With 2020 (finally) coming to an end, it’s easy to look at this past year as a total write-off; however, it’s important to take this year as a learning opportunity, and a way to focus on how resilient we can be as humans.
Sure, we’ve endured A LOT- from a global pandemic to murder hornets, the deaths of legends such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Chadwick Boseman and Kobe Bryant, presidential impeachments, stock market crashes and raging wildfires, we’ve also witnessed some incredible things this past year.
Black Lives Matter Movement
While the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbrey were inarguably horrific and unfair, the movement that followed was an incredible display of black pride and has provided a platform for education on equality. What we have experienced this past year has brought to light the injustice that people of colour have had to experience for hundreds of years. Going forward, we can treat people with more compassion, and speak up for any racial inequality we may witness in the future.
The November 2020 election brought a whirlwind of emotions, resulting in an outcome that will go down in history. The new Vice President Elect to the White House Kamala Harris will be the first black and the first Asian woman to serve as Vice President in American history. This could be a turning point in American politics- bringing more diversity in the leaders of the powerful country.
The biggest event of 2020 has undoubtedly been the coronavirus – it has affected every single person in one way or another. With the news of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, it means there is hope for an end to this deadly virus. While this is still in the beginning stages, we can all see the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel that coronavirus has been.
While we all may have shopped at small mom and pop run shops in the past, 2020 has been the year of supporting local shops and restaurants. Communities everywhere have rallied behind their favourite small businesses to keep them thriving through the tougher times that 2020 has brought. While it’s great to shop local to keep our favourite small shops from closing, we need to continue this trend going forward. Instead of turning back to the big guys, try to make a point to purchase gifts and products from small local shops whenever you can.
Because more people have spent more time at home in 2020, the numbers for pet adoptions have increased drastically over last year. This is incredible news, as so many animals spend their lives waiting to find their forever homes. We can try our best to keep these numbers up by adopting animals rather than purchasing them from breeders when we choose to add a furry friend to our homes.
These are just a few of the positive things that have come out of this past year. Take a moment today to reflect on some positive things that happened in your personal life - did you get to spend more quality time with your family this year than you typically would? Did your grandparents learn how to FaceTime so you could stay connected from a distance? Let us know!
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of 2020! You’ve proved your resiliency and ability to adapt to all of the chaos that’s been thrown at the world this year. Let’s all forgive but not forget 2020, and hope for the best in 2021!
By now, many people have adjusted to the “new normal” that is physical distancing and self-quarantining. For many of us, this pandemic has lead to an abundance of free time that may not be being used in a productive way. Rather than spending all of this newly discovered free time re-watching our favourite television series, we could be using this time to learn new skills, or teach our children valuable life skills.
Teaching children from a young age to clean up after themselves is important, as it will help them to develop the habit of picking up after themselves. If children are older, they can always help with dusting, vacuuming and sweeping. Leading by example is a great way to peak children’s interest in helping with household chores. Keeping a clean house can also help with our mental health.
As we’ve likely all seen on social media, bread making has become the newest past time for many of us in quarantine. With most restaurants closed, now is the time to get creative and try your hand at those new recipes you have saved on your Pinterest board. Choosing recipes that your kids can help with is a great choice, as the more children are able to help out with a successful recipe, the more confident they will become in the kitchen. Even small tasks such as pouring their own cereal can make a child feel as though they are self-sufficient and can help with their confidence.
With Spring just around the corner, now is a great time to get started on plotting the garden. Taking the time to explain how plants grow and how to care for them is a great way to teach children responsibility. You can assign your children their own section of the garden to care for; they can make a habit of checking for growth every day.
Sewing is a skill that comes in handy more often than people think. Right now, many people are making their own facemasks to wear in public. This is a great family project whether or not you know how to sew. You can learn together while also creating a helpful project. In addition to masks, projects such as crocheting, knitting and cross stitching are creative ways to pass the time indoors or in our backyards.
