The spotlight is on mental health this week, with various organizations and health professionals across Canada raising awareness on mental illness – something that 1 in every 5 Canadians will experience.
While 70% of all mental health related problems usually occur in early childhood or adolescence, mental illness can affect individuals of all ages and all walks of life. Mental illness can also have a significant impact on one’s overall health. For example, those who suffer from a mental illness are less likely to eat healthy or stay fit. Individuals who have been diagnosed with long-term medical conditions, such as chronic pain, also have a higher likelihood of developing a mental illness like depression or anxiety.
Due to the stigma that surrounds mental illness, it is a topic that many individuals still, to this day, have a difficult time discussing. While many strides have been made over the years with annual events like Bell Let’s Talk to help end the stigma and make mental health a less taboo subject to talk about, there is always more work that can be done.
The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health hopes that by continuing the discussion on social media as well as taking the discussion offline, talking about mental health will one day become as normal as talking about all other aspects of your health – a message that Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family doctor in Vancouver, strives to get across to all of his patients.
If you feel as though your mental health has been impacted in a negative way, it is always important to reach out to a trusted individual. This can be a friend or a family member. However, it’s also important to seek the professional opinion of a medical expert – such as your family physician. Based on the symptoms that you are experiencing, your family doctor will be able to provide you with a wide range of resources, including making any necessary referrals to psychiatrists or offering alternative outpatient counselling options.
Along with outpatient therapy, it is not uncommon for mental illness to also be treated with medication – such as anti-depressants (SSRIs) or anti-anxiety medications. There are a number of different medications out there that can be described, and your doctor will deem which is best suited for you. Some of the common side effects that come along with these medications include drowsiness, brain “fog”, inability to concentrate, nausea and trouble sleeping. It is important to remember that it is not abnormal to feel slightly “off” for the first couple of weeks of taking these medications; this is due to your brain adjusting to changes of serotonin levels. However, if you experience any symptoms that persist or worsen after several weeks, or if you have thoughts of suicide, you are urged to reach out to a medical professional as soon as you can.
For more information on Mental Health Week, visit the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health website at CAMIMH.ca.