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Homewood Health News
Relevant thoughts from subject matter experts, industry leaders and communications professionals—written to keep people in the know.
Homewood Health Launches New Trauma Support Program in Vancouver Clinic
The Homewood Clinic in Vancouver to offer customized, intensive outpatient treatment of PTSD and other trauma related conditions.Read more
Homewood Health Launches New Trauma Support Program in Vancouver Clinic
By Homewood Health - Nov 6th 2017
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VANCOUVER, BC -- (November 6, 2017) - Homewood Health is pleased to announce the launch of a new intensive outpatient Trauma Support Program in Vancouver. As part of a national treatment network, the new Trauma Support Program at The Homewood Clinic in Vancouver will offer immediate access to customized, intensive outpatient treatment for individuals struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.
On November 9th please join The Homewood Clinic in Vancouver for a panel discussion on trauma, resilience and Vancouver’s opioid crisis from 4:30pm-6:30pm at 575 W. 8th Ave, Suite 600. Panelists:
- Richard Marquez, Trauma Therapy Specialist
Richard Marquez has over 20 years of clinical, research and counselling experience in Canada and the United States. With graduate degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and the California State University at San Francisco, Marquez adds breadth to his trauma expertise with deep knowledge and experience in social welfare, public health, community organizing, and shelter housing support.
- Travis Lupick, author of Fighting for Space
Travis Lupick is an award-winning journalist based in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Lupick received the Canadian Association of Journalists’ prestigious Don McGillivray award for best overall investigative report of 2016 and two 2017 Jack Webster awards for excellence in B.C. journalism. His first book, Fighting for Space, is the story of how a group of addicts transformed Vancouver’s struggle with addiction.
- Lynn Noftle, Staff Sergeant, Mental Health Portfolio, Vancouver Police Department
Lynn Noftle began her career with the Vancouver Police Department in 1998. Her career includes working as a Sergeant in the Downtown Eastside, serving Vancouver’s most challenging mental health and addiction population. Noftle transferred to the Mental Health Unit in June of 2014 and has been in the role of Staff Sergeant with the Mental Health Portfolio since September of 2016. Prior to policing, Noftle worked as an architect and a physiotherapist.
- Moderator: Dr. Estelle Toomey, Director of The Homewood Clinic in Vancouver
With 30 years of multi-sector experience, BSW and MSW degrees from McGill University and PhD from Oxford University, Estelle Toomey brings clinical, management and advanced research expertise to her role. She has lived in 10 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North America, is a retired 2nd Lieutenant with the Canadian Forces and serves in the Reserves.
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About Homewood Health
Homewood Health is Canada's leader in mental health, addiction and trauma treatment. With 135 years of experience, we achieve outstanding outcomes every day through our national network of over 4,500 local employees and clinical experts, The Homewood Clinics, 360⁰dtx, and through the Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, ON – Canada's largest and leading facility for medical treatment of mental health, trauma and addiction disorders. We support individuals and their families, employers and organizations, insurers, and medical professionals with a full suite of outcome-focused services for prevention, assessment, treatment, return-to-work, and ongoing recovery management.
Cherie Payne, BA, LL.B
Director of Communications
778.386.4347 or email@example.com
Homewood Health - Nov 6th 2017
Homewood Health Clinicians Shine Light on PTSD at Schedule 2 Employers Group Conference
Homewood Health is pleased to announce its continued support of efforts to address PTSD in the workplace. Homewood Health was a lead sponsor of last week’s Schedule 2 Employers Group Conference, an annual gathering of industry professionals from across Ontario focused on workplace wellness, health and safety, workers’ compensation and disability management.Read more
Homewood Health Clinicians Shine Light on PTSD at Schedule 2 Employers Group Conference
By Homewood Health - Oct 24th 2017
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TORONTO, ON -- (October 24, 2017) - Homewood Health is pleased to announce its continued support of efforts to address PTSD in the workplace. Homewood Health was a lead sponsor of last week’s Schedule 2 Employers Group Conference, an annual gathering of industry professionals from across Ontario focused on workplace wellness, health and safety, workers’ compensation and disability management.
The Director of Trauma Services for Homewood Health, Stacey Ferland joined Toni Harrington, Director of Specialized Services for Homewood to present insights on trauma support in the workplace based on Homewood Health’s pioneering treatment programs that began at the Homewood Health Centre in Guelph and have continued at The Homewood Clinics in Mississauga, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal.
