What Not To Say To Those Struggling With Mental Illness.

For those who are grieving, the holidays are hardly “the most wonderful time of the year.” Not only are they navigating their pain, they’re doing it during a time that’s supposed to be joyous.

Loved ones often try to alleviate some of the grief a person may be feeling by offering helpful phrases or advice, but what may seem like a supportive statement could actually be exacerbating a person’s sadness, Dan Reidenberg, chair of the American Psychotherapy Association, told The Huffington Post.“Certain statements don’t take into account what the grieving person is feeling,” Reidenberg said. “They end up really focused on the person who isn’t grieving.”

Take a look at advice from Reidenberg and a couple of additional experts and avoid these common pitfalls:

1. “Smile, it’s the holidays.”

While this is a good intentioned way of trying to cheer someone up, it may come across as invalidating.

“Statements like these end up sending a message to the grieving person ‘hide your sadness’ or “’it’s not okay to be sad,’” Reidenberg said. “This hurts them, makes them feel more alone and that their grief might somehow be wrong.”

2. “Next year will be better.”

Grief often makes the future look foggy.

“The holidays are filled with memories of good times, happy times, when loved ones and friends shared experiences and made memories together,” Reidenberg said. “Those are now in the past for the person grieving and that is very hard on them.”
Include the individual in your holiday preparations and just spend quality time with them when they need it, Reidenberg suggested. A supportive presence goes further than you think.

3. Any questions about the details of the death.

Curiosity should be stifled in this case, according to Nancy Marshall, a licensed professional counselor and author of Getting Through It: A Workbook for Suicide Survivors.

“Don’t force anyone to tell the story over and re-expose the trauma,” Marshall told HuffPost. “Your right to the ‘news’ does not trump their need for well-being.”

4. “Let’s try not to think about them right now.”

“People have a hard time being around someone who is sad and grieving, so they often try to take their mind off it or somehow make it better and the reality is that sometimes it just can’t be better,” Reidenberg said.

Acknowledging a person’s loss is crucial. Instead, try asking the grieving individual about any traditions they used to love to do with the person who passed, Reidenberg advised. Allow the person to guide you on how much or little they want to discuss.

5. “They’re in a better place.”

It’s easy to default on cliches, but they often come across as impersonal. Phrases like “everything happens for a reason” and “they’re in a better place now,” can often make a person grieving feel even more isolated if they aren’t at a place where they can accept what happened yet, Reidenberg said.

Try saying something like “I can’t imagine how you must be feeling” or “Is there anything I can do for you?” instead. And never underestimate the power of saying that you’re sorry this happened to them.
Ultimately, grief will subside but your support through the process is vital for the person who is in pain.
“It certainly will never be ‘okay’ that this happened, but time will pass and the sharpest pain will recede from consciousness,” Marshall said. “Always be compassionate with yourself as an observer and with your friend who experienced a horrible loss.”


Reposted from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-not-to-say-to-people-who-are-grieving-at-the-holidays_us_585be878e4b0de3a08f448e1

The Times You Live In.

It’s been a chaotic few weeks to say the least. I’m grateful for having had the chance to get away for my reading week and take some time to focus on something other than school.

I guess I would say the past couple weeks have been filled with a lot of anxiety and recurrences of my depression. Coming back into school to find out half my courses are cancelled because of a provincial wide strike was a bit much. I pay to learn and I pay to gain experience but yet half my courses including my clinical have been shut down until an agreement has been reached between the two parties. It’s a pretty crappy feeling to not be able to do something you love. It’s even worse when you come across articles pointing out the strike will be ‘protracted’ and previous strike have been 3 weeks +.

I guess I shouldn’t complain too much because I have at least my science courses to focus on and i’m grateful for what the Faculty has done in moving our classes to off campus locations across the city. I also can still attend my community placement which is also always a treat. I think the more I work with kids, the more I enjoy what I do.

Aside from that I can finally say I have recovered from strep throat. I’m usually not one to go see a doctor but even that was rough, who would think a sore throat could cause THAT much misery over three days. It got to the point I realized ibuprofen, lozenges, and my throat spray were not doing anything that I decided I needed to make a visit to the doctor. After sitting in a lecture and half way through googling the nearest walk-in clinic because I had chills and was literally in the most pain i’d ever experienced. I have a lot of respect for people that get it often, it was terrible.

But obviously bad news comes in threes….lucky me. Last week also saw my first car accident happen. Physically I was okay but emotionally I was shaken (or ‘shook’ as the youngin’s say). It was an experience and it still gives me anxiety if I think to hard about it but it’d definitely a learning experience and luckily the car can be fixed and my health is okay. I would say i’ll be more on edge driving now and I choose to walk more to do things rather than drive, but in time my confidence will grow again for driving but for now it’ll be one step at a time.

