Tag Archives | mental health

Image by PublicDomainPictures, pixabay.com

Image by PublicDomainPictures, pixabay.com

ADHD is one of the most controversial mental health topics nowadays. More and more people are diagnosed with this condition and treatment varies tremendously from case to case. Some ADHD patients get diagnosed at an early age and start medication. However, many still manifest some of the symptoms as adults, and can cause several social problems. If you are a student, don’t let the disorder trouble this exciting period of your life. Here are some recommendations to help you deal with ADHD in class.

Find Out More About This Condition
No matter what kind of ailment you suffer from, treatment starts with a full understanding of what is happening to you. So, start learning more about your condition.

ADHD is one of those interesting psychology facts people can’t stop arguing about. It is a complex matter that raises many questions and doubts for doctors and patients alike. ADHS or the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a chronic condition the manifests itself by:
• Attention loss
• Concentration problems
• Impulsiveness
• Mood swings
• Poor memory
• Anxious behavior
• Motivation loss

Get the Proper Diagnosis and Medication
The symptoms should not scare you. You might have ADHD, but it doesn’t mean you’ll manifest all the symptoms at once or to their full extent. Besides, many things can improve a student’s mental health. The first thing you have to do is get a proper diagnosis from a trustworthy specialist. He or she will then be able to indicate the most suitable treatment for your condition.

There are several types of drugs like Concerta, Ritalin or Adderall that can improve your focus and help balance your emotions. Natural supplements containing omega 3 and omega 6 can also boost the brain’s capacities like memory formation or attention. Whatever treatment you opt for, make sure you thoroughly follow your doctor’s prescription.

Behavior Therapy
This is extremely beneficial especially for young adults who are willing and ready to adapt to a social environment. Behavior therapy can enhance your daily relationship with teachers and colleagues. It can cast away the fears related to your condition and mitigate the emotional ADHD symptoms. This therapy aims to help patients manage the way they act and change unhealthy behaviors related to this condition.

A specialist can help you strengthen your social skills and advise on how to behave in day to day situations. Cognitive behavior therapy is organized both in individual and group sessions.

A balanced diet is recommended to everyone out there, but it is increasingly important to stick to it if you have been diagnosed with ADHD. Try to eat as healthy as you can. Include fresh fruit, vegetables, and lean meat in your diet. Fiber and protein will boost your mood and brain capabilities. Fish is very useful because it contains healthy fatty acids. Water intake should be regular because it hydrates the entire body and enhances concentration. A balanced diet will help you perform better during class and put you in the right mood for studying.

There are also elements you should try to limit. Regarding sugar and caffeine, moderate consumption is recommended because they increase restlessness.

Train Your Mind and Body

Physical Training
Many ADHD patients find it easier to deal with this condition if they practice a sport on a regular basis. Physical exercises help you get rid of anxiety, balance your hormones, regulate your appetite and stay fit. There is no reason why an ADHD patient should not practice a sport, provided that their physical condition allows him or her to do it. Besides, there are many sports you can take up as extracurricular activities. Dance, jogging or swimming will help you relax and give you the chance to socialize with your colleagues outside of classes.

Mental Training
Train your brain the same way you do with your body. Mental challenges like puzzles, quizzes, or crosswords will keep your brain in shape. They will also help you develop the concentration and problem-solving skills that are important while you are a student. Games are fun and can enhance your creativity. Moreover, you could practice together with friends and, again, work on your interpersonal skills while you’re at it.

Improve Your Social Skills

In Class
One of the most common problems caused by ADHD is the impairment of social interactions. People suffering from this disorder find it difficult to commit to strong relationships. Therefore, they often tend to isolate themselves. This only worsens your social life and leads to self-esteem problems. No matter how hard it is, make an effort and go out there. Try to integrate yourself into the picture. Start with small talk and gradually get close to your classmates. Don’t be afraid to open up and ask for help.

