Arrow Lakes News
The issue of mental health is often misunderstood and the people who suffer can be afraid to be open about their conditions because of the negative reactions of others. Having a mental illness can be a burden when it comes to gaining and maintaining relationships, employment, friendships and housing. Openness and communication can go a long way to combating negative stereotypes of those who suffer from these illnesses.
Sarah James, Community Integrated Health Services, Kootenay Boundary says, “We need to talk and teach our children from a young age that mental illness is normal. The more we bring the facts around mental health out into the open, the less stigma.”
To become aware that an individual might be suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness, there can be many subtle changes in various aspects of a person’s life. Some likely symptoms include: lack of appetite, loss of interest in things that are normally joyful, or sometimes it is a friend or a loved one that may notice changes. James suggests asking for help from a family doctor or local mental health resources site so that a person can be seen and a personalized treatment plan can be started. The most important thing to remember is that it is an illness and there is no shame in needing help.
A source who requested anonymity based on concerns about social stigma said, “It may be a long time coming, but I look forward to the day when a mental health issue is treated the same way as a physical malady. Someone who has a heart problem doesn’t suffer the judgement as does someone with bipolar disorder.”
Overcoming the negative stigma around mental illness means accepting there is something wrong. Next is finding the courage to ask for help.
James says, “Self-care is very important and having a team of professional mental health clinicians including your own family doctor is very important. Take it a day at a time, make small attainable goals and don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go to plan. Be open and honest with those around you so that they can support you. It is important to know that mental illness can happen to anyone at any time and you are not alone. Interior Health endeavours to ensure that high quality care is available to all people who live rurally.”
For those who may be suffering in silence, or unknowingly, Interior Health provides free support for residents in the Arrow Lakes region. There are two clinicians: a registered nurse, and a social worker. Services provided include intake and urgent response, adult short-term assessment and treatment services, case management, and seniors mental health services, outreach support, and clubhouse support groups. More information can be found at www.interiorhealth.ca under the Mental Health and Substance Use departments. Healthlink BC can give advice and make connections.