Aside from that, life is moving forward and i’m just trying to focus on making it through this term. The past couple weeks i’ve found myself in a rut where i’m not feeling motivated but then stress myself out because I don’t feel motivated. A vicious cycle. I guess it’s exciting to think I may actually have a long Christmas break this year (permitted everything goes smoothly) finishing around mid-December. Hopefully will also hear some positive news in regards to the results of my Master’s dissertation in the coming weeks.  Hopefully the new year will see me heading to London to collect my degree and see some good friends :).



The Depression Mask.

The depression mask. What I would define as a defence mechanism because if you looked like you felt, no one would ever want to be around you.

Depression has levels that is hard for people who don’t have it to understand. It makes me angry when I come across comments calling people like Chester selfish. To me, it’s a suicide is a failure of society to protect individuals for for letting them down to feel like this was the only viable option. Depression IS a disease. Sometimes medication can help and sometimes they don’t similar to any other sickness. The difference with depression compared to other illnesses is people think it’s okay to say things like: ‘get over it’, ‘stop being stupid’, ‘this needs to stop’, or even ‘you’re just being lazy’.

Depression isn’t simply being “sad”. It’s more than that. It’s a feeling of worthlessness and that you’re a burden to everyone around you. The most toxic feeling with depression is the utter hopelessness that goes with it. Not only do you feel worthless, but you have no reason to believe that it will change. Everyone’s experience will also be different, some people can still be high functioning while others struggle to get about their daily tasks. I can say i’ve been in both situations. I wouldn’t be where I am without the hardwork I put in to be here but I’ve also had days where i’ve struggled to even get out of my bed and have the motivation to do anything because I feel empty, unmotivated, and worthless. Its a spectrum condition where the word does not define the symptoms, the individual does.

I think in my experience one of the worst things about having depression or going through a cycle is knowing you have so much to be thankful for and that there are so many people worse off. But that feeling of feeling nothing and just finding no joy in life is horrible and isolating. Instead you start to feel guilty for feeling pathetic and rather than burden people with your feelings, you lie and pretend you’re fine to get people to back off.

I think one of the most important things for people to remember is that suicide is a behaviour. Depression often drives a person to the point they want to die, but not all depressed people have self harming or suicidal tendencies. Some people who are not recognizably or clinically depressed will commit suicide or hurt themselves in a sudden moment of sadness. It’s a tragically complicated issue.

To the unknowing eye, he doesn’t look like someone suffering from depression and severe PTSD from the traumas he experiences growing up and navigating the industry. To the experienced eye though, his eyes say it all. Sometimes moments like these make it worse; you’ve had fun with the family, a few hours pass and you still feel it. Then guilt, shame, and hopelessness creep in. You think, “If I’m still depressed after having fun with the people I love, will I ever feel better?”. To be honest,  it’s not easy to seem “happy” around people. It actually hurts more when you’re lying to yourself trying not to seem upset. The human mind can only take so much torment, either from others, or itself. Those like Chester weren’t weak and should NEVER be labelled as such. It still makes me sick to think about how I let someone treat me as such in a moment of cowardice. If you’ve never been through depression you have NO idea how much mental strength it takes to hold on, especially after prolonged or traumatic events. 

It still makes me sad to realize he’s gone. There’s apart of me that still can’t believe it and I honestly can’t imagine what his family, friends, and bandmates must be going through. His legacy will not be forgotten, and while his loss is horribly tragic, I do believe it serves as a warning and example for all that mental health is not imagined. I think this video shared by his family serves to remind people that depression doesn’t look the same on every person or at every point in time. This was Chester’s depression.

At the end of the day we must support those who suffer, and awareness is the first step.

This is what depression looked like to us just 36 hrs b4 his death. He loved us SO much & we loved him. #fuckdepression #MakeChesterProudpic.twitter.com/VW44eOER4k

— Talinda Bennington (@TalindaB) September 16, 2017

RIP Chester.


For some students, the transition to university can be hard on mental health.

In a few weeks, more than two million students will step onto postsecondary campuses across Canada, roughly one-quarter of them in Toronto. It’s both an exhilarating and terrifying time for young people full of big hopes and even larger expectations.

Many thrive and revel in their new-found independence. But others struggle and too often they struggle silently, because they’re afraid – or ashamed – to tell their parents, friends, or teachers that they’re anxious, depressed, or deeply unhappy.

Seven years ago, Eric Windeler launched Jack.org to educate young people and their families on how best to advocate for their own mental health. It’s named after his eldest son Jack, who died by suicide in March, 2010, during his first year at Queen’s University.

Windeler believes the transition to a new life after high school and out of the family home is “one of the most exhilarating and also the most traumatic and dangerous, experiences of your life. It’s also the time that the onset of mental-health problems typically happens.” The inevitable rite of passage in a young person’s life is often fraught with stressors that both parents and their children don’t identify and can lead to a wide array of mental-health issues, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and, sadly, suicide. Katie Edmonds and Nolan Anderson are among Jack.org’s 2,500 student leaders who speak in Canadian schools about their own postsecondary struggles.

