Mental Health Tips from NYGH Experts

Psychologist Dr. Sandra Doyle-Lisek and Therapist Adam Green from NYGH’s Child & Adolescent Mental Health team

For decades, mental health issues seemed to fly under the radar. Stigma often kept conditions like anxiety, depression – and those who suffered from them, shrouded in mystery and shame. Thanks to increased public awareness and the growth of supportive programs, fueled in part by the growth in mental health challenges over the pandemic, this has started to change. With 1 in 5 Canadians experiencing a mental illness or addiction problem in any given year, this important topic must remain at the forefront.

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North York General Hospital’s (NYGH) team of mental health professionals, which includes social workers, nursing staff, child and youth workers, psychologists, primary care physicians, and many more, have served the mental health needs of our diverse communities for generations.

Psychologist Dr. Sandra Doyle-Lisek and Therapist Adam Green from NYGH’s Child & Adolescent Mental Health team share insight into anxiety and depression – two prevalent mental health challenges – and tips on coping. As always, please consult your physician if you have any concerns or questions about your personal health and well-being.

Depression

Depression is a common and serious medical illness. It can cause feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease one’s ability to function at work and at home. Approximately 11% of men and 16% of women in Canada will experience major depression at some point in their lives. Depression can limit your quality of life, affect relationships, lead to lost time from work or school and contribute to other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Left unaddressed, depression can lead to suicide.

Signs of Depression – What to watch for

Listed below are signs to watch for if you suspect a friend or loved one is suffering from depression.

Feelings of despair and hopelessness
Detachment from life and the people around you
Consistently feeling tired or having no energy
Feelings of sadness that lead to crying for no apparent reason
Inability to concentrate or make decisions
Thoughts of harming oneself or others
A loss of appetite or a change in sleep patterns
Headaches or stomach upsets that occur frequently

Doyle-Lisek and Green offer these tips for coping with depression:

Create a structured routine and stick to it each day even if you don’t feel up to it
Identify enjoyable activities and make the effort to participate in them
Find/maintain purpose in your life, a ‘reason’ to get out of bed each day
Set a goal each day for what you want to achieve
Get out in nature as often as possible
Create a healthy sleep routine and be mindful of not sleeping too little or too much
Engage in physical activity
Maintain social connections

Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental health problems, affecting 1 in 10 Canadians. They include generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorders and social phobias. While these disorders can be successfully treated, it’s important to recognize the difference between feeling anxious in response to a real event and an anxiety disorder causing fear or distress out of proportion to the situation. Those who struggle with anxiety disorders interpret real or imagined events to be much more risky or dangerous than they really are. This can interfere with personal and professional relationships.

Signs of Anxiety Disorders – What to watch for

Listed below are signs to watch for if you suspect a friend or loved one is suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Feeling restless, wound-up, on-edge or irritable
Being easily fatigued
Having difficulty concentrating
Having headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or unexplained pains
Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep

Doyle-Lisek and Green offer these tips for dealing with anxiety:

Try relaxation and breathing techniques. There are many apps that offer guidance in these practices
Practice mindfulness. Paying attention and trying to remain focused on the present moment helps prevent the mind from focusing on worried thoughts
Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule
Work on identifying things that are in your control
Think about alternative perspectives, not just worst-case scenarios