Trying to use the time we have at home to teach our children and learn some new skills ourselves is important, but it’s also important to make sure we are taking time to practice self care. Eating well, exercising and sleeping well are all ways we can take care of ourselves in such uncertain times. Adapting to this “new normal” is not easy, but we’re all in this together and we can help each other out, even if it’s from a distance.
When the government, news, and community are urging us to stay home and a large number of us have been laid off, it’s easy to get stuck in a funk of Netflix and junk food. What people may not realize is the effect this can have on our mental health and overall wellbeing. This is the time when we need to take advantage of having some time at home, and shift our focus on taking care of ourselves both physically and mentally.
Maintain a sense of normalcy
Every morning, take the time to adhere to your normal routine. Get up at your regular time, take a shower, brush your teeth, cook breakfast for yourself or your family, and then plan your day from there. Try to eat your meals at the same time you normally would, and continue (or start) your exercise routine from home. Many gyms are offering home workout videos on social media, and there are hundreds of tutorials you can follow on sites such as Youtube for free. Keeping our routines as normal as possible can help keep us on track and assist us in feeling like we have more control over our lives as things unfold.
Limit social media “news”
At this point, news surrounding COVID-19 is everywhere you look on social networking sites. Social media can be great in terms of having communication with our community, but it’s no secret that incorrect information can be shared very quickly through sites like Facebook or Twitter. Try to limit your time surfing these sites and make sure you obtain your information from reputable sources such as the Government of Canada website or the World Health Organization.
Reach out to loved ones
Right now, a lot of us may be starting to feel lonely and isolated, but it doesn’t need to be this way. Pick up the phone and call, text or FaceTime your loved ones. A simple hello can make someone’s day, especially if they are feeling alone. Don’t forget about any elderly relatives or friends you may have that could need some extra help in times like this. Offer to pick up and deliver some groceries to their door, if you are able. Just remember to practice social distancing to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
Take this as an opportunity to do what you’ve been putting off
We almost always have the excuse, “I don’t have time to do X, Y & Z right now.” Well, now is as good a time as ever to break out that new book you’ve been wanting to read, or that canvas you’ve been wanting to paint. Being creative is a great way to raise your spirits in this rather upsetting time. Now is also a great time to get caught up on any chores around the house you’ve been putting off. Clean out your closet, deep clean your kitchen, or rearrange your living room. We aren’t sure how long this is going to last, so we may as well try to use the time we have away from work and the outside world in a positive way.
We had a comment on one of our posts recently from someone who has chosen to start some free online classes with their time off of work. This is a great way to spend your time in a productive way- doing something that we normally wouldn’t have time to do. Websites such as Coursera or edX offer college and university classes for free. There are lots of unconventional ways to learn online as well; Skillshare offers online learning classes for a wide variety of categories, and sites such as GeoGuessr allow you to see the world from the comfort of your own home. Many museums also offer virtual tours that you can take for free, which is a great and educational activity for the whole family.
The reality of the world at the moment is not great, but it is really important that we try to look for the positives in every situation. If things are really hard for you right now, reach out to someone. Our need for a sense of community right now is heightened, and resources have been put in place to meet with mental health professionals from home in order to follow social distancing guidelines. If you do not have a therapist, reach out to a friend or family member, or the crisis line (Ottawa 613-722-6914, outside of Ottawa 1-866-996-0991) We’re all in this together.
With all the uncertainty that the world is dealing with, it’s safe to assume that our little ones are going to start asking questions if they haven’t already. Whether they’ve overheard news coverage or kids chatting about it on the playground at school, chances are they have heard of the coronavirus. It is important to have a conversation with your kids about what COVID-19 is, but in a way that kids can understand. The goal is not to scare them about the virus, but to educate them on the importance of why almost everyone is staying at home for the most part and why we all need to make an extra effort to wash our hands more often.
