Mental Health Week #GETLOUD

It’s Mental Health Week in Canada, and I’m pretty proud! Proud to live in a country that wants to loudly share it’s support for those with mental illness, proud to help share what mental health is. Presented by the Canadian Mental Health Association the week has been in 1951 and is celebrating it’s 65th year.

This week I’ve celebrated in a few ways. Mostly by learning an important lesson in self care, a diagnosis of a brachial and chest infection Monday, after being sick for two weeks hit-home the importance of taking care of myself, and forced me to rest. Something I’m not so good at. Thankfully I’m on the mend!

Let’s Keep Talking w Mental Heath Foundation of Nova Scotia

For many Canadians “Bell Let’s Talk Day” is one we are familiar with, but what about the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia’s “Let’s Keep Talking”? This year I had the honour of attending the third annual event held at the Spatz Theatre in Halifax. I’ve been a Board of Trustees member with The Foundation for almost a year, and of all the events the organization presents this certainly not one to miss!

Awards honouring caregivers, clinicians and those who live with mental illness were given. It was an honour to hear the stories of these individuals and see them recognized.  Also we were treated to performances by a live art painter, musicians, actors and dancers.

All of these individuals living with or tackling the conversation of mental illness. The finale, and most anticipated was keynote speaker Margaret Trudeau! Mother to the Prime Minister of Canada and living with bi-polar, and having suffered from depression. Still processing the evening, I’m in awe of the resiliency, and the humility with which Margaret spoke. Sharing wisdom, sharing struggle and weaving hope throughout it all. In a week that’s been difficult in many ways the evening was a fresh breath of air. See the social media synopsis and images shared by The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia here.

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Girls Guides #GETLOUD

On Wednesday night the Halifax South District 3rd Wednesday Brownies #GOTLOUD! I’m a unit guider for a beautiful group of twenty-three Brownies. We have tons of fun, and although our unit is nearly complete for the year this week we decided to tackle The Girl Guides of Canada Mental Health Challenge. Talking about mental health is something new for me, and talking to my peers and people I look up to about it is difficult. The prospect of discussing it with seven year olds was twice as daunting. For what shouldn’t be a difficult subject is one, it’s uncomfortable sometimes, and we still tread carefully as we talk.
We discussed the difference between anxiety and stress, which the girls grasped quite easily. They shared moments of stress such as family members illness’, not doing well at sports or failing tests. We also focused on ways to relax such as yoga tag and mediation. Completing the evening we built origami bricks and discussed our worries, contrasting the discussion with ways and things that make us happy. For an evening I was apprehensive about it was a fantastic evening and one I walked away from proud to have witnessed.

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To highlight the difference between mental health and physical health the girls drew on a tracing ways they’d fix a hurt arm, leg, eyes, and to treat cuts, bruises and headaches. We then had a discussion on how to help our mental health, the girls created the list below on their own. Reflecting now it gives me hope for future generations and that the stigma we now feel about mental health will be but a distant memory.

Ways to Help Your Mental Health by 3rd Halifax Brownies:

  • Take a nap
  • Play video games
  • Go for a walk
  • Talk to friends and family
  • Read a book
  • Play sports
  • Eat cookies
  • Colour

Although it’s not just about one day, one week or even a month, but 365 days of committing to talk about mental health, mental illness and taking care of one another. I’m glad as Canadian’s we can say we’re partaking in Mental Health Week and that much needed conversations are starting to happen. As Winston Churchill said, “To Improve Is To Change”, we’re improving Canada and here’s to much more!

 

 

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Common, but Unknown- Day 6 of 7 Day Trichster

I’m amazed at the amount of outreach, of sharing, and the courage of those who have come out of hiding since I began this journey six days ago. Those who’ve reach out, those who I was unaware suffered as I do. I’m not alone, as others aren’t either, we’re just…

HIDING.

I question why?

There’s support for the mental health movement, as a society we are moving towards being more open. It’s not perfect, we have a long way to go. Yet awareness for most afflictions is growing, and daily I see posts on my Facebook about self-care, and even many speaking out about their own mental health struggles. It makes my heart happy, but it also makes my belly burn with fire. So many live with Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours, “2-5% of the Canadian population, or approximately 2 million adults and children” according to the CBSN. That is not a small number. Yet still most Canadians, mental health advocates, and even physicians have no clue what BFRBs are.

I’ve seen three psychologists since being diagnosed with Trichotillomania. Two of them have called what I have “a habit”, suggesting I simply “stop it” and fiddle with my hands instead.  One recognized my struggle, researched the disorder, and openly admitted she had no idea how to help. This. Is. Not. Okay.

One factor is awareness. The second is the way BFRBs are portrayed in media and popular culture.

Trichotillomania has been featured on ABCs 20/20 My Strange Affliction more than once. Featured along with those who love carpets, and a life-time witch who is afraid of water. Also seen on TLC’s My Strange Addiction Trichophagia, Dermatillomania and Trichotillomania have been featured as recent as last year. A show famous for displaying the oddities and lifestyles of those who suffer from addictions of all kinds, yet BFRBs are not an addiction? BFRBs are a mental illness. Finally, it seems BFRBs have been featured by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.

Its no wonder those with BFRBs feel the need to hide!?

The culture that surrounds us is labelling us as odd, weird and unbelievable. If someone with another more well-known mental illness were to featured in such a way I find it hard to believe there wouldn’t be some sort of uproar.

BFRBs affect a significant proportion of Canadians from youth to adults. BFRBs hurt families, inhibit the ability of some to succeed, but mostly damage confidence and self-worth of all affected. It’s time those who are affected start to feel represented. The only way to do this is through speaking up, and sharing information about BFRBs.

Let’s Connect! My goal in this blog is to create a community, help others and in turn grow myself. This is not just about sharing my story, but those of others- Want to collaborate? Suggest a post? Ask a question? Meet to chat? I’m all ears! Send me an email, instagram or via @AnaSmallwood