Mental Health Tips and Insights from North York General’s 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.
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 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 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
What to do if you or a loved one need help:
- Speak with your family doctor to create a personalized plan to address what’s going on. Having a plan itself can help make the situation feel better
- Reach out to trusted friends and family
- Connect with a helpline such as the North York Toronto Health Partners Mental Health and Addictions Access Point support line at 416-640-1934, open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday to Friday or Distress Centres of Toronto, available 24/7 at 416-408-HELP (4357).
- If in a mental health crisis, go to your nearest Emergency Department, which can connect you to resources in an expedited way.
While their work is often difficult, what keeps Doyle-Lisek and Green motivated to help those struggling with mental health issues is seeing the resilience of patients.
“It’s key for all of us – youth and adults alike, to understand and remember that difficult times don’t last and that there’s always a way through them. We need to pay attention to subtle changes in our moods and behaviours and find help when returning to ‘normal’ seems unlikely.”
— Adam Green, Therapist, North York General Hospital