After Classes
Support groups are a great idea for students who need a moral boost. Here you can meet other people who struggle with the same problems as yours. This is your chance to talk about your problem with people who fully understand you, under professional supervision. You can share best and worst practices and learn from each other’s experience. Maybe you’ll also make new friends in this intimate environment.

Try to Relax
The idea of relaxation seems utopic in this context, but it is by no means impossible. People with ADHD can learn how to relax. There are common methods that work very well in this case, and one of them is meditation. This is something you won’t master in several months. It takes years of practice to get the full benefits, so start with simple methods like breathing techniques and posture. Thirty minutes of meditation a day will do wonders for your mental balance. It is definitely worth trying.

This disorder should not be treated like other chronic diseases that impede you from a normal life. You can do everything a healthy person does. Keep this in mind and start working on your problems. It’s up to you to control ADHD.

This article was contributed by guest author Mike from TGC Media.

Image by A Health Blog, Flickr

Image by A Health Blog, Flickr

2.6% and 30.3%. Those statistics represent two different factors that disrupt a university student’s academic performance: physical injury and stress. 30% is not a small number!

Mental health for students is a topic that rarely receives any more attention than the knowledge of what it is. For others, it’s something that can affect them in their studies, social interactions, or just themselves and their reality.

University students are known to be at a stage in their lives where they start to experience the most amount of stress. It’s a challenging environment, so much so that it sometimes can lead students to develop health issues. Many students are aware of this but forget about the university resources that are openly available to them – in most cases, for free.

Among stress, many students proclaim feelings of anxiety, anger, frustration, severe lack of motivation, sadness, and depression. None of these problems have to be permanent, or recurrent.

If you have reason to believe that yourself or anyone you know may be experiencing mental issue, take the step to talk to someone or contact your campus mental health resource department.

Furthermore, if you have a shred of doubt about your mental stability and want to know more, take a look at the well-informed guidebook here: Student Mental Health: Identifying Disorders and Promoting Wellness; it displays information on some of the more common problems students face as well as a means to tackle those problems.

Image by Gebbe, Flickr

Image by Gebbe, Flickr

Being isolated in high school translated to me not having a lot of typical social experiences that most teenagers have. I had never been to a real party and I’d never been exposed to alcohol or drugs. That was fine with me, but when I got to university, my ‘uncoolness’ followed me. Everyone wanted to party, and I legitimately did not know how, and I was so anxious and uncomfortable that I couldn’t just give it a shot. In my first year I went to Brock University, which is known for its parties, and I felt miserable and left out.

I am not joking when I say that I did not speak to anyone all year. No one. I hid in my room, I avoided the girl who shared a bathroom with me, and I sat alone in classes. At Brock, every class has a seminar attached to it, and I had a bad habit of not going to them. Luckily, I was still able to transfer to the University of Toronto, where I should have been all along, but I had the same problem there. Needless to say, I could have done better, and my GPA is suffering now as a result of my isolation in those early years.

I’ve been making great progress, but I had a setback this year – I had a major depressive episode in the winter where I was suicidal for a time, and I wasn’t feeling up to doing all of my school work, or much of anything at all, really. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to complete an assignment that I found very challenging, as I felt that I had been pushed to my breaking point already, so I went to the school’s health clinic. The doctor gladly gave me a form so that I could get an extension, and he recommended that I see a psychiatrist as well. I had been on the waitlist for one, but he ensured that I was given a higher priority and I was able to see someone within a week. It’s a good thing that he did – the psychiatrist prescribed me medication, something that I had been avoiding for years even though it had been recommended before. I didn’t think that it would help at all, but it turned out to be my saving grace, and I am doing much better now. I dropped the course that I was struggling in, but I did well in all my others.

I’ve been getting better and better at finding ways to be engaged in classes, even if it isn’t always by talking, and my grades have been reflecting that. I found that I made a significant improvement in my third year, when class sizes shrank to at least half of what they were before. Now, I try to find classes that I think will be small and unintimidating.