“Looking at research coming out of our national medical clinics and Health Centre, we see a real need for increased attention and support for PTSD in the workplace,” noted Stacey Ferland. “Ontario has made significant progress in delivering provincial support for individuals struggling with post-traumatic stress and other trauma related conditions, and Canadians across the country could benefit from similar levels of support.”
Reducing productivity loss through absenteeism is important to employers Toni Harrington pointed out.
“Providing employees with professional support to manage PTSD, anxiety, depression and substance use disorders is both compassionate and makes good economic sense,” Harrington said.
Homewood Health is Canada’s leader in treating addictions, trauma and other mental illnesses.
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About Homewood Health
Homewood Health is Canada's leader in mental health, trauma and addiction services. With over 135 years of experience, we achieve outstanding outcomes every day through our national network of over 4,500 local employees and clinical experts, The Homewood Clinics, 360⁰dtx, and through the Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, ON – one of Canada's largest and leading facilities for medical treatment of mental health and addiction disorders. Homewood Health offers Canada's only complete continuum of mental health and addiction treatment services. We support individuals and their families, employers and organizations, insurers, and medical professionals with a full suite of outcome-focused services for prevention, assessment, treatment, return-to-work, and ongoing recovery management.
Cherie Payne, BA, LL.B | Director of Communications
778.386.4347 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Homewood Health - Oct 24th 2017
Everybody goes through ups and downs in their lives, but normal life experiences shouldn’t be confused with the serious mental disorder known as Depression. One of the most common mood disorders, depression can have serious and lasting implications on an individual's mental and physical health. (e.g. increased aches and pains, chronic fatigue, heart disease, etc.).Read more
By Homewood Health - Oct 4th 2017
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Everybody goes through ups and downs in their lives, but normal life experiences shouldn’t be confused with the serious mental disorder known as Depression. One of the most common mood disorders, depression can have serious and lasting implications on an individual's mental and physical health. (e.g. increased aches and pains, chronic fatigue, heart disease, etc.).
A study in 2012 by Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) on Mental Health identified that 5.2% of Canadians over the age of 15 reported having had a depression in the last 12 months. The same study also identified that 11.3% of all Canadians will experience depression in their lifetime.1
Although the number of people suffering from depression continues to rise, there are misconceptions between sadness and depression. In this edition, we will identify what depression is, symptoms of the depression, and how to manage those symptoms.
The Differences Between Sadness and Depression
Sadness is a normal human emotion we all experience, often triggered by difficult, challenging, hurtful, or disappointing experiences or situations. Sadness is typically linked to a specific event or scenario; we experience sadness about something.
This means when that ‘something’ changes, our emotional well-being improves and returns to our pre-event state.2
Depression, on the other hand, is a mental disorder which makes individuals feel sad or indifferent to many events or scenarios. There may be no specific trigger, situation, loss, or change that causes the depressive symptoms, just an overwhelming and perpetual state of unhappiness.2
Signs of Depression
Those who suffer from depression see and experience life differently than other individuals. Depression can drastically impact an individual’s energy level, motivation, and ability to experience joy, pleasure, excitement, satisfaction, connection, and meaning.2
It is important to realize that the resiliency of those suffering from depressive disorders is much lower as compared to individuals who are not diagnosed with depression. Depressed persons often reach states of anger or frustration faster over the same experiences compared to their counterparts. They are also more likely to break down emotionally and take longer to recuperate from those experiences.2
If someone experiences five or more of any of the symptoms below for at least two weeks, then depression may be the cause:3
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that don’t ease, even with treatment
- Appetite and/or drastic weight changes
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Moving or talking more slowly
- Noticeably depressed
- Persistent sadness, anxiousness, or “empty” mood
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
How to Manage Depression Symptoms
In addition to medically supervised pharmaceutical treatment, there are many psychological therapies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and support groups that can be helpful.* Here are some non-medical approaches that may improve the symptoms of depression:
Stay active. Studies have shown that 20 to 30 minutes of regular physical activity a day can help to relieve symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Physical activity, releases endorphins, a powerful chemical in the brain that energizes and lifts one’s spirits.4
Practice mindfulness. Being mindful of negative thoughts can help to isolate feelings, and reframe the experience in a constructive manner. Through consistent practice, individuals may recognize negative thoughts, and work to change the way the experience is perceived. Over time this will retrain the brain to think more positively.5
Sleep schedule. Having a regular sleep schedule can help train the body in knowing when it is time to rest and re-energize. Many people with depression often have symptoms of insomnia, which can impact someone’s ability to fall asleep and often worsens depressive symptoms. Staying active and building a sleep routine may help with falling asleep, allowing one to better prepare mentally and physically for tomorrow’s challenges.6
Eat better. Eating foods that are high in vitamins and minerals are known to help regulate serotonin levels which may help to reduce symptoms of depression and mood swings. Here is a list of vitamin rich foods to try:7
- B12 and folate – lentils, almonds, spinach, chicken, fish
- Omega-3 fatty acids – haddock, salmon, nut oils, algae, cod
- Selenium – cod, brazil nuts, walnuts, poultry
- Vitamin D – bread, milk, breakfast cereals
If you or someone you know may be facing extended periods of depression, seek out professional support from a qualified healthcare professional. They will be able to provide you with a range of options from therapies to medications, or lifestyle approaches to alleviate symptoms of chronic depression.