Edmonds, 24, was a straight-A student and competitive dancer in high school who deteriorated emotionally and physically during her first year at the University of Western Ontario in 2011, ending up hospitalized with a severe eating disorder.

Anderson, also 24, was a well-rounded athlete and solid student. He thrived during his first semester at McGill University, but fell apart in his second term.

Both have loving families, but that wasn’t enough. Parents and children have to be attuned to warning signs, they say, such as staying isolated in dormitory rooms, avoiding friends and becoming increasingly withdrawn.

How postsecondary school started

“My parents were worried about me before I went,” said Edmonds, who grew up in Courtland, Ont., close to London, and has a twin sister with whom she is very close. “There was no high-school drama. I had a good group of friends. But I’m very hard on myself when it comes to school. Good marks are never quite good enough.

“I was losing weight my last year of high school,” she said. She was going to the doctor regularly and now recognizes that she was already coping with anorexia nervosa. “My parents wanted me to go to university because they knew that’s what I wanted. But at the same time, they would have felt better if I had taken a year off.”

Anderson grew up in Mississauga, Ont., and was on his high-school student council. Going to McGill was a long-time goal. “Grade 12 was a bit of a struggle,” he said. “I was starting to have trouble keeping up with all the demands I’d put on myself and my time. I started to struggle with depression.”

His parents noticed and eventually took him to a psychiatrist. “They helped me help myself,” Anderson said. “But when I went away, I didn’t have them there.”

What happened in first year

Edmonds decided to major in biology and science, with the goal of becoming a dentist. Her roommate was her sister and she began to get marks below her usual 90s. “In first year, they were in the low 80s … not good enough for me. Everyone around me was top of their class, too. It was very hard to keep up and I lost my confidence,” she remembered.

She visited home every weekend, where she would study until 3 a.m. and then wake up at 7 a.m. “My parents were really worried. I would always say to them, ‘This is normal. Everyone is stressed.’ And I did think it was,” said Edmonds, who did confess to her sister how hard of a time she was having.

“My first semester was really positive,” said Anderson, who played varsity soccer and had a busy social life. “But it’s still a big change and it took some time for me to learn how to manage myself.”

In second semester, he began to get homesick and started skipping classes and soccer games. “I was sleeping a ton and watching a lot of TV. I thought maybe it was the winter blues, but it stretched into weeks and then months,” he said. During a visit, his parents set him up with a psychiatrist, but he missed those appointments, too. “I talked to some of my closer friends, but it’s not something you want to share too widely. It’s just awkward. I didn’t reach out to the school. I didn’t know what resources were available.”

The crash

“I weighed 100 pounds when I started at Western, and when I left, I weighed 70,” Edmonds, who is 5-foot-6, said. “I was hospitalized for five weeks, and ended up taking a year off. I saw a lot of doctors and went through a lot of different programs.” As she dealt with anxiety and depression, it was difficult to figure out what doctors – and what treatments – would help.

Around exam time, Anderson said, his mood went from depressed to manic, and he stayed up for two nights trying to make up for all of the classes he had missed.

“I wrote the exam, but after, I didn’t come down. I still felt the excitement, the adrenalin rush. And that was a huge sign I was unwell,” he said.

“For the first time in a long time, I felt really good. But I was too social. I was talking excessively. My friends finally reached out to my parents. They came and got me. They were trying to tell me I was sick, but I wouldn’t listen.”

Where they’re at now

In September, 2013, Edmonds transferred to the University of Toronto. “I wanted a fresh start,” she said. First year went all right, but by second year, she began to struggle again with balance and with her weight and mood. “I started to get very obsessive about school again in second year. I started to isolate,” she said. “So I ended up dropping a few courses and taking on a lighter coarse load to focus on myself again.”

Then, a friend invited her to a Jack.org summit. “I realized there were other people out there that I could talk to,” she said. “So many of us feel we have to keep it in, which only makes it worse. Talking is the best coping mechanism for me.” She is currently enrolled in a master of biomedical engineering program at U of T.

Anderson was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and also transferred to a school closer to home: U of T’s Mississauga campus.

“I got my four-year degree in psychology in five years – due to my circumstances, it took as long as it needed to take,” he said. “There is a stigma with that, too, but that might have been self-imposed. I was my own worst critic.” Now he works full-time as a constituency assistant for an MPP.


How to avoid a mental-health crisis at university

Eric Windeler of Jack.org said his basic message to parents is simple: Talk to your kids. Encourage them to speak to their friends. And start the conversations about mental health earlier – “long before Grade 11 or 12.”

Here, he and some spokespeople from his organization share some other advice.

Don’t isolate yourself

“As soon as I started to get out more – see friends and family, do volunteer work – I actually started doing better in school and my marks improved,” said Katie Edmonds, who is starting a master of biomedical engineering program at the University of Toronto

Avoid perfectionism

“Instead of putting myself down, I use it to motivate myself,” Edmonds said.