Use Words They Will Understand
Chances are, a 5-year-old will not understand what “social distancing” means, so try explaining it more simply. Try telling them “we can’t see your friends right now, because we need to make sure we aren’t sharing germs with anyone so we and they don’t get sick.” A typical 5-year-old response maybe, “but I’m not sick”; to which a simple response as, “germs travel on all of us and we do not have to be sick to spread them, they are sneaky little things”. Children do no need to know the risk factors, as it can cause their imaginations to run wild, and can cause unneeded stress. Use your judgement based on your child’s age to gauge how much information needs to be delivered. There is a great video online showing how soap can repel germs using a bowl of water, pepper and soap. You can show your kids this video to show them the importance of keeping our hands clean.
Limit their exposure to the news
As adults, we understand that the news focuses on negative events, and the growing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. While it’s important for us to stay informed, it’s also important to shield our children from information that may be too much for them to understand. Young children do not fully know how to process news like this, and that’s okay. If you can, watch press conferences and news segments on your phone with headphones plugged in. This way you can stay informed, but the children won’t be left to try to process things that they may overhear. As well, children can be very sneaky if at all possible limit exposure to live streaming, television which has short segment new casts or banners and opt for media sources as Netflix, Disney +, Crave, or other sources that all you to control the exposure to news and media updates regarding Covid19.
Make Hand Washing Fun
Children will be much more excited about washing their hands more often if you make it fun for them. A great video has surfaced recently of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson washing his daughter’s hands while singing part of his song in Moana. Find something your kids enjoy, whether it be a short video or their favourite song and make hand washing fun for them. Even better, make a video of yourselves being creative and post it on social media with the hashtag #inthistogether.
Try to focus on the positives with your kids
Even though you may be more stressed and anxious than usual, it’s important to not transfer that stress onto your children. Take the time you have at home with your kids to make some memories. Go for a long walk together, do some crafts that they’ve been asking you to do, build a blanket fort in your living room, or have a movie night. Once this is all over, you and your kids will be able to look back on the extra time you were able to spend together. Embrace the opportunity to use this time for family bonding. Our typical world is so hectic that it is easy to disconnect, this pandemic may turn into a gift for many who are able to reconnect and reengage in what truly matters, family and our human connection.
This is not an easy time for anyone, but protecting our kids from unneeded stress can make things just a little bit easier for them. If you have more suggestions on how to speak with our kids about COVID-19, feel free to share them in the comments below!
Stay well and remember we are all in this together, let’s continue to support one another.
With the recent pandemic that is COVID19, it’s no surprise that more and more people are becoming anxious surrounding the unknown future of the virus and our community. While it may be important to isolate, it is also important to support one another, albeit from a distance. Here are a few tips to help protect yourself both physically and mentally from COVID19.
1. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly
This one is a given, and we’ve been hearing it for weeks, but it truly is one of the easiest ways to
prevent the virus from spreading. Start making a habit of washing your hands any time you
arrive at home or work, and as frequently as you can throughout the day especially if you work
with the public. It is recommended to wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds; many
articles and photos have surfaced lately on how you can spend those 20 seconds by humming
different songs; my personal favorite - Gloria Gaynor - I will survive.
2. Don’t touch your face
This is a tough habit to break, but it is important not to touch your face as much as possible.
Many of us do this without even realizing it, as it can be a nervous habit for many people. It may
be time to dig out your fidget spinner from 2018 and carry that around to keep your hands busy-
just make sure to sanitize it regularly.
3. Turn off news notifications on your phone
COVID19 is at the top of most of our minds on a daily if not hourly basis- the last thing we need
right now is even more reminders that the virus is spreading. While it is important to stay
updated on the current situation, it’s also important not to allow the news to stress you out
even more. Turning off the push notifications to news apps can help prevent the constant
reminders from interrupting your day. In order to stay informed, be sure to get your information
from reputable sources such as the World Health Organization or the Government of Canada
website rather than social media outlets like Facebook or Twitter.
