How A Single Message Changed My Life And 10,000 Others

posted in: Personal Stories | 0

“I am desperate to meet new friends. I’m lonely and going through the hardest period of my life. I’ll sit on the stairs in front of the town hall from 2pm to 8pm. I have black pants and a North Face bag on.” – written December 7th 2016.

Late last year I wrote this message on an app called Jodel, a European equivalent of Yik Yak. It is an anonymous forum, where you can write about almost anything and where anyone within 10 kilometers can see your message and reply.

I had no idea at the time, that this very short message would change my life as well as 10,000 others.



Some more resources

posted in: Resources | 0


Talking to Your Kids About Drug and Alcohol Abuse: The Ultimate Do’s and Don’ts Guide


Intervention eBook: What to do if your child is drinking or using drugs


Co-Occurring Disorders


Promoting Mental Health at Home


How to Apply for Disability Benefits with Drug Addiction


Substance Abuse in the Workplace: What to Do When an Employee Returns from Rehab


Home After Rehab: The Guide to Finding the Right Place for Recovery

McMaster joins in call for new, integrated mental health strategy

McMaster is joining Ontario’s students, colleges and universities in calling on the province to take immediate action on the growing problem of student mental health with an integrated strategy that begins in kindergarten and continues through high school, post-secondary life and on into adulthood.

A joint report released Nov. 2 calls for a ‘whole-of-community’ approach by government, health-care providers, community agencies, student associations and postsecondary institutions including mandatory curriculum to teach resiliency in young people, an early-warning system throughout all levels of education, counselling, and expanded use of technology – all at no cost to students whether they live on or off campus.



In It Together: Taking Action on Student Mental Health was released today by four groups representing the province’s 45 colleges and universities and more than 220,000 students.

In the report, the four partners – the College Student Alliance, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, Colleges Ontario and the Council of Ontario Universities – say providing effective support for student mental health is one of the most pressing issues on college and university campuses today, and that postsecondary institutions have made addressing it a priority but can’t meet the challenge alone.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • An update to Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy to recognize postsecondary students as a distinct group
  • Clearly defined roles across four Ontario government ministries to ensure no service gaps
  • Close working relationships between post-secondary institutions and local health-care and community agencies to develop and implement a plan to help students with mental health concerns
  • Free mental health care for students – on and off campus – through increased services not currently funded by OHIP
  • Government investment in transition programming for high school students as they prepare to enter postsecondary

Last week, McMaster provided an update on the advancement of its Student Mental Health and Well-being Strategy.

Since the Strategy’s 2015 introduction, hundreds of students and staff have received specialized mental health training, more front-line mental health professionals have been hired in the Student Wellness Centre and an improved student accommodation policy is in place.

Lawyers more likely to experience mental health problems the more successful they are: study

New Canadian research suggests lawyers are more likely to experience mental health struggles the more successful they are in their field.

The study from the University of Toronto, slated for publication in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, compares two national surveys of thousands of lawyers in both Canada and the United States.

In both countries, researchers found a strong correlation between signs of depression and traditional markers of career success.

Lawyers holding down jobs at large firms in the private sector, widely considered to be the most prestigious roles, were most likely to experience depressive symptoms.

Researchers say the findings buck trends found in the general population, where career success is typically equated with fewer mental health risks.

Lawyers say professional bodies have recently begun acknowledging mental health concerns, but say the research findings highlight the need to keep pushing for change within the industry.

Study co-author Jonathan Koltai said the findings were notable for their consistency across both American and Canadian research subjects.

American data surveyed lawyers who were called to the bar in 2000, while the Canadian lawyers in the survey began their careers about a decade later.

Regardless of the fact that both groups were at different stages along their professional path, Koltai said the same patterns emerged. The larger the firm and the more lucrative the role, the more likely a lawyer was to experience depressive symptoms.




Orlando Da Silva, former president of the Ontario Bar Association and current lawyer with the provincial Ministry of the Attorney General, recollects major episodes of depression at several career milestones.

He never told his law school classmates of his mental turmoil as he took on the editorship of a campus legal publication.

Nor, when he began articling at a prestigious law firm upon graduation, did he share the thoughts of suicide and self-harm that plagued him when he went home at night.

Those thoughts culminated in 2008 as Da Silva washed 180 sleeping pills down with two bottles of alcohol. But even as he languished in hospital, he still tried to hide the depths of his depression for fear of losing the job that he said had come to define him.

“I was so afraid the stigma of mental illness would destroy my career,” he said. “Especially as a trial lawyer where you’re supposed to be strong. Certainly strong enough to fight the battles that others can’t fight for themselves.”