*Always consult with a physician or qualified health care professional to identify the right course of treatment for depression.
1. Government of Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada. "Institutional links." What is depression? - Public Health Agency Canada. N.p., 30 Dec. 2016. Web. 14 July 2017. <http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cd-mc/mi-mm/depression-...
2. Winch, G., Dr. (2015, October 02). The Important Difference Between Sadness and Depression. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-squeaky-w...
3. National Institute of Mental Health . (2016). Depression. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/...
4. Royal College of Psychiatrists. (2014, November). Physical Activity and Mental Health. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/treatmentswe...
5. Teasdale, John D., J. Mark G. Williams, and Zindel V. Segal. The mindful way workbook: an 8-week program to free yourself from depression and emotional distress. New York: The Guilford Press, 2014. Print.
6. Edlund, Matthew. "Want to Treat Depression? Get People to Sleep." Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 21 Nov. 2013. Web. 14 July 2017. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-res...
7. Gaynor, Mitchell L., M.D. "Diet and Depression." Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 25 Oct. 2014. Web. 17 July 2017. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-genetic-...
8. Government of Ontario, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. "Publications." Depression - Mental Health - Publications - Public Information - MOHLTC. Government of Ontario, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, 2017. Web. 17 July 2017. <http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/publications...
9. Canada, Government Of Canada Statistics. "Health Reports Depression and suicidal ideation among Canadians aged 15 to 24Health Reports Depression and suicidal ideation among Canadians aged 15 to 24." Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. N.p., 12 July 2017. Web. 17 July 2017. <http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2017001/arti...
10. Government of Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada. "Institutional links." What is depression? - Public Health Agency Canada. N.p., 30 Dec. 2016. Web. 17 July 2017. <http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cd-mc/mi-mm/depression-...
Homewood Health - Oct 4th 2017
Youth, Teens and Mental Health
It’s no secret the emotions and actions of youth and teenagers can be a dizzying array of ups, downs, quirks and contradictions. But, where mood swings, tantrums, and dramatic phases do constitute what have always been accepted as a normal part of growing up, there are notable instances when shifts in mood and behaviour may be indicators of a larger, more daunting issue: mental illness.Read more
Youth, Teens and Mental Health
By Homewood Health - Oct 3rd 2017
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It’s no secret the emotions and actions of youth and teenagers can be a dizzying array of ups, downs, quirks and contradictions. But, where mood swings, tantrums, and dramatic phases do constitute what have always been accepted as a normal part of growing up, there are notable instances when shifts in mood and behaviour may be indicators of a larger, more daunting issue: mental illness.
Children and Mental Health Disorders: The Challenges They Face
As adults, it may be difficult to imagine children suffering from such difficult challenges, yet child psychiatrist, Dr. Jean Clinton, worries the number of young people today experiencing mental health problems is on the rise. The statistics do paint a striking portrait: close to 20 percent – one in five – young people are actively dealing with a mental health issue. These include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Conduct disorder
- Eating disorders
- Suicidal ideation
Of these, anxiety disorders most commonly affect children and teens, with six percent experiencing them at some point. Suicide, the most concerning of mental health issues, is the number one non-accidental cause of death among Canadian youth. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) reported that a shocking five percent of youth attempted suicide in the past year, while another 12% had given suicide serious thought. Without question, our youth and teens are facing stressors and pressures in their lives which are manifesting in ways that go well beyond the often inconsequential “growing pains”.