4. Avoid non-essential outings
We’ve been hearing this for weeks, but it can be beneficial to not only your physical health, but
your mental health as well. It’s common to become paranoid in situations like this which can be
detrimental to our mental health. Don’t stress yourself out by going into public. Try to plan your
meals ahead and go to the grocery store once a week, rather than every couple of days. When
you are out, make sure you use the sanitizing wipes on shopping carts that grocery stores
supply. Opt for a verbal greeting and bypass the handshakes or hugs, and you can always keep
hula hoop distance from others (airing on the side of caution).
5. Ask for phone or video options
Many workplaces have asked their employees to work from home, and it is looking like more
situations like this will be coming in the near future. If you have appointments such as therapy
or appointments with the bank, ask if they offer either telephone or video conferencing options.
Many companies will offer this option, and it will help to prevent anticipatory anxiety, while still
allowing life to go on.
6. Focus on the positives
Obviously, this is a tough situation, and it’s something we need to deal with. One way we can
keep our mental health in a good place is by focusing on the positive parts of our lives. If you
have been asked to work from home, maybe you get to spend more time with your family or
We would love to hear how you are staying positive in this pandemic. Let us know in the comments below or on our social media platforms. Now is the time to genuinely support one another as a community. Thank you for being kind and respectful of one another’s concerns and feelings.
Stress is something that everyone experiences. The amount of stress varies from person to person, day to day, minute to minute. What some may not be aware of is that there are different types of stress; good stress and bad stress. Good stress, also known as eustress, can be described as short periods of moderate stress separated by periods of rest in between. Examples of good stress are participating in a competition, applying for a promotion at work, or studying for an exam. Good stress can be beneficial to both your mental and your physical health.
Good stress can help to boost your concentration. The production of brain chemicals called neurotrophins is stimulated in stressful situations. These chemicals strengthen the connection between neurons in the brain. They have also been shown to temporarily boost memory and learning scores. Another way that stress can positively affect your mental health is by making you more resilient. Each time you are able to overcome a stressful situation, you are able to look back on this victory and remind yourself that you have overcome stress in the past and you can do it again.
In a TedTalk by Kelly McGonical, she shares that stress makes you social. The stress hormone oxytocin (also known as the “cuddle hormone”) primes you to do things that strengthen close relationships and makes you more willing to help and support the people you care about. This hormone encourages you to reach out and tell someone how you are feeling in stressful situations, and it also heightens your awareness of when someone close to you may need your help. We already know from our 2019 Wellness Survey, that people rely on spending quality time with friends and family in order to achieve wellness; not only will you be reducing your stress level by confiding in your loved ones, you’ll also be improving your overall wellness.
Mild to moderate levels of stress can also help in meeting daily challenges and deadlines. When under some pressure, people are often more motivated to complete tasks, and in some cases, it can even make you work more efficiently.
Although stress can lead to positive outcomes, too much stress for too long can have very negative affects on your well-being. Physically, too much stress can weaken your immune system and is correlated with high blood pressure. It is also directly linked to depression and anxiety, inability to concentrate, irritability and issues falling and/ or staying asleep.
If you think you are experiencing too much stress, don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend, loved one or therapist for help. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of too much stress is important to prevent more serious issues from developing.
1. MacMillan, Amanda. “5 Weird Ways Stress Can Actually Be Good for You.” Health.com, 18 Aug. 2014, www.health.com/condition/stress/5-weird-ways-stress-can-actually-be-good-for-you.
