Talking about mental health in Asian communities.

Happy to have been able to work with such a strong organization in blogging about my experience with being diagnosed with depression. I became acquainted with Mind while living in the UK to pursue my Master’s and finally had a chance to figure out a way I could help contribute to their cause in ensuring  everyone experiencing a problem gets both support & respect that they need.

This has been a project that had been in the works for a few months and i’m finally happy to share the result of having such a supportive organization help to share my story. I’m also incredibly humbled from the support I have received over the years in sharing my journey and to be fortunate to have helped others begin theirs.

While I have been fortunate to have the support of my family through my journey, I recognize that this is a prevalent issue amongst the Asian community in terms of stigma and the lack of support in terms of talking about  mental health. Hopefully by contributing to the conversation I can help other young people, especially minorities, find the courage and support they need to navigate and access an often complex mental health care system.



Read more “Talking about mental health in Asian communities.”

Michael Phelps on Life After Swimming and His Battle With Depression.

The most decorated Olympian of all time wants you to know he has bad days — some very bad days — just like so many people. “I’m not a superhuman,” Michael Phelps tells LIVESTRONG.COM. “I’m a human being who was very fortunate to find something that I love and find something that I’m good at and really never give up. But, really, that’s it.”

While he made success in the pool look easy, a shadow hung over the star athlete for years as he battled depression. Now Phelps is sharing more about his mental health issues. “These are things that have been a part of me for so long,” he says. “I just decided it was time to open up and talk about some of the struggles I’ve had in my life. Just being able to get out and talk about it and communicate about it — almost become vulnerable — I think is something that will help a lot of people,” Phelps, who will appear in a new documentary titled “Angst” to talk about his depression and being bullied, tells LIVESTRONG.COM.

Since retiring from swimming with 23 gold medals after the Rio Olympics in 2016, Phelps has had to readjust his routine and figure out what’s next for him. “For a long time, swimming was that thing that got me out of bed every morning early to go and jump in a freezing-cold pool. But now, kind of starting the next chapter for me, I’ve been asking myself where I want to be and what I want to do.”

Those next steps include working on a cause close to his heart: water conservation. “I obviously grew up in water and in around water for a very long time,” Phelps, a global ambassador for Colgate’s Save Water campaign, says about the world’s most vital resource. “I think it’s little small things that we can do together — no-brainers like not leaving the faucet running when you brush your teeth [and taking] shorter showers.”

His life at home with his wife, Nicole Johnson, is also becoming more of a focus, as their son, Boomer, is now 17 months old and they are about to become parents for a second time. But Phelps says he would never force his kids into the athlete life. “For me, I had an awesome mom growing up who was just so supportive of everything that we did,” Phelps says. “If I wanted to quit swimming, she was fine with it because she wanted us to follow our hearts. The only thing I’m adamant about is that [Boomer] has to learn to swim. Other than that, he can play another sport, whatever makes him happy.”

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I’m Depressed And Employed: How I Make It Work.

Since I was 15, I’ve been dealing with depression. I’m not talking about the blues, sadness, or simply the Mondays, but suffocating, full-blown depression—the kind that leaves you empty and hurting all at the same time.

Throughout early adulthood, I had to constantly force myself to go to high school, college, and eventually, a full-time job. But then at 19, I was diagnosed with bipolar and things got even more complicated, adding mania, anxiety, and rapid cycling to the mix of symptoms. It seemed impossible to be productive, and there have been countless days, weeks, and even months when I worried I would lose my job to the all-consuming force of my depression.

