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Dora Lewis

mental health IS health

mental health IS health

#mentalhealthishealth

It’s Mental Health Week in Canada. I’d like to share some personal thoughts on how I’ve treated my physical vs. mental health differently.  Intellectually I believe they are the same, so why do I still struggle with treating my mental health sometimes?

My mother was a nurse, so I learned early on, that when something is wrong physically, you go to the emergency room or visit your family doctor. I always have travel insurance, so it’s been easy to locate walk-in clinics while on tour when I had a bad cough or back pains.

What about my mental health? It hasn’t always been as easy for me to reach out for help with a mental health concern. In part because it took me a long time to understand the things about myself that I couldn’t ‘see’ but I was ‘feeling’.  And it took me even longer to learn that physical pain can result from mental pain, and to take it even further, to realize that the two are connected!!  Growing up, when hard times hit, we didn’t really talk about it or our mental health.  Even our health classes in school were focused primarily around physical health.  We never really talked about ‘anxiety’ or ‘depression’ amongst our friends in high school.  I was twenty nine years old when I discovered I had severe anxiety and met with a mental health professional because it was included in my works’ healthcare plan.

Almost ten years later, sometimes I still suck at getting treatment for my mental health. Me – with my Honours degree in Psychology, having benefitted from counselling in the past, and a volunteer with CMHA and promoter of CAMH – yup I can still suck at taking care of my mental health.  Stigma (the yucky way that we talk about ourselves and other people who experience mental illness) is super annoying, and can lead to us feeling fear and shame, which further prevents us from reaching out for help.  Stigma aside, I also have a lot of excuses for ignoring my mental health, some may be more valid than others, such as: I can’t afford help, I don’t have time to see a therapist, I don’t want to be prescribed drugs, or I’ll be fine if I just wait this temporary hell out!

I think I need to break my old habits of neglecting taking equally good care of my mental health as I do my physical health.  It does feel easier to get help with for physical stuff.  Historically I’ve been more likely to find a way to pay for treatment for a sore back or hip, than to take the time and find the money to pay for a trained mental health professional to help me.  Meanwhile, my stress and anxiety ARE the source of my sore back and neck, and the pain continues because I’m not really treating the WHOLE me! I’m not treating the issues that are causing me so much stress and anxiety and then straining my physical health.

On my last three-month tour, I could have benefited from paying out-of-pocket for a therapist, but I didn’t take the time to book an appointment.  However, I contacted a skin doctor in Hamburg within 20 minutes of finding out I had an allergic reaction to a new French perfume I was trying.  Note to self: Instead of buying new exotic perfume, use the money to go see a therapist!!!

I can do better #mentalhealthishealth. My family has a history of mental illness and addiction, which I believe means I’m more susceptible.

Recently I talked to my family doctor about my current burnout and high levels of anxiety.  We talked about a plan of action for me; it was a relief to speak with a healthcare professional about my situation, and it did help. I kept saying ‘I can’t afford therapy.’  Well, maybe I need to stop telling myself that.  But if you can’t afford therapy, talking to your family doctor about your situation for FREE may help.  It can be a great start to finding treatment.   Aside from that, it can also help to talk to family and friends, and DON’T WHISPER WHEN YOU DO. I try to do a lot on my own, many of you reading this might be similar, but sometimes you have to ask for help, and that’s OKAY!

One of my concerns living in rural Nova Scotia is that I find it far more challenging to access affordable face-to-face mental health therapy/counselling. I don’t really want to talk on the phone with someone.  There are emergency rooms and walk-in clinics in communities for physical illness, wouldn’t it be amazing to have trained mental health specialists in all medical clinics to consult face-to-face BEFORE a crisis hits?

I was challenged to ponder how I think differently about mental vs. physical health treatment.  Just talking to one of my best friends today, and working on this post, made me realize that it’s time to make a call. No more excuses.

I grabbed the information below from the CAMH website.   I promote the foundation at my Canadian tour dates because CAMH does the awesome research and work to make care better for Canadians experiencing mental illness and addiction. They treat some of the most severe cases in our country.  I signed up to become a monthly donor with CAMH because I have lost a brother, and friends to mental illness and addiction.  I believe we need to invest more in mental health research, care and facilities across Canada.   If you want to make a monthly donation to CAMH you can do so online here: http://bit.ly/2rtjH7V

“One of the biggest obstacles in our healthcare system is the perception that mental health isn’t as important as physical health. In fact, 4 in 5 Canadians feels this way. CAMH believes that Mental Health is Health. This is their new campaign platform and its goal is to transform the way Canadians think about mental illness by highlighting the disparity between how mental and physical health are treated.”