I still haven’t really made any friends, only acquaintances, but I’ve gotten more involved with my school’s community through a student group that I lead. I discovered my passion for mental health awareness, and I became president of a group called Active Minds at UofT that is dedicated to just that. Even when I can’t find many other things about school to motivate me, planning events never fails to inspire me and push me to do better in all areas of my life.

Not everyone is going to go through something like this, and I hope that you don’t. But if you find yourself struggling with anything at all, please reach out to the adults and professionals around you. There were times when I felt like doing this was weak – I should be able to get As on everything, no matter what, without anybody’s help. If someone gave me an extension or any kind of help, then I obviously wasn’t smart enough, and it meant nothing. This is not true. Asking for help is brave.

When you ask for help, you’re making yourself vulnerable. I was afraid of being judged, or even simply being told ‘no’. And it’s true that there were some people, even those who were very close to me, who refused to help and distanced themselves from me during my time of need, for whatever reason. But there were still people who did help, like the teachers and counselors and doctors that I’ve mentioned. Some of my friends were great too – when I was at my worst they kept me company and guided me towards whatever I was supposed to be doing next, knowing that to be alone with no routine would probably be the worst thing for me. It is so much better to try than to just drown, thinking that no one will jump in to save you. Even if you’re convinced that you will, what’s the worst thing that could happen if you reach out? Maybe something good will happen. Just maybe. And some day, your future self will thank you.

Image by Henry Shi, Flickr

Image by Henry Shi, Flickr

When I was in high school I was a straight-A student. I was the kind of girl who got upset if she got a B. I remember complaining to my friends that I only had 93% in Geography when I thought I had 95% in the ninth grade. One of my friends gasped, feigning horror. “OH MY GOD, YOU ONLY HAVE A 93?! GUYS, CHELSEA ONLY HAS A 93,” he yelled sarcastically. Looking back now, I can see how lucky I was, but back then I felt like my grades were the only thing I had going for me. I was the smart one. That’s what I was known for. And then I became known for something else.

At 16, the vast majority of my friends shut me out for reasons that I can’t quite explain. I started dating one of the guys in our group, they all hated it and wanted us to break up – we did (a few times – they were not exactly conducive to romance) – and then just like that, all my friends were gone.

I didn’t like school already – although I was good at it, I had social anxiety (I didn’t know it at the time) and I couldn’t talk to anyone outside of my little group of friends from elementary school. Now that they were gone, it felt like my social anxiety had gone straight from 0 to 100 – I felt like everyone was always staring, whispering behind my back and judging me, because half the time they actually were. If I didn’t like school before, I hated it now. I had to sit through classes with my former friends, and though I moved seats to get away from them, I could still hear them talking about me at times. I had to watch them talk about all their exciting plans that I wasn’t a part of, at a louder volume than necessary because they were kind of obnoxious, just in general.

It was hard for me to focus in classes with people who hated my guts sitting a few feet away from me. I saw the school counsellor, who was very helpful – it was nice to have someone to talk to. But that didn’t change my reality, and by the end of grade 12 I might have failed without assistance from my counsellor and teachers. I had wanted to go to the University of Toronto, but I felt so scared of everything now, like the city would eat me alive. I ended up going to Brock University because it felt like the safer choice, but it was not for me.

Even my graduation wasn’t what I thought it would be. A lot of kids who have a hard time in high school have a fantastic time at graduation because they’re so happy to be out of there, but I had the opposite experience. I was the type of girl who dreamed about prom – I used to make sketches of what I wanted my dream dress to look like, and true to form I spent $1000 on a ballgown (maybe not the wisest decision, but it was the only thing I could do for myself). And it was a nice night; one of my best friends that I still had from out of town came down just to take me, so I didn’t have to go alone. But I didn’t get to ride in a limo and take beautiful pictures and go to an after party with everybody else. I wanted it to be the best day of my teenage life and I still felt excluded. Someone always had to remind me: You do not belong here. You are not good enough.