In 2013, MacMillan published Perfect Chaos, a memoir co-written by me and my mother, detailing my struggles with depression and her efforts to be there for me. Over the years, I’ve become an expert in my own symptoms and the hows and whys of leading a productive life under these conditions. And while the conversation is being brought further and further out of the dark with each person that decides to speak up, I’d like to offer up some practical advice that’s served me well, because here’s the thing, dear reader: In my many moments of debilitating depression, I have not once lost my job, nor even been reprimanded. Here’s how I make sure to take care of myself within the context of getting out of bed to go to work every day, even when it seems impossible:

1.     I create the quickest morning routine possible, one painful, brilliant step at a time. The night before, I take a shower and choose an outfit. One that makes me feel comfortable, smart, and capable—that just says, “Yes, that’s me, a total badass. I got this.” The next morning, I dress, apply mascara and a bright punch of lipstick, and then I leave. No time to climb back into my closet trying to find body acceptance in a state of morning confusion. Out the door in fifteen minutes flat. No excuses.

2.     Once I arrive at work,  it’s time to make a daily task list. Tasks in general feel utterly impossible when you are depressed. The word “task” makes you want to cry on your desk. But this is important: I ask myself what needs to get done and what I can get done. I break each overwhelming, essential task down to the smallest possible steps and write an in-depth to-do list. Then I only focus on that task. I don’t allow myself to look further down the list. Once I manage that first task, I force myself to do two things: proudly revel in my success and—this is crucial—take a five-minute break.

3.   Next—and this is the hard one—I decide if I need to inform my supervisor. Because depression is constantly recurring in my life, it’s important to let my supervisor know I have a chronic illness. On those days when I do call in, he knows it’s valid. This is also something that you can discuss with your HR manager. Your supervisor doesn’t need to know the gritty details of your struggles; they simply need to know that you are experiencing a health struggle and that you are doing your best to work to your highest ability. You may need to present a doctor’s note to HR, but management may surprise you and support you beyond your expectations.

4.     Lastly, at the end of that exhausting day, I do my best to prepare for the next day and attempt some exercise (those endorphins do help!). Most importantly, I celebrate my victory. When you are depressed, the most powerful thing you can do for yourself is celebrate each accomplishment. You got out of bed; I’m so proud of you! You ate food; you are killing it! You stayed at work for a whole eight hours; you are a superstar! Never stop praising these steps, and slowly but surely you will find your way back out of that hole into the productive light of day.

Reposted from:

Strategies to calm the anxious brain.

This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Read about the 2017 winners of the award at

Does your mind sometimes create thoughts – ones that make you anxious or worried – that you’d rather not have?

When our unconscious brain provides a random thought like this – if we’re not aware – we can become overly focused on these thoughts that can negatively impact our mental health.

This micro skill introduces a concept called cognitive defusion – a strategy we can use when we need to become untangled from our thoughts.

By learning how to defuse unwanted thoughts we can remove their power over us. Those thoughts can be as simple as our mind telling us there’s a difference between what we have and what we want. The thought is nothing more than a warning light. What we do with this thought defines our thinking and emotions.


When an automatic, unwanted, negative thought comes to the top of your mind, doesn’t feel good, and is distracting, the first step is not to fight it or hide from it. Acknowledge it as being present and a source of information. By “thanking our mind” for this thought without fighting it or judging we position ourselves to defuse its intensity, allowing us to use the information for some healthy action.


Dr. William Glasser, author of choice theory, suggested that we may not have 100 per cent control over our thinking, but we have 100 per cent control over our actions. Where our body goes, our mind follows. By changing our focus from troublesome thoughts to an action we enjoy, or by giving our mind an opportunity to engage in something we find interesting, we can leave the negative thought at the curb and take control of our thinking. This is not hiding from the negative thought; it’s moving past it. There may be nothing to do now, and there’s no value in focusing on negativity that’s distracting.


Persistent, negative thoughts that refocused attention doesn’t curb may require more action. Negative thoughts can be like weeds; they can multiply and take over our mind.

Cognitive defusing is about helping gain perspective so that we don’t give negative thoughts power to grow. “See thoughts as what they are, not what they say they are,” advises Steven Hayes, a professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada. Meaning a thought is just a thought – nothing more less.

Accept thoughts by name without any judgment – If negative thoughts are hanging around after you’ve engaged in an activity to re-direct them, this is fine. Stop for a moment and acknowledge the thought by name, like you would when meeting a new person. For example, “So it seems there’s anxiety, because I’m having thoughts that are due to my concerns about money and work.”