Talk as much as you can

“You don’t have to be as public about your problems as I have become, but you do have to share with people who have your best interests at heart,” Nolan Anderson said. “You need to focus on your relationships, and not with Facebook friends, but with real people that you can have real conversations with.”

Two weeks after his son Jack died by suicide, Windeler, founder of Jack.org, drove to Queen’s University to talk with students in his son’s residence. “I wanted to make sure they weren’t feeling bad,” he said.

“I got talking to them and they didn’t understand that being less social, or not going to class, can be a sign. In fact, it most likely is a sign.”

Learn about mental health

“My wife and I were average in our understanding [of mental health when Jack died],” Windeler said. “If only we’d been better educated. We felt, literally, that we were the happiest healthy family out there. Our kids seemed to be thriving. After we got the phone call from the police, we couldn’t figure out how this had happened.’

Reposted from: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/back-to-school/the-transition-to-university-can-be-hard-on-mental-health/article36003286/

The Aftermath of Bell Let’s Talk.

I think this is an insightful perspective into the impact Bell Let’s Talk day has on the mental health movement. I have to admit it is one of my favourite days on social media, it’s incredibly inspiring to see so many people open up for the first time and share their experiences or words of positive encouragement for those going through mental illness. However, it’s also incredibly sad and frustrating at the same time to see so many people suffering in silence and unable to find the resources they need to lead a meaningful life.

Mental health treatment is expensive. Trust me, I know. I was fortunate to have the support of my family in paying for a psychologist (not covered by OHIP), which would set me back about 110 dollars for every one hour appointment. At one point I was going 3 to 4 days a week for almost 4 months at my lowest point 3 years ago. Waiting for a psychiatrist (covered by OHIP) took almost 2 months to get an initial appointment and even so most of the time they just give you medication and direct you to other resources such as cognitive-behavioural therapy or other forms of talk therapy. For most people many of these resources are simply unaccessible and unaffordable. Even on campuses across Canada, there’s often long wait lists to get into counselling on campus. I was told to explore options off campus to gain faster access and because I was covered by insurance outside of the school, meaning I could try my luck and get covered somewhere else but it was unlikely.

Your brain is apart of your body. I don’t understand why people face so much discrimination to get a “check up” on their brain. We get yearly physicals for the rest of our body, why should someone feel ashamed to talk about what’s going on in their head. I mean any pain someone feels is subjective, so why is it any different on thought process. When we feel “sick” whether it be the flu, a cold, or even a migraine, many of us stay home to “rest” and feel better and don’t face any shame in doing so. But as soon as someone says I stayed home because my anxiety was too high, that’s when people’s perspective starts to change.

It’s great to see a national conversation and even international to some extent, but it is simply not enough to talk about it for one day. We should be talking about it every day until it’s normalized. But more importantly we need to hold accountability to our words. We say we want to remove the stigma and make care accessible, but yet people seem to stop talking about it as soon as the day is done. We need to do more than just talk, we need to take action. Whether it be advocating at your school to encourage more funding into mental health or encouraging and lobbying our politicians to integrate more funding into mental health resources. Mental health should play a bigger role in the renewals of the provincial health accords both in terms of primary health care but also in health education. Many mental illnesses begin in childhood, if we can find ways to remove barriers when children are young, train teachers and other child educators to recognize signs early on, we can save many people from going down a long road of recovery and give them the resources early on to cope later on in life.

The conversation shouldn’t stop today. We should be holding people with power accountable for their words of wanting to make changes to our mental health care system. PM Justin Trudeau wants to be part of the movement remove the stigma surrounding mental illness, so let’s hold him accountable in creating dialogue with our provinces and territories in allowing people to access the care and supports they need to feel right again.

Don’t stop the conversation.



Today is #BellLetsTalk day. It’s supposed to reduce stigma around mental health by getting Canadians to talk about. It also helps raise money for mental health initiatives and programs. Aside from the fact that mental health awareness gets coopted by a massive corporation for one day, I have other qualms about throwing my support behind the movement.

Bell Let’s Talk assumes that one of the major keys to fighting mental illness is simply by talking about it. By sharing my experience on social media, I’m supposed to be on my way to feeling better. By tweeting “Let’s talk, today and every day!” I’m supporting others dealing with depression, anxiety, and other issues in a way that’s helpful and meaningful.

But mental illness doesn’t work like that. And it certainly doesn’t work like that in Canada.

Last year, I went through a tough time. I spent days in bed crying. It was hard to feel motivated to bathe, feed myself, let alone venture outside. I wanted to disappear.

I was really lucky that my manager and workplace understood and gave me time off to deal with what I was going through. But many working Canadians aren’t that lucky. People who are paid hourly lose pay for missing work. Even salaried employees can be reprimanded, demoted and fired for having to deal with mental health issues. Each year on #BellLetsTalk day, a number of former Bell employees come forward with their own stories of how Bell doesn’t actually care about their mental well-being.