Still, I thought that things would get better in university. They had to. That was how it always went – the loser in high school gets super hot and then goes on to be crazy successful and everybody’s boss, a la Elle Woods (except with popularity instead of brains). It was a chance to start over – no one there knew who I was, and I never had to tell them. Unfortunately, I would be disappointed yet again.

Stay tuned.

Image by Samuel Mann, Flickr

Image by Samuel Mann, Flickr

Just joining in? Read Entry #1 here.

I’ve been at my internship for nearly two months now! It feels like I just started yesterday, but when I think about everything I’ve accomplished and learned, and the new relationships I’ve formed, I realize just how long it’s been.

The common stereotype of the unpaid intern is someone who gets coffee and does other mindless tasks for their superiors. Sometimes I am asked to do things like that (never coffee though, that would be disastrous), but not too often. Usually I’m assisting with larger projects.

When I am asked to do menial tasks, I follow this tried and true advice:

When assigned a task, such as to make coffee, make the best damn coffee they’ve ever seen.

I don’t know why I keep using coffee as an example when this has literally never come up for me. I suppose the coffee itself is a stereotype! A better example – when I’m asked to enter data into spreadsheets, I do it faster (and more accurately) than anyone has ever done it before. And then I say, “What else can I do?” By getting this sort of thing out of the way, you not only impress people with your dedication, but it allows you to have the time to move on to other projects that might be of more interest to you. You’ll hear this all the time, but it is truly one of the only pieces of advice I can honestly say that everyone should always follow, no matter what the situation.

That said, the major projects that I get to work on are really exciting. My superiors are very dedicated to making sure that I get something out of this internship – real, valuable experience in which I’ve learned a variety of different skills. I could judge this just based on our first interview – I was asked what type of work I would like to be doing, and how it would fit into my academic and professional goals. So don’t feel like all internships are a waste of time because that’s all you’ll do! Chances are it won’t be. If you’re lucky enough to be able to choose where you work, look for employers with an attitude like this, and don’t be afraid to tell them exactly what you want. You’ll be nearly guaranteed an enriching experience.

My major projects:

  • The Blog – I edit the blog that is featured on the organization’s website, featuring a rotating set of different contributors every day. I then promote the blog posts on social media, and I monitor the Facebook and Twitter feed during the day. I do a lot of other miscellaneous online stuff too – this week I got to design an email newsletter, which I’m sure will be a very useful skill for future jobs.
  • The Videos – I mentioned in my last post that I first worked with this non-profit on a video project. In the winter, they began to shoot a series of videos featuring different people talking about their experiences with mental illness. I was the subject of the first video. Now, I am finding subjects for future videos, interviewing them and shooting the videos, and editing them afterwards. All of this is completely new to me, and I think this is the project that I am learning the most from.
  • The Book – During my very first week, all I did for days straight was edit a manuscript for an updated edition of a book that the organization is putting out. This definitely utilized my strengths, but it was quite the project – all of the files were so disorganized and it took a while to make sense of everything. I also felt like I would go blind from staring at a jumble of words on a screen for so many hours on end. However, I think that it’s in good shape now, and I’m excited to move on to the next draft! I learned a lot from the minimal research that I did for the book as well. I hope I’m around long enough to see the finished product.

That’s it for now – I’ll be back next month with updates and more tips for you guys! In the meantime, you can follow me @chelsearrr on Twitter. I’m always ready to talk internships or anything mental health.

Image by nagzi, Flickr

Image by nagzi, Flickr

Returning to academia after an extended period can be a fairly difficult experience. For one, students do not get paid and that can mean doubling your workload. But whether you have been working or not, enrollment means a drastic change in schedule and a restructuring of your priorities. Yet, this is exactly what I decided to do a few years ago.