Redirect your mind – Take charge of your mind. Unhelpful thoughts are projections of some past or future concern that aren’t happening right now, so re-direct your mind in a non-judgmental way to something more positive. For example, “I get that this thought is providing me information and isn’t as helpful as it could be. Thanks for the anxiety, but I think I’d rather be calm.”

Focus on the now – We live in the now, not the future. Take a deep breath, focus on the now, and recognize that the unhealthy thought has no connection with what’s happening in the present; it’s just a thought. Practice focusing on the now, accept the thought and redirect your focus “since this isn’t happening now and there’s no danger, I’ll focus on getting my planned work done, then get to the gym for a good workout.”

By practicing cognitive defusion you can learn to look at negative thoughts as not being bad, just words and images in your mind that you can shape, process and release. The benefit is that this micro skill can teach you how to accept negative thoughts as information only; they don’t need to dictate your actions or feelings.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto and creator of an online Pathway to Coping course offered through the University of New Brunswick.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell’s Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this

Chapter Closed.

Ah, finally I can sit in peace and focus on writing a blog post. I can’t believe i’m already back in schools ready for round 2. Summer seems like a blur and it’s probably because of all the schooling and work I had to undertake to get caught up.

I’m proud to say i’m finished my Master’s (at least until Results day in November). All 14,998 words. I must say finishing my physiology course and having to jump straight into finishing my dissertation was a rough go. Why I thought it was a good idea to work 40-55 hours a week is beyond me, but somehow I did it. To but it into context, it took me 2 DAYS to sort through all the footnotes, citations, and bibliography and organize it all. While it’s now finished I have not yet had the courage to go back over and look at the hard copies I had printed out of fear knowing there will obviously be mistakes. While I realize work at the Master’s level does not have to be publishable, the perfectionist in me would go bonkers knowing it’s there. So to not throw myself in a downward spiral of total despair i’ve decided to withhold looking (plus i’m over writing it and thinking about it for the time being).

I think the one things i’m grateful for having done medical ethics as my Master’s is for the expansion in the way I think about things. To understand ethical decision making models and work through it. There’s no right or wrong answer in every case and going into clinical practice I know there will not always be things that line with my personal values. It’s how I can hopefully align those two differing values that will work to prevent increasing my own moral distress and prevent burn out. I also want to help my patients walk through difficult situations where things aren’t always clear and help them work through their own ethical dilemmas.

I must say while i’m excited for problem-based learning this year (largely because of it’s focus on ethics!), I am weary of pathophysiology, pharmacology, and bio-stats. It’s a bit hard to fathom how I made it knowing 30 people (our of a class of 120) were not able to move forward into second year because of failing courses by such a small margin in most cases (1-2%). I know I worked my butt off to be in the position I am, but at the end of the say all of us came into this program as highly intelligent individuals. I also knew when to ask for help when I was struggling whether seeing accommodation for my depression and anxiety, seeking out additional tutoring sessions to understand biochemistry, or even buying additional resources to bulk up my knowledge, but I also realize I was fortunate in having had previous undergraduate experience. In any program failure happens, but I think on some level it’s a wake up call to know that failure does happen and sometimes its not the smartest people that advance but those that put in the work, but its hard not to feel anxious when it is a reality.

I think of the thoughts that has been on my mind most recently have been the concepts brought up in the book ‘Lean In’. I’ve been thinking a lot about where my nursing journey will be taking me, particularly where my interests lie. I’ve found myself to always be interested in maternity, but lately due to my community placement i’ve really enjoyed working with kids. I know in my heart clinical nursing isn’t always something I will be passionate about, shift work can be incredibly draining and not conducive to raising a family, which is why I think clinical ethics will be one option I am eager to explore.

