Every year January 26th is Bell Let’s Talk Day in Canada. This campaign started in 2011. It was designed to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around mental illness. After more than a decade of talking about mental health it is time to raise the bar. Rather than just talking about it it is time to also take action on mental health.
Mental health is a term that relates to the wellness or illness with our emotions and brain chemistry. There are many different conditions that can have very different symptoms. Most impact our mood, behaviours and thought processes. Anxiety and depression are two of the most commonly talked about mental illnesses. Other common disorders include eating disorders, addictions, PTSD, bi-polar and schizophrenia. Our team most often supports clients with anxiety and depression. However, music therapists across our country support clients with all types of mental health disorders. Music therapists specialize in supporting the needs of clients who are unable to, or would prefer to not participate in talk-based therapy. Here are 4 ways to take action for mental health.
1. Be Kind To Yourself
When we have a migraine, or a pulled muscle, we pace ourselves and take our time until we are feeling better. The same perspective should apply to mental health. When you are are having a tough day and experiencing stress or anxiety remember that it is OK to not be OK. You can give yourself permission to pace yourself while you work towards mental wellness. What are some little things that bring you joy?
Be kind to yourself by doing something that brings you joy. Take a walk, paint your nails, snuggle with your dog, read a good book. And I would be a terrible music therapist if I didn’t mention how helpful listening to music can be. Choose your favourite songs and dedicate some listening time every day. Maybe while you are driving the kids to school, or while you are cooking dinner, or at a time where you can just sit and enjoy. You can read all about how to use music for wellness in my blog. These little things will make a big impact.
2. Help Others
Another way you can maintain mental wellness is by helping others. The act of helping has been shown to release feel good endorphins. Simple acts can go a long way. It is important to remember to help until it feels great and make sure you don’t over-extend yourself. Helping can look like giving your time, donating to a cause that means a lot to you, or using your skills to make things for others. Helping could also look like offering to return a strangers grocery cart, shovelling the driveway for an elderly neighbour, or making a meal for someone who is having a tough time. The added benefit of helping others is that it boosts their happiness in addition to your own.
3. Talk To Your Doctor
When your best efforts to maintain your mental wellness aren’t enough, it is important to talk to you doctor. Most people don’t hesitate to mention a physical change or pain and it is important to confidently share mental health changes too. Much like physical ailments, when we don’t tell our doctors about changes, things can fester and get worse over time. The isolation and lockdowns we’ve all experienced over the past two years have impacted EVERYONE’S mental wellness. It is encouraging that doctors are making an effort to ask patients about their mental wellness. Your doctor will be able to discuss different options and connect you with valuable resources in your community.
4. Getting Help
Getting help usually includes seeing a therapist, taking medication, joining a support group or a combination of these options. This usually depends on your particular illness and the severity of symptoms. When medications are recommended, overcoming the hesitation to start them can be challenging for some. It can help to think of your mental illness the same as a physical condition. Therefore, taking medicine for depression is no different than taking medicine for pain, epilepsy or diabetes.
Finding the right therapist or support group can be overwhelming. There are many option and it is hard to know where to start. My best advice is to choose some names and make some calls. Choosing a therapist is a bit like shopping around for a new car. Most offer free consultations so you can find the right fit. A short conversation with someone new will let you know really quick if you feel comfortable with them. There is a psychotherapists, social workers, or of course music therapists out there for everyone. When you stick with it and be patient, over time you will start to see a difference.
Taking action for mental health goes so much farther than just talking about it. It prompts you to think about how you are feeling, the ways you can maximize your wellness, and how you can seek help. This year when you talk about mental health, I invite you to talk about the ways you can take action for mental health too.
Heidi Flynn, RP, MTA
Registered Psychotherapist & Certified Music Therapist