Let’s start at the beginning. I studied English in university for two and a half years before I had to drop out. It’s not that I was a poor student; my marks were decent. I dropped out primarily because of mental health issues. This was compounded by the fact that I had come to dislike my area of study as I progressed into upper year courses and the material became more and more focused.

While I dealt with my mental health issues, I found work through a temp agency doing unskilled labour jobs. I spent nearly four years working on and off at these types of jobs. It was very unfulfilling and that was part of my motivation for returning to school. I could not picture myself doing unskilled labour for the rest of my life. I wanted access to something more and a university degree would give me that. Yet, I did not really want to return to university. I feared the crippling debt I would have to incur in order to do so.

But in a choice between mundane work and debt, I chose the option that would enable a brighter future.

When I was healthy enough, I applied to my hometown university and fortunately I got in. University was my job now, and I took it very seriously. But if it was a job, it was one I lacked experience in. I had forgotten basically everything from my previous university experience. It is astounding how much one forgets in four years.

I didn’t remember how to take notes in class, let alone how to approach the first assignment I was faced with: a book review.

I made ample use of my professor’s office hours and the university’s writing centre just to get the basics down. Needless to say, I did not receive a great mark; however, it allowed me to take stock of the areas I needed to improve in. Apparently, I had forgotten the rules of grammar. It was re-learning this basic stuff that was the most difficult thing for me to do. It took many hours talking with professors and teaching assistants, combined with trial and error on my own part to sharpen my diminished skills.

That was the downside. There was considerable upside to returning after a long layoff. With my added years of life experience, my mindset had shifted considerably. I was no longer content to do just enough to get by. Instead, I wanted to put forth my best effort on every assignment. I was more driven to succeed because I was returning to school for a purpose, rather than attending university because it is simply what one does after high school. I wanted to be engaged in my studies rather than merely going through the motions.

This quickly began to show in my grades. I became more willing to seek assistance from my professors and from the university staff. I felt that these resources were there to help me after all and it turns out professors are generally nice people, especially if you are able to show that you have a genuine desire to learn.

I do not regret my decision to return to university for a minute. The monetary cost was high, but the education I have gained has equipped me with a variety of skills I did not have before and thus allowed me to expand my horizons beyond unskilled labour. I think the key to my success was that I took advantage of the resources and opportunities that my university provided. I urge every current student to do the same.

As a returning student, I know I had a lot of questions, so don’t be afraid to ask them. If you don’t know something, find someone who does and figure it out. It makes life at university so much easier. On a final note, depending on your situation, it might be best to ease your way back into school. You have the option to take one or two courses to begin. I took an 80 percent course load, and this helped me not to be overwhelmed by the experience.

Image by freefotouk, Flickr

Image by freefotouk, Flickr

University can be host to a wealth of triggers for mental health issues. Away from home and separated from their families, students are faced with the task of juggling their transition to university with personal expectations for academic performance, relationship complications, social problems, financial constraints, and concern about the future. Suffering from depression can make you feel helpless and weak, but is extremely common – one in four people between the ages of 15 and 24 will suffer a mental health problem of some sort – and is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.

What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder typically characterized by feelings of severe despondency, dejection, hopelessness and/or inadequacy. Depression can be accompanied by a lack of energy, heightened levels of anxiety, and difficulty in maintaining concentration or interest in life. Depression affects everyone differently, but symptoms may include:

  • social withdrawal; isolating yourself from friends, avoiding calls from home
  • feeling alone or distant from others; feeling like a burden to your loved ones
  • feeling overwhelmed, drained, irritable, guilty, worthless, numb, empty, sad, and/or hopeless
  • appetite loss or increase; weight loss or gain
  • changes in sleeping patterns, trouble sleeping, or insomnia
  • recurring thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • losing interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • worrying constantly; experiencing high levels of anxiety, restlessness, stress, or panic attacks
  • physical aches and pains
  • feeling as if you are functioning in slow motion
  • simple tasks take an inordinate amount of time to complete
  • reduced ability to concentrate, short term memory loss
  • experiencing frequent mood swings
  • fatigue, lacking energy or motivation