Just as concerning, only one in four will get the help they need. This can create a disruptive ripple effect: the mental illness itself makes its way into the daily fabric, relationships, academics and physical health of the child. This, in turn, can negatively impact their future development, their overall mental and physical well-being and their perceptions of success in their adult lives.
It’s crucial that we eliminate the stigma and fear surrounding mental health, while opening up helpful dialogues that will benefit youth now and in the years to come.
Mental Health Disorders: What To Look For
With 50-70% of mental health disorders showing up before 18 years of age, it’s important to identify those who are struggling as early as possible. Some of the most common signs to watch for are:
- Avoiding people, places or situations they normally engage with or suddenly keeping to themselves
- Changes in eating patterns, feelings or behaviour surrounding food, weight or physical appearance
- Changes in self-esteem or self-image
- Changes or decline in relationships at school, home, or with other kids
- Changes or decline in school or extracurricular performance
- Changes or inability to sleep, relax or concentrate
- Deliberately hurting themselves or others
- Inability to cope with everyday life, issues or activities
- Lack of regard or interest in the feelings or property of others
- Lack of self-care or neglecting themselves
- New or increased use of alcohol and/or drugs
- New or unusual physical behaviours or ailments like recurring head or stomach aches, neck pain, excess energy or nervous habits (i.e.: nail biting, hair twisting, thumb-sucking, odd or repetitive movements)
- Overreactions to relatively small incidents
- Reduced interest in social or extracurricular activities they normally enjoy
- Speaking of suicide or having a preoccupation with death
- Sudden changes or extremes in emotion such as feeling rejected, worthless, hopeless, sad, helpless, anxious, worried, guilty/self-blaming, disillusioned, angry or afraid
- Sudden or unexplained changes in behaviour (i.e.: an active child becomes withdrawn or a good student’s grades drop)
Certain circumstances may also make children more susceptible to mental health disorders. These include:
- A family history of mental health disorders
- A history of previous suicide attempts
- Being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered
- Ethnicity and societal discrimination
- Facing or having witnessed trauma, including abuse
- Having been the victim of, or having engaged in bullying
- Having recently gone through a major life change (moving to a new country, city or school)
- Having substance abuse problems
If you’re concerned about your child, talk to them about how they’re feeling. Letting them know you care is a powerful first step in showing they aren’t alone.
Ensuring Children Don't Suffer Alone: Being Proactive and Offering Support
Daunting as it may be to broach the subject of mental health and kids, there’s reason to be optimistic: 70 percent of mental health cases that appear in children can be addressed through early intervention.
Getting ahead of mental health disorders, and offering support to those who need it empowers both the at-risk child and the adults who love them. The good news? There are a multitude of ways to do just that.
Foster resiliency: As a parent, resist the urge to “bubble-wrap” or constantly protect your kids. Instead, actively provide the tools and skills to help your child problem solve, resolve conflict and help cope with the normal roadblocks, responsibilities and inevitable setbacks they’ll face. Boost their self-confidence by supporting good decision-making, assertiveness, perseverance and self-determination.
Communicate: Openly, honestly and often. Some of our favourite expert advice:
- Notice the little conversation openers your child offers up
- Ask non-judgemental questions and really pause to listen to what they have to say
- Acknowledge their feelings
- Answer questions directly and honestly
- Give your undivided attention
- Resist the urge to quickly jump in with solutions or advice
- And, above all, make time to connect whenever you can
Apart from keeping the lines of communication open and natural, checking in frequently also provides a great baseline; if things change where your child’s mental health is concerned, you’ll be far more likely to notice it, and they’ll be far more likely to share their struggles with you.
You and your child may also consider creating a signal (i.e.: a code word or specifically worded email or text message) to be used when they’d like to open a discussion about something important. This can help set the stage for a conversation they may not otherwise know how to begin.
Nurture a healthy, safe environment at home: Establishing routines and setting clear boundaries, rules and limits are key, as is building in daily time together. Mealtimes are fantastic opportunities to talk and listen (especially when devices are put away!). In fact, research suggests kids who share fewer meals at home with their family actually become sexually active or experiment with drugs at earlier ages, while kids living in a healthy, supportive environment have better mental health and less risk of mental health disorders.