2. ULifeline. “Good Stress, Bad Stress.” ULifeline, 2020, www.ulifeline.org/articles/450-good-stress-bad-stress
3. MacMillan, Amanda. “5 Weird Ways Stress Can Actually Be Good for You.” Health.com, 18 Aug. 2014, www.health.com/condition/stress/5-weird-ways-stress-can-actually-be-good-for-you
4. Greenberg, Melanie. Ph.D . “Why Some Stress Is Good for You.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 18 Dec. 2016, www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201612/why-some-stress-is-good-you
5. Greenberg Ph.D, Melanie. “Why Some Stress Is Good for You.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 18 Dec. 2016, www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201612/why-some-stress-is-good-you
6. CBHS, Health Fund. “Healthy Stress: Adopting Healthy Stress.” Not-For-Profit Health Insurance, 29 May 2018, www.cbhs.com.au/health-well-being-blog/blog-article/2018/05/29/healthy-stress-adopting-healthy-stress
It’s pretty safe to say that at one point or another in our lives, we have felt like we were in over our heads at school or work, despite having relevant experience or knowledge. This is a very common occurrence, and it actually has a name. Imposter Syndrome, Fraud Syndrome or the Impostor Experience is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.  Most often, this syndrome is found in individuals in college, grad school or who are starting a new job or a new employment position within an existent job.
Dr. Pauline Rose Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes were the first to study the imposter syndrome in 1978. They originally believed that women were uniquely affected by the thoughts and feelings that come along with imposter syndrome, but since then research has shown that it can affect anyone, regardless of gender. 
Typical symptoms that are experienced with Imposter Syndrome are anxiety, self-doubt, fear of failure, perfectionism  and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that overrides feelings of success or external proof of competence. While it is not an official DSM diagnosis, it has been linked to anxiety and depression, which is easy to understand if you are constantly having thoughts that you are not good enough to be where you are in life, or that everyone thinks you’re faking it.
Knowing the history of Imposter Syndrome is one thing, but knowing ways to combat the thoughts and feelings is an important way to protect yourself from succumbing to the negative side effects. Remind yourself that from time to time, almost everyone has the same thoughts and feelings as you. Reminding yourself of this can be key in not only feeling less alone, but vocalizing your feelings can also help others around you feel less alone too. Another way to combat Imposter Syndrome is to keep a list of all of your accomplishments- big and small.  When you are feeling overwhelmed, or in over your head, take a moment to read through all of the highlights of your career or academic successes.
Having a mentor is another great way to eliminate the thoughts and feelings that come with the Imposter Syndrome. If you’re in a field that predominantly consists of one ethnicity or gender, it can be easy to doubt yourself if you don’t fit into that same category. Finding a mentor who more closely matches your age, gender identity, race, or sexual orientation that is in the field you are in can help a great deal with your confidence.
One final way to help combat the Imposter Syndrome is to speak with a mental health professional. Reaching out to a licenced therapist can help in many ways, and they can help give you the tools you need to push past any feelings of doubt you may experience.
We tend to get bombarded by the media highlighting how important self esteem in girls is, or how
difficult it is to be a girl in the age of social media, how girls are always taught to compare their bodies to others, and how if they don’t look a certain way, they aren’t as important. But what about the teen boys? Why is it that we rarely hear about expectations that are set for young men in our society? This article will highlight some of the main factors that can harm a young man’s confidence, and a few tips to help combat those factors.
Generally speaking, boys tend to have more difficulty with sustained attention than girls do. In a
classroom setting, this can lead to more corrections from teachers which can cause anger and
embarrassment for the student, often times lowering their self-esteem and desire to participate in
classroom activities. One great way to prevent this from happening is to introduce body breaks into the classroom setting, or at any time the child needs to focus for a long period of time. Teachers, parents and students are encouraged to communicate openly when either is noticing an increase in fidgeting or frustration, so that a break can be had to prevent any outbursts.
Studies have shown that boys are more likely to bully others than girls; this, along with the knowledge that boys are constantly comparing themselves to others their age can lead to lower self esteem. Whether it be comparing their height, grades, athletic ability or popularity level, boys are surrounded by others who are all striving to be the “best” at what they do. It’s important to instill in boys the ability to see different rather than better. Encourage young boys to find what they excel at, and not to be bothered by what anyone else is doing.