Seeking treatment
If you suspect you are suffering from depression, but feel that your circumstances are so bleak that nothing could possibly do anything to improve them, it is imperative to tell yourself otherwise. Learning about a) why you are feeling a certain way and b) how to alter certain aspects of your lifestyle or behaviour in order to feel better is a crucial step in becoming able to cope with depression. I know that the prospect of going out and looking for help seems laughable when the act of actually getting out of bed at all is a Herculean task in itself, but seeking some sort of treatment is the first step in ensuring that your depression doesn’t become debilitating.
If you are convinced that nobody else will understand you, the truth is that you might be right. Everyone may not be able to understand. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who will very much want to try.

Types of treatment
The good news is that there is a plethora of different ways to get help. The hard part is finding the right kind of help for you. People are unique. We have incredibly varied past experiences, family histories, personal beliefs, fears, insecurities, temperaments, and dispositions. We are different, and depression affects each of us differently as a result. Accordingly, the effectiveness of any given coping technique fluctuates from person to person.

If you don’t know where to begin, I recommend looking at the mental health page on your university’s website. This is a private and informative way to research which methods of help you are interested in getting. There will be contact numbers for your university’s mental health centre, which can direct you to find a psychologist or psychiatrist. The difference between the two, you ask? Both psychologists and psychiatrists are mental health specialists who are trained to assess and treat mental illness; however, psychologists provide ‘talk therapy’ to help you alter your behavioural habits and thinking patterns as a primary method of coping with depression, while psychiatrists generally view depression as the result of a bodily abnormality or chemical imbalance in the brain, and prescribe anti-depressant medication as a primary means of treatment.

Talking to a therapist
Showing up to an appointment with the express purpose of divulging intensely personal information to a complete stranger so they can help you overcome your depressive symptoms can be intimidating, to say the least. Try to keep in mind that you are in a confidential space, and that your therapist has the tools to help you – the better they know you, the challenges you face, and how you deal with those challenges, the better they will be able to advise you. Your comfort level will grow over time. Also, your therapist gets to know you by listening to the way you perceive yourself, your relationships, and the events in your life. Talking to a therapist allows you to have an objective opinion from someone whose relationship with you is not that of an acquaintance nor friend nor family, which can be extremely enlightening experience.

Taking time off 
Your therapist may recommend deferring your exams, reducing your course load, or taking some time off school. Do whatever you feel comfortable with. Taking a break to relax, reflect, and heal may do a world of good. To prevent slipping into even more of a rut, plan out your leave of absence. Continue with whichever form of therapy you feel comfortable with, keep a regular routine of sleep and exercise, and take up some activities that you didn’t have time to do before. Read. Write. Rest. Paint. Build. Explore. Do anything that reminds you of the beauty in the life we live. Also, as important it is to practice mindfulness and be reflective and thoughtful, it’s important to focus on the outward as well as the inward. Volunteering in the community might give you a sense of routine and purpose.

Mind and body
Your state of physical health can influence your state of mental health all too easily – a good thing if you take care of yourself physically, and a bad thing if you don’t. Follow these tips to ensure you are staying healthy at university!

Coping with any mental health issue is an immense struggle. Overcoming depression is neither quick nor easy, but it is far from impossible. When you are thoughtful about the way you perceive and feel about the events in your life, you become more sensitive and insightful to the world around you, and this will enable you to grow. You are given the chance to examine yourself critically without being critical of yourself. You learn to change the things you can and adapt to the things you cannot. I wish you all the best.

Internet resources
Student Health 101
The Jack Project
Kids Help Phone
Mental Health Commission of Canada
Mind Your Mind
Canadian Mental Health Association
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Teen Mental Health