Eventually, I started therapy. It was expensive, but because I had a job and some savings, I was able to afford it. I also have health benefits, but it covers psychiatry not psychotherapy. Psychiatry tends to be more expensive, so $500 of insurance only gets you around two or three sessions. Plus, do you know how long the waitlist is to see a psychiatrist in Canada?

Once a week, I’d leave work early to make it to my therapy appointment. Again, my manager was amazing and never made it a big deal. I feel so lucky. I was never docked pay or asked to produce a doctor’s note. Many Canadians aren’t afforded the same luxury.

Months after starting therapy, I found that no matter what I was doing to help myself, I still couldn’t shake off feelings of sadness, panic and anxiety. It was difficult to imagine a future, let alone plan a week ahead. I felt anxious whenever I had to see people or be in social situations. I couldn’t focus on work or anything. No matter how much I exercised, I couldn’t feel confident or the jolt of endorphins that used to come to me so easily.

So I went to my doctor. I’m pretty lucky that despite moving to a new city, I was able to secure a family doctor by recommendation. Most Canadians don’t have access to a regular, family doctor and rely on walk-in clinics, which require waiting around for hours, missing work and other responsibilities.

My doctor prescribed me an antidepressant. I knew that giving it a try would be the best course of action, but it was still difficult for me to accept this reality. I kept wondering what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just feel like my old self again? I felt like a failure.

After thinking about it for a week, I filled the prescription. My pills are expensive, but my health insurance covers nearly the entire cost. I’m lucky that as a full-time employee, my workplace provides health insurance coverage. I can’t imagine having to pay for these medications otherwise. No wonder so many Canadians are never able to get the help they need.

At first, I felt just about every negative side-effect my doctor had told me about – drowsiness during the day and insomnia at night, heart palpitations, dry mouth, nausea and dizziness. But after about two weeks, those feelings went away, and now I can say with certainty that my medication has really helped me. I’m lucky to have found something that worked so quickly.

I still go to therapy and I don’t expect to be on antidepressants forever. But If I do, that’s ok, too. Mental health, however, is so much more than just talking about it. It’s more than a hashtag and getting Canadians to open up about it for a day.

It can be an extremely lonely experience. It can feel frustrating and seemingly inexplicable. I’ve found it helpful to talk to my friends about it, but I’ve also found comfort in online movements like #TalkingAboutIt, which is used 365 days of the year – not just one – and support groups like the Bunz Mental Health Zone on Facebook.

But to truly make a difference on the mental health of all Canadians, we need to be doing so much more. We need the government to step it up and make mental healthcare, including therapy and medications, available and accessible to everyone.

We need workplaces to get on board and really listen to and care about their employees. We need mental health days to be seen as just as important as regular old sick days. We need to start talking about it, normalizing it and letting kids know that it’s okay to feel sad, angry, anxious and depressed – and then provide actual help.

A few months into my therapy, I said to my therapist, “I can’t believe it took me so long to come here. Therapy should be as normal as going to the doctor or dentist for annual checkups. It’s like a check-up for my brain.”

I want other Canadians to be able to get the help they need – and not just talk about it for a day.

Reposted from: https://nowtoronto.com/news/think-free-blog/more-to-mental-health-than-what-bellletstalk-day/?utm_content=buffer3cc4b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Interviewing a Clinical Psychologist

Executive Summary

In Ontario, clinical psychologists are recognized as health professionals. Registered and regulated by the College of Psychologists of Ontario. Individuals in this profession are governed by specific training, educational, and professional obligations. Therefore, only members of the College may call themselves a psychologist. A local psychologist in private practice, henceforth known as Dr. Melissa Jones (*Name was changed to maintain privacy) was called to conduct an interview in an effort to address how psychologists go about working with student based populations versus adults and whether or not there are any differences or similarities in bringing about therapeutic change. The basis of this research stems from my own experience with a mental health illness, thus it was a fitting choice to gain a better understanding of how mental health issues impact a student’s ability to thrive in an academic setting. Prior to the interview, a Letter of Information and consent form was drafted for the participant to review and sign and a 30-minute interview consisting of 10 questions was carried out. The questions and their accompanying answers were then analyzed and coded, leading to the distinction of three main themes that arose throughout the interview. These codes involved: scope of practice, consisting of both micro and macro influences, and a caring approach made up of micro factors. Thus, answers for a select number of questions were then further analyzed in the results section using the coded data categories. Overall, the assignment has contributed to my greater understanding of how psychologists are able to work with various groups of individuals and some of the unique challenges and similarities that arise in designing treatment plans. This assignment has further motivated to take an active role in promoting the importance of mental health initiatives on campus, and reiterates the idea of why I would like to work in a health care profession related to treating individuals with mental health issues.
                                         Interviewing a Health Care Profession
Introduction and Background:

A common thread that unites most post-secondary students together involves the transitional period many of us find ourselves in. Many of these students experience living independently for the first time, and are often faced with unique physical and mental health challenges.  Having experienced my own mental health challenges within the last year, I chose to interview someone in a health profession that has been relevant to my situation, a clinical psychologist. Through the medium of an interview and I sought to gain a better understanding of their impact, particularly in relation to post-secondary students.  With a growing number of post-secondary students facing mental health challenges, my own experience acting as a foundation for my research question it was odd for me to realize how over-crowded mental health services were on campus and how lack of access could impede the necessary measures to get healthy. Therefore, I wanted to understand in a more detailed analysis how psychological treatment plans vary between students and adults, and whether there are any similarities or difference in how psychologists approach working with these groups of individuals.

To become a clinical psychologist in Ontario, an individual must be a member of The College of Psychologists of Ontario. The college is the governing body for all psychologists in Ontario, and as such only member of the College may call themselves a Psychologist. To qualify for professional registration to become a practicing psychologist, an individual is required complete a doctoral level education degree in psychology and training in professional psychology, one year of supervised professional experience, and successfully complete three examinations (College of Psychologists of Ontario, 2007).  Similar to other health care providers, psychologists see people of all ages, working with individuals or within group settings. Currently, fees for psychologists in Ontario are generally covered solely by private payment, employee assistance programs, and extended medical plans. Unlike psychiatrists who are able to prescribe medication and focus on more biological aspects of mental health, psychologists tend to focus on cognitive, emotional, and behavioural aspects. Oftentimes, both psychologists and psychiatrists work closely together when treating an individual. Psychologists are also able to join the Ontario Psychological Association, with the aim of serving the public through education and advocacy in regards to issues that affect the profession or the public (Ontario Psychological Association, n.d.).

Under the National Occupational Classification 2011 database, psychologists “assess and diagnose behavioural, emotional, and cognitive disorders” (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, 2011). Oftentimes, this involves the psychologist counseling patients, providing various therapies, conducting research and being able to apply theories to related behaviours and mental processes (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, 2011). Although it is generally thought that psychologist focus mainly on treating patients, they also work towards the maintence and enhancement of psychological and interpersonal functioning.  Psychologists are able to work in various settings including private practice, hospitals and clinics, rehabilitation centers, schools, and in government agencies.


            An appointment was booked by telephone with my chosen health professional, Dr. Melissa Jones, (referred to by Student Health Services) to arrange an interview. In the initial phone call I was able to introduce myself briefly and discuss the purpose of the interview, which was to understand the role of a psychologist. I also indicated that the interview would take approximately 30-40 minutes and left my phone number for her to contact me with any further questions prior to setting an interview date. The interview was to take place two weeks after the initial phone call in Dr. Jones’ private practice. Before the interview was conducted, a letter of information (LOI) was drafted inviting the potential participant to participate in the interview. The LOI contained detailed information regarding the use of information, project procedures, possible risks and benefits, as well as a section on confidentiality. While sitting down with the potential participant, the LOI was given for the participant to review prior to the start of the interview. Before a signature was obtained I quickly summarized the LOI and explained how the interview would contribute to the final product. The participant was also given time to ask any questions or raise any concerns they may have had prior to signing the consent form.

A qualitative interview was designed to give a more complete and meaningful picture, and allow myself to develop and make connection in understanding the profession from the perspective of a practicing psychologist.  It was thought a semi-structured interview would best meet my needs, with questions prepared for the participant ahead of time and probes used to help clarify or exploit certain issues that could potentially arise in the context of an interview. The semi-structured approach also allowed for the inclusion of questions that were not thought of prior to the interview but were added in while going through the process.  Overall, the design of the interview guide (refer to Appendix A) planned for a 30-minute audio-recorded interview with approximately 10 questions to being asked to the participant.  The interviewee also had a chance to add any further comments or ask questions once the interview was completed.


When it came to analyzing the audio recording, there were several main themes that arose.  The analysis and coding of the interview led to me devising four coded categories, three of which I chose to more specifically analyze: scope of practice (both micro and macro factors), occupational structure (micro factors), and a caring approach (micro factors). For the complete coding list, refer to Appendix B. Another issue that could be classified within a caring approach, was in regards to how mental health counseling benefits students who seek the services, in comparison to their fellow peers that don’t receive such services. As well as how the distinction of being a student seeking psychological services and treatment may differ from an older patient seeking the same services.

As pointed out by Dr. Jones, public perception plays a significant role in influencing the profession. One misconception pointed out by Dr. Jones is the confusion between psychologists and psychiatrists. With the latter profession being able to prescribe medications. With being asked where psychologists stood on the issue and whether they could be expected to be able to prescribe medication, Dr. Jones replied that it may be best to allow psychologists to focus on therapeutic treatment. Speaking on behalf of fellow colleagues and psychiatrists that she interacted with over time, both professions noted, “if [they were] seeing a patient psychotherapeutically, they preferred to not also prescribe medication” (M. Jones, personal communication, March 4, 2014). Her own personal opinion on the matter and the future of her profession pointed out it may be better “if psychologists have their own way to treat people, [while allowing] another profession to have the right to prescribe medication” (M. Jones, personal communication, March 4, 2014).