I want to make a difference. I want to lead. I want change. I want to succeed.  Those are my mantras in life. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how growing up as a female I’ve seen young males groomed to be in positions of leadership. Yet i’ve noticed females have always lagged behind. A clear example that comes to mine was having someone so close to me tell me he “could never be with someone that made more than him”. As in the male always had to be the bread winner, keep in mind this is the same person that felt emasculated having a female choose to not change her last name to his. To be honest, having read ‘Lean In’ I can say i’ve been put in a positions where I felt I could not advance myself because I was a female and had to ‘follow’ these societal norms that seem to exist.

Its incredibly distressing to see the number of female students pursuing post-secondary education but yet is not reflective of the board room. How as a female I am penalized for choosing to have children, even though in most cases its a decision made by both the male and the female and because of this I lose out on the same opportunities that would be extended to my male colleagues. To be fair, it’s also unfair that males are also looked down upon to take advantage of paternal leave to spend time with their children and raise them in an equal manner.

I think another thing that irks me is when people think that females are bossy for being assertive but when males act in the same manner they are seen as “leaders”. I’ve ALWAYS been ambitious and motivated to improve my self and make a difference at some level.  Yet, i’ve noticed sometimes people can find me intimidating because of a number of factors whether it was my upbringing, my education level, or even my goals for the future. On some level, I used to let that control me and it destroyed my self-esteem, making me question my values, goals, and self-worth. It’s taken time but slowly i’ve found myself returning back to normal and feeling excited about where the future will take me. I realize now RN positions in Ontario are limited, particularly in places I want to hopefully live, but I also know Canadian nurses are so highly regarded that the world is really my oyster and with so much to explore I sometimes find myself not knowing where to start.

I’m grateful to have had many great mentors along the way who have helped guide me down this path and shaped my goals for the future. It wasn’t until recently that i’ve reach back out to some of my most notable mentors and thanked them for the opportunities they provided me and the guidance and support they showed me in pursing my Master’s and for peaking my interests in nursing. I’m incredibly lucky to have had an enriching undergraduate experience in being well supported by a caring academic advisor (who i’m still in touch with), my fourth year practicum supervisor, my professional ethics professor, my profs in the UK, and the director of the health studies program who have all played important roles in who I am now. I think one of the most important things as not only a female, but also a person, is to find someone you look up to and connect with them and don’t be afraid to reach out to people in areas your interested in. It’s important to have that support and to know that while all our paths may not be the same, having someone in your life in that position can make a huge difference on days where you may not feel capable of reaching your goals (ie. working through pathophysiology).

My path to nursing school has not been conventional and i’ve hit many bumps along the way (ie. my battles with depression and anxiety), but I hope my journey can inspire other young people to know that life is full of funny twists and turns. It’s also helpful to know someone else feels the same way sometimes and that we aren’t alone in our journeys. In some ways its therapeutic to read about the experience of others when a lot of the resources out there for mental illness are inadequate in meeting the needs of an individual seeking help.

In time I hope to be more open about my experiences throughout nursing school and clinical practice in helping to fuel passion in other individuals whether it be in medicine or any other field, particularly in girls where opportunities to lead are not always high on the list. We need more people seeking to lead and make a difference in a world where we have people like Trump in power and in this regard we need to encourage and teach females that we can’t let someone with such disgusting views limit our visions.  I want to be part of the movement that encourages and evokes positive changes. We need to empower people to think, we need to promote opportunities to those disadvantaged, and we need to spark innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship in a world where technological advances are taking opportunities away from people.



Ph.D. students face significant mental health challenges.

Approximately one-third of Ph.D. students are at risk of having or developing a common psychiatric disorder like depression, a recent study reports. Although these results come from a small sample—3659 students at universities in Flanders, Belgium, 90% of whom were studying the sciences and social sciences—they are nonetheless an important addition to the growing literature about the prevalence of mental health issues in academia. One key message for scientific trainees that are struggling with these types of challenges, write co-authors Katia Levecque and Frederik Anseel of Ghent University in an email to ScienceCareers, is that “you are not alone.” Beyond that, the authors encourage Ph.D. students to appreciate how important it is to take care of themselves. “Mental health problems can develop into serious threats to one’s wellbeing and career, and can have detrimental consequences in the long-term,” they write. So, if you’re struggling, it’s important to “[s]eek professional help or seek help in your personal environment, even if you think it’s probably a temporary thing.”