Social media has a huge influence on teens’ lives nowadays. It gives teens a way to truly compare the amount that their peers “like” them and their friends. Recently, platforms like Instagram have tried to battle against this by removing the ability to see just how many “likes” others have at a quick glance, which is a step in the right direction. Even still, social media has been shown to lead to intensify symptoms of depression and anxiety, cause envy and jealousy, has been tied to sleep deprivation and communication issues. Helping to take action against mental health issues related to social media use can be challenging, but trying to limit social media use is a good place to start. Decide on an amount of time that is fair, but not excessive, for the teen to check and post on social media, and when the time is up, the phone/ computer goes away. Spending more time outside or with friends and family is another great way to avoid the mental health issues that social media can cause. This way the adolescent is still getting social interaction, but it’s in a face to face format rather than screen to screen.
-Pressure to “Be a Man”-
From such a young age, many boys are taught to suppress their emotions or are told that “boys don’t cry”. Breaking down those gender stereotypes is so important to not only the boys’ self esteem, but their overall mindset. It’s important to emphasize that everyone feels a variety of emotions, and that it’s okay to experience any emotion that they happen to experience. On top of encouraging them to be open to feeling emotions, adults should lead by example. Show the young/teen boy in your life that you are open to showing emotions- sometimes you cry when you’re upset and that’s perfectly normal. It’s also important to introduce them to a variety of potential role models; men who are extroverted, introverted, funny, intellectual, masculine and feminine so they can see for themselves that men don’t all fit into one category. Encourage them to ask questions and to express their emotions however they feel is necessary.
-Leading by Example-
Many adults have self deprecating behaviours that they may not even notice. For some, constantly
joking about themselves, or putting themselves in a negative light is a coping mechanism for dealing with their own insecurities; but it can be contagious when it comes to children and teens. If you find yourself speaking poorly about yourself (whether you’re around your teen or not), take note of why you’re saying the things you are. Make a conscious effort not to make the comments or jokes and show your teen how to be confident in yourself. Teach your teen not only how to advocate for himself, but for others around him too.
As with most things, self-esteem is not something that can be changed or created over night. Patience, mixed with any combination of the above tips should slowly start building a more confident teen.
1. Gender Differences in Bullying | PREV Net
2. Social Media's Impact On Self-Esteem | HuffPost | Clarissa Silva | Feb 22, 2017
3. Teens are Divided on the Impact of Social Media | American Psychiatric Association | June 7, 2018
4. Social Media Effects on Teens | Impact of Social Media on Self-Esteem | Child Mind Institute | Rachel Ehmke
5. How to Help Build Your Son's Self-Esteem | Understanding Boys | Chris Hudson | Feb 21, 2017
6. How to Build Boys' Self-Confidence | Child Mind Institute | Beth Arky
7. Boost Your Teen Boy's Self Confidence | SheKnows | Kori Wllis | Aug 4, 2011
8. 5 Ways Social Media Affects Teen Mental Health | Verywell Family | Sherri Gordon | Apr 6, 2019
9. Boys Need Help with Self-Esteem, Too | Psych Central | Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D | May 16, 2016
This post has been adapted from the American Psychiatric Associations 2018 post on suicide
With a heavy heart I write this post today as my thoughts are with the family of the Ottawa
Police officer who passed away on September 27th by suicide. I am also aware of the many others
who provide essential services to the general public who struggle on a daily basis with their inner
darkness which is far too often a result of their service in the role of a first responder. The
women and men who enter the serving fields often do so with the intent of helping others but far
too often their well-being is overlooked and misunderstood as it is the nature of a helper to put
their own wellness behind that of those they serve. It is important that we continue to educate
and provide support to not only first responders but all individuals, especially those who work
within the helping professions. As such, I ask that you take a few moments to read this post
which will provide a brief education regarding the warning signs that may signify the potential
for harm to self and protective factors that can be acted upon when concern has been identified.