Dr. Jones was also asked about physical demands that her occupation involved. Major demands included sitting for long periods of time, often times her work week consisted of 55-60 hours a week, particularly during the school year when many students seek her help. Other demands include being able to hear and see, as attention to detail is important. Lastly, as pointed out by Dr. Jones, being able to write is key in her occupation as psychologists are required to keep ongoing notes, and may be required to write reports for some individuals. Since Dr. Jones operates her own private practice, it was discussed what she thought were some challenges her profession faced. One issue that was raised was accessibility and the fact that there are more people who need the services than can be helped. As she points out, it can often be difficult to find alternative resources for these individuals. Many people also cannot afford the services, and there is a portion of psychologists who wish that their services were covered by government funding. Running her own private practice has proven to be beneficial. Benefits include being able to avoid the beurocracy and paperwork that often comes with being government funded and being able to remain autonomous in her treatment plans.

Lastly, there were three questions that summed up the caring category, which consisted of micro factors that influenced her practice. One question focused on the difference in treatment plans between student’s in post-secondary education and a typical adult patient. Dr. Jones pointed out that her treatment plans for students generally “focus on seeing results in the short run”, while many of her adult patients have an ongoing relationship often being seen for years  (personal communication, March 4, 2014). Thus, designing a treatment plan often entails “deal[ing] with issues in a different depth”, particularly since many student patients are typically facing many significant changes for the first time with little external structure to help them maneuver all those changes  (personal communication, March 4, 2014).  In the eyes of Dr. Jones when asked how do psychological services benefit those who receive it, she pointed out those who seek help often have better outcomes. Mental health issues can be debilitating for individuals, particularly students who need adequate concentration to focus on their studies. Thus, those who seek treatment are often able to overcome the illness and develop coping strategies to avoid relapse, while those who sought no treatment may be susceptible to future episodes of mental health issues that impact daily living of the individual.
Reflection and Conclusion:
Overall, I feel that the most important lesson that I learned from my interviewee, was how important having access to mental health services is. Reflecting on the growing number of students being diagnosed with mental health issues, there will definitely be a continuous demand for clinical psychologists to help these individuals. As society continues to grow and acknowledge current and new mental health diagnoses’, I would think this would contribute to the growth and need for individuals in this particular profession. Post-secondary students face unique challenges, often experiencing the high pressures that come with being a student. As Dr. Jones points out, she believes that there is more pressure now in life, then during any other period. This is particularly related to the tendency to be the best in all that they do, thus coming to university if often a huge wake up call to many students. There needs to be a greater priority for academic institutions to prioritize academics and mental health together, because if students are both happy and health, it can help them achieve success both academically and socially.

Upon reflecting on the interview and my own personal experience, I would like to find a career where I have influence on treating or working with patients experiencing mental illness. While becoming a psychologist most likely won’t be in my future, a career such as a physician’s assistant or midwifery might be. However, both these career options may involve dealing with patients with mental health issues and referring patients to psychological services. Also these health care providers would most likely receive some form of limited training in mental health related issues. Psychological issues can have debilitating effects on student’s ability to be successful in their studies. I would therefore like to take a more active role in promoting mental health services and advocating for a greater amount of health care provides dealing with mental health issues on campus.

Appendix A.

Target Participant: Dr. Melissa Jones

Date: March 4, 2014

Interviewer: Megan Simpson
Interview Guide:
Outline to Open Interview:

  1. Greet participant, give name, and state purpose of project and interview
    1. Learn more about the participant and background of occupation
    2. Ask questions to get specific information to answer research question
  2. Give participant Letter of Information and consent form to review and sign
    1. Answer any questions participant may have about the interview and its purpose
    2. Indicate that I will be recording the session

 Background Information:

  • Please tell me your name, educational background, and number of years in practice

Interview Questions:

  1. In Ontario, how does an individual become a clinical psychologist?
    1. Probe: What degrees or training are required?
  2. What are some of the activities related to your occupation that a patient could expect to receive?
  3. What are some physical demands that your job requires?
  4. What are some of the rewarding aspects of your job?
  5. What are some of the challenges a psychologist may come across in practice?
    1. Probe: How does one overcome those challenges?
    2. Probe: Are there any misconceptions about psychologists?
      1. Probe: Can you elaborate on this?
    3. Do you feel mental illnesses are more prevalent now or in the past?
      1. Probe: Do you feel life is regarded as being more stressful now, as compared to in the past?
    4. How does it benefit students that do get psychological counseling, compared to those who do not seek out any psychological counseling?
    5. How do you approach working with post-secondary students as opposed to adults?
      1. Probe: What are some of the common issues they face?
      2. Probe: What are some issues that one group may be more likely to face compared to the other?
    6. Do you feel that there is a present demand for people in this particular occupation?
      1. Probe: Do you foresee the demand growing, shrinking, or staying the same over the next 5-10 years?
    7. Do you have any questions and or comments you would like to make prior to the completion of this interview?

