Seven tips for Defence Team Members to support your mental health
October 7, 2020 - Defence Stories
Author: Capt Samantha Thompson, Canadian Forces Health Services Social Work Officer, Road to Mental Readiness Program
Mental Illness Awareness Week – Oct 4 - 10, 2020
As we commemorate Mental Illness Awareness Week, ask yourself: How well can you assess changes in your mental health and then take action to effectively remedy them? Studies show that many Canadians misread indicators of declining mental well-being and avoid seeking professional consultation and support for mental stress injuries and illnesses.
Recognizing a need and seeking care
In an analysis by Drs. Fikretoglu, Liu, Zamorski and Jetly (available in English only) on the data from Statistics Canada’s 2002 (CAF and Canadian civilian population studies), 2012 (Canadian civilian population) and 2013 (CAF) mental health surveys concluded that “failure to perceive need for care is the leading barrier to accessing mental health care.”
This means that many Canadians living with varying levels of mental distress, struggle to manage symptoms on their own, and are often unaware that they may suffer from a health condition where treatment and resources already exist.
Here’s a list of seven helpful tips you can use to support yourself, your friends, and your family:
1. Monitor your mental health and wellbeing.
The Mental Health Continuum Model (see graphic below) is a tool designed to assist you with monitoring and identifying changes in your health. You may wish to refer to the Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) app, which is available on Google Play and Apple Store, for additional guidance and information.
2. Recognize when efforts to manage symptoms on one’s own are not improving the situation.
The following guidelines can help you identify when to seek professional medical or mental health support:
- emotional or behavioural reactions have persisted or intensified over the past 8 weeks;
- emotional or behavioural reactions are excessive or out of control; and,
- emotional or behavioural reactions are severely impacting your ability to function at home or at work.
Listen to friends and family if they express concern for your wellbeing.
3. Know that you are not alone; we all need to ask for help of various kinds throughout our lives.
According to Canada’s Public Health Agency, one in three Canadians experience mental illness during their lifetime. Many Canadians have personally dealt with mental illness, and many more have known and supported someone in their journey to recovery.
4. Avoiding care is more likely to negatively impact one’s career.
As symptoms increase and persist, it becomes more likely that our memory, concentration, decision-making ability, and overall performance will be affected.
5. Prioritize your health.
We need to invest in our health to fulfill those very responsibilities which compete for our time and energy. Putting off dealing with symptoms of a mental injury because we are “too busy” increases the likelihood that the symptoms will persist and may develop into a mental illness.
6. Consult with a health care provider to help you assess your mental wellbeing and meet your mental health needs.
Reach out to care providers and health professionals to discuss emerging concerns and get connected with the appropriate resources and service providers.
7. Know that professional treatment works: the earlier the better.
Treatments are designed to reduce symptoms, restore functioning at work and at home, and reduce the chances that symptoms will recur. The sooner that professional resources are engaged and treatment initiated, the sooner these positive changes will be experienced.
Use the resources listed below to access support and more information. Reach out today if you need help.
- Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program (24/7) 1-800-268-7708
- Employee Assistance Program (24/7) 1-800-268-7708
- Family Information Line (24/7) 1-800-866-4546 (International 00-800-771-17722)
- Canadian Armed Forces Medical Centres
- Canadian Forces Morale & Welfare Services Directory
- Veteran Affairs Canada Mental Health Website
- Strengthening the Forces Health Promotion Program
If you or someone you know requires emergency mental health assistance, please call 911 or accompany them—or have someone accompany you—to your local emergency department.
Mental Illness Awareness Week was established in 1992 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association, and is now coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health. For more information, visit the organization’s website.
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