Suicide is linked to mental disorders, particularly depression and substance use disorders. There
are many factors that can increase the risk of suicide, such as relationship failures or struggles,
financial stress, chronic pain, a history of trauma or abuse, substance use or abuse, and exposure
to friends or family with suicidal behavior. However, the biggest risk factor is a previous suicide
Knowing the factors that can increase risk are important, but only part of the process of suicide
prevention. Picking up on the warning signs can also make a huge impact, and potentially save
the life of a friend or loved one. If someone you know has recently started talking, writing or
fixating on death, dying or suicide, that is a definite sign that they could need some help. Another
concern can be the expression of having no reason for living, feeling trapped or being a burden to
others. Further, a belief that there is no sense of purpose in life or an inability to see that there is
hope for the future. Other warning signs include; increased use of alcohol or substances, a
sudden withdrawal from friends and/or loved ones, increase in reckless behaviors, and dramatic
changes of mood.
Equipping ourselves with preventative tools and resources can help not only ourselves, but our
friends, peers, coworkers and loved ones. Suicide prevention hotlines are available 24/7 for those
who need immediate help. Emergency departments also have staff on duty to assist those in
danger of harming themselves. Professional services are accessible in most areas- to find a
therapist near you, visit psychologytoday.com and search your city. If reaching out and finding
help from an outside source seems like too big of a task, confide in a friend, family member,
teacher, coach, acquaintance, anyone who will listen and who can help you problem solve and
get the help that is needed.
Mental Health Crisis Line – 1+ (866) 996-0991
Ottawa Crisis Team– 1+ (613) 722-6914
June is pride month, which is a fantastic way to celebrate all of those in the LGBTQ+ community. We thought it would be important to also raise awareness to the increased risks of mental illness experienced by those who identify at LGBTQ+, and share a few ways we can help to prevent the risks from becoming anything more than risks. A 2010 study showed that 47% of trans youth in Ontario had thought about suicide, and 19% had actually attempted suicide in the preceding year (Scanlon, Travers, Coleman, Bauer, & Boyce, 2010). LGBTQ+ youth contemplate suicide two to three times the rate of youth who identify as straight, so it’s important to know how to help them through the tough times of coming to terms with their sexuality or gender identity.
How Can We Help?
Look for Signs- Educating yourself and your loved ones on the warning signs of suicide and depression is a great way to help LGBTQ+ youth. It’s important to recognize when your child/friend/student/sibling is behaving differently than usual so that you can help to avoid a potential crisis. Resources such as The Trevor Project or Crisis Services Canada are readily available resources for anyone struggling with depression or suicidal ideation.
Open Your Ears- Sometimes we just need to talk it out. From a simple “you okay?” to a more in depth conversation about emotions and how to cope, it’s important to be ready and willing to listen to the individual that is struggling. It’s also important not to push the individual to speak when they aren’t ready to. Whether or not the person has come out, try to show empathy and understand that speaking about their thoughts and feelings may be incredibly difficult and scary for them. Prepare yourself for the possibility of a tough conversation, and make sure they know that you’re there to support them through their hard times, not to judge them for how they feel or the choices they are making despite your own belief.
Be Open Minded- Often times it’s hard for loved ones to fully understand what certain labels mean. Gender dysphoria, two-spirited and queer are all terms that not everyone is familiar with- so it’s important to be open to learning about any label that your loved one may or may not put on themselves. The Ma Group has put together a list of many gender and sexuality identifying terms to help better understand some of the newer and less “common” identifiers.
Be Supportive- As tough as it may be to hear that your loved one is going through a hard time, I can assure you it’s even harder on them. Admitting that they need help is a step in the right direction, and you need to be there for them. Thank them for trusting you enough to open up and talk about their thoughts and feelings, and ensure them that you will do your best to support them no matter what.
If you feel that your loved one’s symptoms are severe enough that they might inflict harm on themselves or others, direct them to the nearest emergency department or mental health facility.
Dr. Diana Garcia
Dr. Diana Garcia has over 20 years of experience in the field of psychology. She has provided psychological and counseling services in Ontario, and the states of Pennsylvania, and Florida