According to their survey, 51% of respondents had experienced at least two symptoms of poor mental health in recent weeks, indicating psychological distress. Moreover, 32% reported at least four symptoms, indicating a risk for common psychiatric disorders, which was more than twice the prevalence among highly educated comparison groups. The most commonly reported symptoms included feeling under constant strain, being unhappy and depressed, losing sleep because of worry, and not being able to overcome difficulties or enjoy day-to-day activities. The greatest predictor for experiencing mental health challenges was having difficulty taking care of family needs due to conflicting work commitments. High job demands and low job control were also associated with increased symptoms.

On the plus side, having an inspirational supervisor partially offset these risks. So did interest in an academic career, even among students who thought they had little chance of ultimately making it. Seeing a Ph.D. as good preparation for a nonacademic career and an added value for employers was also beneficial. “When people have a clear vision of the future and the path that they are taking, this provides a sense of meaningfulness, progress and control, which should be a protective factor against mental health problems,” the authors explain.

According to Nathan Vanderford, an assistant dean for academic development at the University of Kentucky in Lexington who also studies mental health in academic trainees, “[t]he study underscores what has long been presumed; that work conditions and career outlook plays a key role in the mental state of PhD trainees,” he writes in an email to ScienceCareers.

“[I]nstitutions, departments and PIs have long ignored the systemic mental health issues among PhD trainees,” Vanderford continues. “Data such as this should make the issues irrefutable and should, for ethical and moral reasons, force the hand of these entities to take on the responsibility of helping to provide PhD trainees with the support they need to navigate the very stressful journey of earning a PhD.” Levecque and Anseel point out that small steps such as facilitating work-life balance or “offering PhD students clear and full information on job expectations and career prospects, both in and outside academia,” could have a significant positive impact.

One message for PIs is that “investing in their own leadership competencies could really make a difference” for Ph.D. students, the authors add. They encourage PIs to take the issue seriously and learn how to spot signs of potential emotional distress. Gail Kinman, a professor at the University of Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom who acted as a reviewer for the paper, agrees. “PIs should look out for students who isolate themselves, who seem anxious and withdrawn, who are not meeting deadlines. Nobody would expect a PI to be able to diagnose mental health problems but they should be able to spot changes in their students and have the knowledge required to refer them for support,” she writes in an email to Science Careers.

Although the survey is specific to Flanders, many of the characteristics of working toward a Ph.D. are similar around the globe, making the findings generalizable, the authors argue. They hope the study, which has generated conversation on Twitter, will help break the silence around mental health issues in academia. “[I]t is a public secret that fear of stigma, retaliation or the expected negative impact on one’s future career often inhibits people suffering from mental health issues to make it public,” they write. This lack of visibility is problematic because feeling isolated can cause students’ mental health to deteriorate even further. It also means that there is less pressure on institutions and people in power to tackle the issue.

Rather than demonizing academia, action should be taken, the authors emphasize. As academics, “[w]e have had our share of struggles and challenges to overcome, but still think this is one of the most rewarding and meaningful careers one can have. So, if there’s a problem, let’s do something about it and make this a great place to work again. For everyone.”

Spotting Addiction.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A former Ohio State University football player whose NFL career fell apart because of a painkiller addiction says he wants to become a college coach and help others avoid similar pitfalls now that he’s clean and has a degree.

Shane Olivea told The Columbus Dispatch he was high every day following his rookie year with the San Diego Chargers.

“At my height on Vicodin, I would take 125 a day,” said Olivea, who was briefly a Giant in 2008. “It got to the point I would take a pile of 15 Vicodin and would have to take them with chocolate milk. If I did it with water or Gatorade, I’d throw it up.”