Da Silva said the fatigue and overwork he accepted as part of his climb up the career ladder helped isolate him from his family, further compounding the problem.

When he became bar association president in 2014, he made the focus on mental health a personal priority, sharing his story and setting up a web resource to try to remove the taboos around the issue.

He said he’s begun to see evidence that law firms are waking up to the perils of mental health problems among their employees.



Mental health problems are forcing thousands in UK out of work – report

About 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year, a review commissioned by Theresa May has found.

The Thriving at Work report, published on Thursday, puts the annual cost to the UK economy of poor mental health at up to £99bn, of which about £42bn is borne by employers.

The authors – the Mind chief executive, Paul Farmer, and the mental health campaigner and a former HBOS chair, Dennis Stevenson – said they were shocked to find the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health problems was 50% higher than for those with physical health conditions.

Farmer said the evidence suggested it is still a taboo subject in many workplaces. “The picture is that there are very significant numbers of people in work with mental health problems but there are significant numbers who are not,” he said.


Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, welcomed the review which he said shows “mental health is not just a moral issue, but a business one too. Business leaders must put themselves at the frontier of addressing these challenges.”

Case study: ‘I was using work in a quite self-destructive way’

Andrew Omerod
Andrew Omerod: ‘I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed.’

Andrew Omerod, 35, from London, operations director at GrantTree, says he has experienced both sides of the coin when it comes to mental health problems at work. “When I was working for my previous employer, I was using work in quite a self-destructive way. Overworking is a way of acting out the pain you’re experiencing that you don’t know how to express. It’s also a way of escaping it in the short term – but it’s harmful in the long term.

“It was work that led to me having a breakdown. I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed. I had to take time off, about a year.




8 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Manage Anxiety at Work

posted in: Help, Personal Stories | 0



READ THE FULL STORY (and the remaining 4 tips and techniques) HERE.


I have an anxiety disorder.

I have always had one. My mom says when I was a baby I would freak out for no reason and just start wailing. Not a lot has changed since then, to be honest, except now I am medicated, have a good therapist, and no longer require someone else to see to my peeing and pooping needs.

What It Feels Like To Have Anxiety And Depression At The Same Time

I still have my moments, but for the most part, I have learned how to manage my anxiety.

Let us pause here and do a little dance of celebration — Done!

There are still times when my anxiety gets the best of me. Usually it involves large groups of people or other high stress situations. And there’s nothing more high stress than work, even if you have a job that you love (hi boss!).

I’d like to share with you some tips and tricks I have found helpful for those moments anxiety at work threatens to overtake you.


    1. Get Away from Your Computer.
      For most us, our workdays consist of sitting in front of our computers, barely blinking, let along getting up to move.I have found that it’s really helpful to set a timer for myself so that at least once an hour I get up and walk around. Go for a walk around the block, or, if your workspace doesn’t allow this, go for a walk around the building.Even just getting up and walking around your office can be the physical and mental outlet you need to let some of that stress and anxiety burn off without sending you into a spiral.
    2. Try Gentle Stretching.
      As awesome and getting up and moving is, sometimes we have days where this is almost impossible. We’ve got back-to-back conference calls or a deadline we have to meet. This is when doing stretching at your desk can be THE BEST for managing anxiety at work.My favorite exercise is this: look at the top left corner of your computer, look at the top right corner of your computer, look at the bottom right corner of your computer, look at the bottom left corner of your computer. Let your neck and head move slowly while you do this. It’s a gentle, easy stretch that immediately relieves that tension scowl we all get from staring at a screen for too long.
    3. Communicate with the People Around You.As a person with an anxiety, sometimes it feels like if I don’t express what’s going on inside me verbally like I am going to implode.If you feel this way at work it’s important that you have a work friend you can talk to. I’m not talking about someone you sit and bitch about work with (I think that’s negative and unhelpful for you both). Instead, what I mean, is don’t be afraid to communicate about whatever is giving you anxiety at work.Sometimes just saying “I’m scared I won’t get this done by five,” out loud can relief just the amount of pressure needed to help you get through your day.
    4. Drink All of the Water.This might sound hokey, but water and hydrating our bodies in general is so often the cure for what ails you. I’m not saying that water is going to magically heal you of your anxiety (because that is bullshit), but I do know that drinking a lot of water will keep you feeling centered, healthy, and make it easier for to concentrate on the task at hand without blowing your stack.If you’re an anxious person, taking care of yourself can so easily go by the wayside. Evaluate what your body needs.When did you drink water last? When did you eat last? Do you have a headache? Make sure you’re at your physical best and the mental best will follow suit.Anxiety isn’t all of who you are, it doesn’t have you, you have it. You’re going to be okay, even when it feels like you won’t be. You just have to keep fighting, and keep treating yourself with respect. I believe in you, and so do all of the people who love and admire you.



