Happy Canada Day! (Serious majestic version of anthem).
I would like to take this opportunity to thank two Canadian things that have helped my mental health. There are a lot of problems with mental health care in Canada, not least of which are wait times, but since the internet is generally a pessimistic place, I will take today to be optimistic.
1) Clara Hughes.
If you haven’t heard of Clara Hughes, you should. There are hundreds of very exciting things about her, such as the fact that she is one of the few global athletes that competes in both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, and the only person to ever have multiple medals in both games.
But topically, she has suffered from severe depression, and she has gone public about it. She has used her place as a famous Olympian and athlete as a platform for promoting mental health awareness and support, and to raise money for these issues. She is the spokesperson for the Let’s Talk campaign by Bell, which raises money via text messages sent on certain days. She’s currently been riding her bicycle across Canada to raise money and awareness, visiting schools along the way, and today is her big finish.
I just think that she is awesome. And yes, there are so many things to consider about how effective she can really be, what corporate sponsorship says about today’s day and age, and the positive image she has compared to so many who are suffering…but I admire her for bothering, I admire her for continuing well past one single campaign, and I admire her as a survivor who seems to really be striving to help others using the talents she has available to her. So go Clara. Happy Canada Day!
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, a hospital (with many satellites) in Toronto, is where I received my care. It is also a research centre, and is one of the leading mental health institutions in the world, let alone in T.O. In fact, while it’s possible to receive care there without being part of a research project, I don’t see why you would – it’s so easy to participate, and the projects are so ubiquitous, that it’s hard to ignore the help you can give to others while receiving help yourself.
While I was there, I received care from a psychiatrist, who managed my medications, and sent me to various therapies run by CAMH. First was CBT for panic disorder, for 12 weeks. Following that, several months later, I participated in a research project studying mindfulness as a treatment for depression, which involved being given training in mindfulness for 8 weeks, plus 2 full years of follow up. That might sound onerous, but what it really means is that for 2 years you are a) receiving check ups on your progress in mindfulness practice and evaluations to ensure you have not relapsed (if relapses or concerning difficulties occurred, they were right there to help), and b) giving absolutely invaluable, long-term information towards the understanding of this treatment. How bloody awesome is that? Finally I was part of a DBT skills group, which lasted for 20 weeks. All the while being seen by said psychiatrist on a regular basis. He was amazing – mindful of side effects and combinations, available on short term notice when disaster occurred, and supportive without being invasive. Plus he had a sense of humour.
Overall, I was a patient at CAMH for about 2.5 years. I received the best care imaginable.
Not everyone’s experience at CAMH is the same, I know – there are those that have had difficulties there. I can only tell my story, which was one of support, opportunity, and for the most part, understanding.
I am endlessly grateful to CAMH and to the people who took care of me there. Happy Canada Day to you all!
P.S. Check out their pretty fantastic online resources. They are fairly well balanced, and often quite in-depth. I could spend hours reading through the information they have there.