Olivea said he obtained the pills from his own sources, including one in Mexico. He parked at an Arby’s restaurant and paid a cab driver he knew $100 to go to a Tijuana “pharmacy.”

“You could buy anything you want if you had cash,” Olivea said. “I’d go buy a couple hundred Vicodin, or by then I’d progressed to Oxycontin.”

Olivea said he spent nearly $584,000 on painkillers. He began to withdraw from teammates and his relationship with coaches and management suffered. He was benched late in the 2007 season and his weight rose to nearly 390 pounds.

Olivea’s parents worried after he became reluctant to respond to them, too. His mother organized an intervention, and the Long Island native in April 2008 checked into a drug addiction treatment center in California. He said doctors there told him he was lucky to be alive.

“They both looked at me and said, ‘We’ve never seen anybody living with that amount of opioids in you. You’re literally a walking miracle,’” Olivea said. “That was a punch to the gut.”

After being released by the Chargers, Olivea signed with the Giants while in rehab. He was released again after hurting his back.

Olivea re-enrolled in Ohio State in 2015, and graduated in December, at age 35, with a degree in sport industry.

He said he has a couple of job leads. And though he hasn’t coached before, he said his playing experience makes him think he’d do well on and off the field, including helping others thinking of turning to pain pills.

“If you got it, you can spot it,” Olivea said. “I can spot an addict in a public setting. I know the behavior. I know the tendencies. I know what he’s going to do. I’ll be able to notice somebody going down that slippery path and maybe catch them.”

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Biological Changes Could Be Underlying Factor For Higher Rates of Psychosis in Immigrants.

A new study could explain how migrating to another country increases a person’s risk of developing schizophrenia, by altering brain chemistry.

Immigrants had higher levels of the brain chemical dopamine than non-immigrants in the study, conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College, London. Abnormal dopamine levels are linked to symptoms of schizophrenia. Dopamine is also connected to the body’s stress response.

The study was published in the January issue of Schizophrenia Bulletin.

“Schizophrenia is still a rare diagnosis,” says Dr. Romina Mizrahi, a senior author and Clinician Scientist in the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at CAMH. “But if we can understand the factors that increase the risk of this serious illness among immigrants, we can develop strategies such as social supports to mitigate this risk.”

As Canada’s population and workforce will decline without migration, a set number of immigrants are accepted into the country each year. While it’s not feasible to offer stress supports to all newcomers, the approach of identifying those at highest risk and offering evidence-based interventions to prevent schizophrenia is one that Dr. Mizrahi applies to her work with youth, as Head of the Youth Psychosis Prevention Clinic and Research Program.

The current study involved a type of brain imaging called positron emission tomography (PET), and applied two different approaches to examining dopamine levels.

In Toronto, 56 study participants were given a mild stress test to see its effect on dopamine release. People with schizophrenia, and those at high risk, release more dopamine with this test when compared to a matched healthy group of participants. Among the 25 immigrants in the study, dopamine release was higher than 31 non-immigrant participants. This increase was related to participants’ experiences of social stress, such as work overload, social pressures or social isolation.

The London researchers showed that the synthesis of dopamine was higher in immigrants. This increase was related to the severity of symptoms among those considered at high risk of developing schizophrenia, and did not occur among non-immigrants at high risk. In total, 32 immigrants and 44 non-immigrants were involved in this part of the study.

Dr. Mizrahi emphasizes that not everyone with high dopamine levels will develop schizophrenia, nor will the vast majority of migrants.

Yet it is well-established through population studies in Canada, the U.K. and Western Europe that the risk of developing schizophrenia is higher in immigrants and their children than non-immigrants. Stress – particularly related to perceived discrimination, social isolation and urban living – is believed to increase this risk. The role of stress also appears to be supported by the current findings on brain dopamine levels.

“This is a first step in integrating social science and biological research,” says Dr. Mizrahi. “A next step would be to help regulate stress among higher risk immigrants through social support programs, and see if this reduces dopamine in the brain and prevents psychosis.”