Appendix B.

Coded Version

  1. In Ontario, how does an individual become a clinical psychologist? [occupational structure]
  2. What are some of the activities related to your occupation that a patient could expect to receive? [caring approach]
  3. What are some physical demands that your job requires? [occupational structure]
  4. What are some of the rewarding aspects of your job? [occupational structure]
  5. What are some of the challenges a psychologist may come across in practice? [occupational structure]/ [scope of practice]
  6. Do you feel mental illnesses are more prevalent now or in the past?
  7. How does it benefit students that do get psychological counseling, compared to those who do not seek out any psychological counseling? [caring approach]
  8. How do you approach working with post-secondary students as opposed to adults? [caring approach]
  9. What do you think the future of psychological counseling looks like? [scope of practice]
  10. Do you have any questions and or comments you would like to make prior to the completion of this interview? [not categorized] 

Hope my interview shed some light on such an important profession! I have posted the works cited list below in case anyone wants further information or a place to start.

Just to note, prior to the interview a privacy disclosure and risk form were signed by the interviewee and a letter of information was provided for the participant. Lastly, consent was obtained in allowing me to post the interview on my blog.




 Works Cited:

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. (2011). National occupation classification.       Retrieved March 1, 2014, from            http://www5.hrsdc.gc.ca/NOC/English/NOC/2011/Welcome.aspx

Ontario Psychological Association (OPA). (n.d.). What do psychologists do?. Retrieved March 1,  2014, from http://opajoomla.knowledge4you.ca/index.php/getting-help-faq/what-do

The College of Psychologists of Ontario. (2007). Psychological service providers: psychologists    and psychological associates. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from      http://www.cpo.on.ca/members-of-the-public/complaints-about         members/index.aspx?id=122&ekmensel=10_submenu_24_link_3#

Approaching someone you care about.

I think one of the toughest things to grasp is trying to figure out how to help someone you think may have depression. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately as I feel that someone very close to me has been struggling a lot lately. I have also been told by countless amounts of people of their own struggles with “confronting” a roommate, friend, or family member. The question I suppose is how do you go up to someone you care about and explain to them that they may have a form of mental illness?

It’s not an easy topic to bring up and many people would get extremely offended at the notion that you think they aren’t “normal” I’ve started to recognize the classic signs of depression particularly in regards to deep mood changes (irritability, sadness) and i’ve recognized that not all depression is biological. Particularly in our society and how its structured the environment is a heavy component to contributing to depression. Especially being at a top school and having to compete with some of the smartest people to move on to grad school or the work force, things get stressful. It’s not hard to find many students cramped in their rooms, studying and watching TV alone. Relaxation and time management need to be better emphasized to students, you need to get out, meet new people, and enjoy life once in awhile. However, it doesn’t always happen and some plunge into their own despair of feeling isolated and stressed out, placing more pressure on those around them to deal with their new personalities.Thus many people bring up the same question to me almost on a weekly basis: How does one find balance though in bringing up the topic?

My advice would probably revolve around my own experience with mental illness, I suppose in my own situation having someone I cared about calling me “crazy” was a tough pill to swallow and sent my in a spiral of my own despair trying to be and feel “normal”. It wasn’t until I internally recognized something wasn’t right that I reached out and asked for help in dealing with my illness. My advice would be to be there and listen, sometimes you don’t need to say anything at all, it’s your presence that matters. It’s not easy though, especially when it impacts your own ability to get on with your day but having your own support system to vent is essential too. Encouraging breaks, talking about their day, exercise, watch TV/ cook together, and proper sleeping techniques would be a good start but oftentimes its hard to encourage people to take part in those activities when they feel down, so take it slow. Importantly, you can also try to get educated on mental illness to better help someone you think may be going through it, as well as promote better mental health for yourself. It’s hard to understand something if you haven’t been able to experience it yourself, but it is a start in trying to make a change.

When they are ready to seek help, hopefully they will and you’ll be grateful to see them making a change for the better. It’s important to take the note that you shouldn’t force them to do something like talking to a therapist or going to the doctor (unless its an emergency), it would probably make them feel worse about their situation and about themselves.

Depression makes people do crazy things, don’t hold it against them or feel your at fault for what their going through. It’s not easy to live with someone battling untreated depression, but it is worth it to see them get help when they are ready 🙂

If anyone has their own experiences with a similar situation, please share how you dealt with it. I’d love to hear more from other people and hopefully we can all help people who are struggling trying to figure out how to help someone they care about.

– M