistics below with regards to the gender and age groups at our Liberty Village vs. Yonge & Eglinton locations.


Both locations have a higher percentage of females, but as you can see, the male population is not far behind. Clients of both genders are willing to connect with mental health professionals to help them grow in their personal and professional life.

 

The Yonge & Eglinton location is becoming a residential area with growing families and so I witness more couple clients compared to the Liberty Village location.

 

In terms of the population and age groups, statistics show that both Liberty Village and Yonge & Eglinton have a higher percentage of people between the ages of 20-25 years.

 

 

As an intake therapist, I am very proud to see that people are willing to talk about their feelings, insecurities, anxiety, depression, and challenges in their relationships. People are motivated to speak with a mental health professional to develop some strategies to maintain an emotionally healthy life style.

Hats off to all of you for trying to be the best version of yourself! It takes courage to talk about your feelings and thoughts and prioritize self-care.

Even though Liberty Village and Yonge & Eglinton are two different locations, I still choose to call them Merging Pathways because the challenges I see people face are all similar in nature with varying intensities and lengths of time.

Check out this article for more information about KMA Therapy: http://www.datingadvice.com/for-women/kimberly-moffit-associates-offers-constructive-relationship-counseling-in-toronto

By: Zainab Adil Gandhi

Zainab has completed her Masters in Psychological Counselling, specializing in Marriage and Family therapies. She is a member in good standing with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).

Zainab has had 6 years of experience in counselling with Adults, Couples, Parents & Children. She understands that for clients to speak to a complete stranger about their concerns is very challenging. Therefore, her approach to counselling and therapy is client centered. She works with empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard to make sure that the client is extremely comfortable and in a very happy space. It is important to her to establish a good rapport to be able to bring about a healthy change in her clients. She believes in the ‘Human Potential’ that each client brings with him/her. Zainab chooses to be a facilitator in the process, where she guides the clients with her education and experience.  Once she has made the client comfortable in the session, she then moves ahead to use a Cognitive, Behavioral or an Emotional orientation, depending on what the client is willing to receive at that point in time.

Zainab has experience working with issues such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, bullying, parenting challenges, marital concerns, divorce, building healthy communication, relationships, balancing work and life, and dealing with a death of a loved one. She loves to use a variety of visual aids with her clients, which will help them understand their concerns more effectively. Her ultimate goal is to make sure the clients can be independent and cope with their problems efficiently.

 

The First Time I Realized Something was Wrong (PTSD)

downloadI didn’t fully understand everything that went on during my childhood, until I moved out and started college. As a child, I thought that my parent’s yelling, fighting and the physical abuse was how every family was. I remember trying to talk to a counselor in high school about it, but I don’t think they took me seriously. The counselor probably thought that my stories were a bit exaggerated and didn’t want to believe that it could have happened.

It was only when I started college and was away from home for 4 years, that I realized something was wrong. My surroundings seemed too quiet, as there was no longer any fighting in the background. I found I had to sleep with a radio or a fan on to drown out the silence. Most people like silence, but for me the silence would make me have nightmares and they would be the same ones over and over again. I ended up sleeping with some kind of background noise for years afterwards.

After college, I moved back home and got a job in my field of study, which was good. But eventually, I found myself applying for more jobs. I ended up with 5 part time jobs just so I could fill up my time and avoid being at home. I found that things between my parents were very different, as they grew distant from each other. My dad would stay in his room for days at a time and when my parents did speak, it was brief and at times not very pleasant.

My father passed away in 2004 and shortly after I noticed things about myself changing. I was having nightmares again and I was blaming myself for his death. I was feeling like I didn’t help him enough with his Bipolar. It became hard to sleep and I would have flashbacks of certain incidents, which were easily triggered by things in my surrounding, such as seeing certain things on the television. I dealt with all this on my own for years after his death, since I found it difficult to talk to my family.

It wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I stopped having nightmares and stopped sleeping with the radio on. There are still certain scenes in a movie or a television show that I cannot watch because it brings me back to a bad place, but I no longer carry the guilt of my father’s death. I have also since repaired my relationship with my family and we now have a great relationship.

Although I haven’t been officially diagnosed, I’ve been told I live with the symptoms of PTSD and I’m not ashamed. The PTSD is a result of what I’ve seen and heard within my house. Over the years I have developed strategies for how to deal with certain things. I want to bring awareness to mental health issues and I want you to know that it’s okay to talk about your experiences. I found that writing and sharing my stories helps me and it reminds me that I am never alone.