Reposted from:

The First Steps.

To be honest, it’s crazy to think about how far my mental health journey has taken me over the past 4 years that i’ve been able to share my experiences. It hasn’t been an easy 4 years and I realize this is going to be a life-long journey in how I learn to manage, adapt, and cope with my depression and anxiety.

It’s not easy being a student on top of everything. The amount of stress that is placed on me at times is incredible when it comes time to balance work, nursing school, finishing my master’s, community service, and raising my young dog.  Sometimes I feel inadequate with how much I have to do, how little energy I sometimes find myself having, and how unmotivated I can be during my lowest periods. Considering everything I went through at the end of last year, I am incredibly grateful for the supports I have received whether it be from my professors, academic advisors, my friends, and most of all my family. It hasn’t been easy and I realize at times it can be incredibly hard on me emotionally to open up, which is why I often turn to writing to express my thoughts and feelings. I choose to be open because I realize everything I go through is not necessarily unique to me, while my own perception of my experience is unique, there are likely hundreds of other people out there experiencing similar situations with different perceptions.

I had the ability to talk to a notable friend today about their own struggles with mental illness and body image issues and felt empathetic towards her struggles. While I have not had much experience with eating disorders, I have had experience with both depression and anxiety. There were a number of points last semester where I would find myself awake in the middle of the night crying hysterically, hyperventilating feeling like I couldn’t breathe, and having my chest hurt like my heart was about to explode. Those sessions would then lead me to missing important classes because I could not control my anxiety and would have little sleep or energy to be able to function at times. It was absolutely terrifying at times feeling like you were experiencing a heart attack like sensation.  While I have recently been prescribed anti-anxiety medication, I know medication is not the sole answer. For me I find having someone close to talk to eases my anxiety as well as recently learning to meditate. However, I have had a number of people share their own “treatments” and notably exercise has helped a large number of people reduce their anxious thoughts and feelings.

Despite whether people agree with what I do or not, I am honoured to be someone that a number of people have turned to over the years, whether it’s to have someone available to talk to or to ask for help in finding resources to support their own recovery and journey into seeking help. I do hope on some level that my own personal experiences can help other people either a) learn to cope or find resources b) raise awareness for people suffering with mental illness or even c) open the discussion toward removing the stigma surrounding these very much real conditions.

Taking the first step is a huge milestone for many people. I remember being terrified at the idea of having to open up to my parents about my struggles, the amount of shame I felt in feeling like a failure asking for help and being unable to cope. But opening up to my parents was probably the bravest thing i’ve had to do. In the end it paid off because I was fortunate to be able to get the help I needed from healthcare professionals but it also allowed me to be open about my own journey and help a few people start their own.  I am also incredibly proud of the amount of progress many of those have made and I hope on some level I was able to help them find the strength to reach their full potential. I think one of the many reasons I wanted to become a nurse strives from my want to see people be healthy and happy regardless of how well I know them. To some it could be incredibly weird for me to reach out the them but for me I actually want to make a difference and if I can help someone even in the tiniest way possible, then that’s what I want to do. No one should ever have to feel ashamed or alone dealing with whatever their going through and I vow to always lend out any support I can give to those that may need it despite how well I know them and I will continue to carry forth this mentality as I get further into my nursing career.

Lastly, I’ve  been quite fortunate to find my own niche in the mental health community in raising awareness and helping to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness. Through my blog, Twitter, and Facebook, I have had the opportunity to reach thousands of people in sharing my own experiences. It’s incredible meeting and being connected to such resilient and humble people, many of who you would never have guessed on the outside have also struggled or are battling things such as depression, bi-polar, anxiety, or even schizophrenia.