Students are not fragile flowers – we must care about their mental health

One in five Canadians – regardless of age, ethnicity or income level – will experience a significant mental-health condition at some point in their lives. Many more will be touched by mental illness through its effect on family, friends and co-workers.

Both of us have first-hand experience with the painful toll mental illness can take.

Read also: We’re facing an anxiety epidemic. If we don’t make big changes, it will get worse

Why treat university students like fragile flowers?

Santa attempted to take his own life twice, once when he was a teenager and again in his 20s. Thankfully, he was fortunate enough to receive the medical and psychological support he needed to recover.

Michael lost his son Cameron to depression and suicide 22 years ago. He remembers the turnout at his son’s funeral was overwhelming, and many of Cameron’s friends said to him, if only we had known he was suffering, we would have done everything we could to help.

This is why we are compelled to speak out against the stigma associated with this disease – a stigma that prevents people from asking for the help they desperately need.

Statistics Canada reports suicide as the ninth leading cause of death in Canada, but in the 1-24 age group, 20 per cent of deaths are attributed to suicide.

As leaders in the university community, we are aware that students at all levels – elementary, high school and postsecondary – are especially vulnerable. Mental health issues affect university students in every year of study, including PhD students, who often feel they cannot open up about their struggles for fear of appearing weak.


Michael Wilson is the chancellor of the University of Toronto and the chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

 Santa Ono is the president and vice-chancellor of the University of B.C.


This fall, seven campuses across Canada are taking part in a pilot project led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada called The Inquiring Mind to teach students to understand and manage their mental health better.

The Inquiring Mind has three main components: stigma reduction, building resiliency and the Mental Health Continuum Model, which categorizes mental health on a simple colour scale: green (healthy), yellow (reacting), orange (injured) and red (ill). This model allows conversation without formal labels, and explains that a person can move from green to red and back again.



150 Difference Makers

The year before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Francis Arevalo was an up-and-coming slam poet and hip-hop artist in Vancouver’s artistic community. He had won the 2014 Student Leadership Conference’s Faces of Today Award and was listed as one of “24 under 24” upcoming personalities in Vancouver 24 Hours. That was before his illness almost caused him to lose everything. At his low point, Francis lost touch with reality, destroyed friendships, and became mired in debt. In 2015, he was arrested, sent to psychiatric care and put on mood-stabilizing medication that led him to gain 80 pounds. Unable to remember much of his activities during his peak mania, he struggled to navigate the painful consequences of his illness. Overwhelmed, a year after leaving psychiatric care he attempted suicide. It was a wake-up call, and he committed himself to finding the help he needed to live a new life. He worked hard to find consistency with his medication, went back to work, began exercising and started making music again. In 2016 Francis released his first hip-hop album with his best friends and family, demonstrating that while recovery is not about returning to the life you lived before experiencing mental illness, it is possible to breathe new life into past dreams.



‘Sex And Suicide Podcast’ Destroys Mental Illness Stigma In Raw, Uncensored Way

[The audio quality is not the best…but it is interesting listening to 3 people talk freely about what works for them]

We have a long way to go before the stigma of talking about mental health is completely gone, especially for men.

But for the three hosts of “The Sex And Suicide Podcast,” nothing is off limits. This includes talking about their depression, anxiety and even being sexually abused.

The men, based in London, Ont., have created a raw and profanity-laced podcast to encourage others to be just as brutally blunt and honest about their own mental health struggles.

Their flagship series, Soulfire Sundays, features hosts Shawn Evans, Scott Milne, and Paulie O’Byrne sitting on a couch cracking jokes while opening up about their personal experiences. One episode centred on Evans’ anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications, while another was about O’Byrne’s cognitive behavioural therapy treatment.

Evans, who created the podcast, said their unorthodox style resonates with their growing base of 20,000 fans on Facebook and YouTube.

Milne, who is a professional bodybuilder, pointed out that mental illness doesn’t care about how much someone can bench press. The hosts’ mantra is: if it’s OK for them to talk about it, anyone can.

O’Byrne is extremely candid about being sexually abused by his hockey coach over 11 years ago. His abuser was convicted of sexual assault and served three months house arrest and 18 months probation.

Evans was a contestant on the 11th season of ABC’s “The Bachelorette.” On the show, he was a partier, who indulged in drinking.

Off-camera he said he was prone to self-medicating and drinking even more when he felt tense.

Now approaching two years sobriety, Evans says the experience altered his life because “it made me look at how people saw me and change my ways, and for that I’m appreciative.”