By: Anita Levesque

Anita is a mental health advocate with lived experience through loved ones; father – bipolar; brother – PTSD, depression, anxiety; mother – PTSD; boyfriend – clinical depression, severe OCD, GAD, personality disorders. Her goal is to focus on personal experiences with mental illness.

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Anxiety Disorders Part 1

Anxiety-wordsThere are many different types of disorders that affect individuals every day. Amongst them all, the most common mental illness that affects 12% of the Canadian population is anxiety. Anxiety is a chronic condition that is considered to be an extreme and insistent sense of fear, worry, nervousness and trepidation. Anxiety is experienced in six different disorders: Social Anxiety Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Panic Disorder, which may or may not consist of Agoraphobia (defined as an extreme or irrational fear of crowded or public places), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Separation Anxiety. In this first section we will cover Social Anxiety and PTSD and in an upcoming section the most common treatments for anxiety disorders will be discussed.

Social Anxiety Disorder

This disorder affects about 15 million adults and refers to the fear in which an individual is put in a social situation in which they anticipate embarrassment, judgement, rejection, or have a fear of offending others. The onset of Social Anxiety Disorder is approximately at the age of 13 and tends to worsen over time. Individuals dealing with such a disorder may have a hard time talking to people and making/keeping friends, they constantly worry about social events for days’ prior, tend to stay away from crowded places and can even experience sweating and trembling while communicating with others.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

This disorder entails an exposure to a traumatic experience that can include death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Living with this disorder means that you may be re-living the event by having nightmares, flashbacks or uncontrollable thoughts. Individuals who experience this disorder tend to stay away from items or everyday activities that remind them of the traumatic event. It makes individuals suffering from this very “on edge” and nervous all the time. It also exposes them to feeling irritable, having a hard time concentrating, and developing sleeping problems. Other individuals feel like they are dreaming or that nothing is real as well as having difficulty expressing their feelings and emotions.

By: Bruno Ngjeliu

Bruno

Do You Want to Increase Mental Fitness?

imagesWe all know how it goes…. Someone tells you not to worry about something and while it may help marginally, it generally doesn’t. Worrying does not just automatically stop when someone suggests that you stop. Something else needs to happen. You need to be able to tell yourself not to worry and this requires you to have a certain amount of control over how your mind is working.

Hearing from someone else that you shouldn’t worry gives you the idea that for others the thing you are worrying about is not necessarily that worthy of worry, you may even feel that things won’t turn out so bad when you are reassured by another. But to take control of your mind, to actually train your mind to not get stuck in loops of worried thought, that can be a harder thing to achieve and it requires a focus on mental fitness.

Research has emerged that is suggesting a possible link between chronic worrying and the likelihood of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is but one very important reason why mental fitness training needs to become a focus in people’s lives. In the Epidemiology Department of Michigan State University, researchers have found while studying participants over a long number of years, those who as children were prone to worrying a lot over everyday occurrences were much more likely to develop symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a traumatic event. The statistics indicated clearly that chronic worrying is an indicator of vulnerability to developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder rather than the chronic worrying being a feature that develops as a result of the trauma.

We can’t necessarily avoid the trauma that happens to us as kids or on our journey through life, but there are things we can do to better prepare the next generation to meet trauma with resiliency. Tuning in to how much worrying children do is the first good step in helping them take control of minding their mental health. This is a key part of mental fitness training but it is only a first step. If the child has a natural propensity towards worrying, you can guide them to an alternative way of thinking, not by saying not to worry, but by increasing their own awareness about what thinking is behind the worried feeling. Helping them to explore what thoughts are causing the worry and then to look at the evidence to suggest that that particular thought is not essential. For example, a child who is worried about what may happen in the schoolyard may be feeling worried because something difficult happened in the yard the week before. By exploring the child’s thoughts around this, they may be able to come up with a strategy to deal with the particular situation and then will begin to develop a belief that is along the lines of ‘I am able to problem solve.’ If this belief becomes strong over time, mental fitness increases. This is not only then a route to better mental health but as the researchers in Michigan have found, it may also be a part of the resiliency a person develops to the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is worth learning about and focusing on mental fitness. A fit mind keeps kids psychologically safe.

 By: Anne McCormack

Anne

For simple tips to increase mental fitness, follow Anne @mentalfitnessXX