I know I have many goals for myself going forward but one of my Twitter followers reminded me of a important initiative that I think many more people should consider taking apart of. As a nursing student I am required to update my CPR-C every year and First Aid every three years, however much of the training undertaken in the standard first aid doesn’t touch upon mental health. Approximately one in three Canadians will experience some sort of mental health problem in their lifetime and research has shown the earlier the problem is acknowledged the better the outcome. Therefore, the mental health first aid course provides some of the necessary first tools to recognize, address, and support those who may be struggling. For those interested in taking the course in Canada here is the link for more info:

Definitely something to consider with the likelihood many of us will know someone struggling with mental illness or problems. I have had many people tell me great things about the course and I am incredibly excited to hopefully take part in the near future and be able to incorporate it into my nursing practice as time goes on.

Study finds many Millennials spend Christmas alone

Mind has today released research into the different responses of different generations to the pressure of Christmas as part of its Christmas campaign. Key findings include:

  • One in ten Millennials [25-34 y.o.] have no one to spend Christmas with compared to one in 20 older people [65+] (10% vs. 5%)
  • Half of Millennials (48%) worry about their finances at Christmas compared to only one in five older people (18%)
  • A third of Millennials (35%) dwell on things they failed to achieve in the year, compared to one in ten older people (9%)

Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity, has today released research which suggests that Millennials (25 to 34 year olds) are twice as likely as people aged 65 and over to have no one to spend Christmas with. The general population poll¹ of 2,037 people also found that almost half of Millennials worry about their finances at Christmas, compared to only one in five older people. Overall, Millennials were consistently among the age groups most likely to respond negatively to the festive period, while older people were consistently among those least likely.

The weight of expectation around personal achievement seemed to have a particularly negative impact on 25 to 34 year olds, with a third dwelling on things they failed to achieve in the year, compared to one in ten older people. It is possible that social media has a role to play in setting these expectations, with 18 to 34 year olds most likely to compare their Christmases on social media and most likely to feel pressure to present their Christmas on social media.

Most worryingly is the fact that 25 to 34 year olds are most likely of all age groups to keep their worries to themselves, with one in ten saying they wouldn’t want to ask for help over the festive period for fear of what other people would think of them. Not seeking support can lead to more serious problems developing and it is particularly concerning that this age group is the most likely to consider taking their own lives directly because of the festive period (one in twelve people).

Mind is urging people to donate to their Christmas Appeal, so they can be there for everyone who needs them this Christmas. Visit for more information.

Caitlin Maggs, 24, called the Mind Infoline last December when she felt lost and at breaking point, said:

“I find Christmas a particularly anxious time. Every year, there is extra pressure to be happy, to have love surround you – and for me, it feels the loneliest because of this. The media create this ‘perfect’ vision of a family Christmas – and it’s an ideal that has hung over me and made me very miserable. My depression and anxiety always gets worse in December.

“Last Christmas I turned to Mind. Feeling lost and at breaking point, I found Mind’s Infoline on their website and reached out. I needed to speak to someone who could just listen without judgement and give advice. The lady who answered my call was incredibly friendly and informative. She was able to relate instantly and empathise. We talked through what help I could get and by the end of the conversation I had already begun to feel better. Before I reached out to Mind, I’d felt as though I was trapped in a dark well. Mind threw me a rope and I caught hold of it. I can’t thank Mind enough for their support.”

Stephen Buckley, Head of Information for Mind, said:

“For most people Christmas is something to look forward to, a time for celebration and relaxation. Our research suggests, however, that for Millennials the festive period can actually be more stressful than other times of the year, with financial concerns and the pressure of social media all adding to a sense of worry during the festive period. Regardless of age, Christmas can be particularly difficult for the one in four people who experience a mental health problem, especially if they feel unable to ask for help. While Mind can’t make Christmas perfect, we can ensure that everyone has the support they need, whether through our Infoline or online resources such as our guides for coping with stress and our Elefriends online peer support community. We can’t provide these without your support, so please donate to our Christmas Appeal at to help us be there for someone who needs us this Christmas.”

¹ Polling was conducted by Populus who interviewed 2,037 GB adults 18+ online between 9 and 10 November 2016.

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