Be respectful: Demonstrate that you value and accept your child for who they are.
Create a network of strong relationships: Help your child build a wider support system through friends, team sports, their church or other social activities. Even taking care of a pet can prove deeply fulfilling and beneficial to mental health.
Provide outlets to relieve anxiety and stress: Physical activity, meditation and the arts are super for self-expression, growth and work wonders on a young person’s overall mental health and ability to handle stress.
Avoid involving children in adult problems: When dealing with your own personal issues, look to other adults for support instead of bringing your child into the fray. Not arguing in front of your child or asking them to pick sides is important to ensuring your child’s mental health is maintained.
When necessary, seek professional help: If your child needs more intensive support, don’t hesitate. Your EFAP or family doctor are great places to start. They can help you navigate the various therapists, therapies, support groups, help lines and other services available, and determine which may be the best fit for your child. Provide information on your EFAP or local help line to your child so they can access services themselves, confidentially, if they ever need someone else to talk to.
Mental Health and Stability Outside the Home: Staying Informed About Your Child
Whether school, sports, work or their social lives, your child likely spends significant time away from the predictability of home. Be assured, however, that staying in the loop is possible, encouraged and supported by your community. You need only reach out or take some initiative to get a read on how your child’s doing outside the home.
Keeping an eye on online activity: Monitor your child’s social media activity or messaging apps to see how they’re feeling, coping and interacting with others. Keep it subtle and non-intrusive so your child feels their self-expression and privacy are being respected.
Communicating frequently with those who interact with your child: Teachers, guidance counsellors, administrators, friends, youth leaders and other parents can offer unique insights into how your child or teen may be acting or feeling when you’re not present.
Getting involved…together: Joining your child in activities they enjoy, or volunteering together for a good cause provides a space for bonding, self-esteem building, communication and connections that are often different than at home.
Mental health disorders in children and teens can be a source of great trepidation and fear, but it needn’t be. Acknowledging the very real challenges and complexities facing children – and letting them know you’re there to listen and help – this can be just what’s needed to ensure they feel supported, allowing them to flourish, during this exciting and dynamic time in their lives.
Homewood Health - Oct 3rd 2017
Mental Wellness at Work
Even if you absolutely love what you do, at times the pace of work can become overwhelming and exhausting. Many aspects of work can be stressful: co-worker issues, a demanding boss, an unhappy customer, a looming deadline, too much paperwork, and so on.Read more
Mental Wellness at Work
By Homewood Health - Oct 2nd 2017
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Even if you absolutely love what you do, at times the pace of work can become overwhelming and exhausting.
Many aspects of work can be stressful: co-worker issues, a demanding boss, an unhappy customer, a looming deadline, too much paperwork, and so on.
It is important to take time during our busy workdays to replenish and re-energize. Taking time to relax in the workplace is important, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. Sometimes even a small investment of time for relaxation can have a big payoff. In fact, the following exercises can free up more time than they use because, when you refresh yourself, you are more productive and efficient.
You can use the following relaxation exercises at work to help you manage your stress, maximize your energy, and maintain a healthy and positive attitude at work. In just a few minutes you will feel more relaxed.
Exercise # 1 - Deep Breathing:
- This Deep Breathing exercise is a simple but very effective method of relaxation. Here’s how you do it: Take a long, slow, deep breath. Inhale through your nose, allowing your diaphragm to fill with air and letting your chest expand.
- Exhale through your mouth. As you exhale, dig deep and allow any stress, anxiety, or tension to be released along with that breath.
- Try, as best you can, to empty your head of all thoughts, plans, and worries: right now all you need to do is relax. Allow yourself to exhale negative thoughts along with your breath.
- Continue steps 1-3 for at least 10 seconds. When you feel more relaxed, allow your breath to return to normal.
So why does it help?
Studies show the area of the brain that signals the stress response also signals the relaxation response. By breathing deeply for at least 10 seconds you signal your brain to switch from stress mode to relaxation mode, giving your body and mind a break.
Do you ever run out of steam half way through the day?
This breathing exercise can help with the afternoon blues. Breathing deeply allows oxygen to reach your brain, which makes you more alert and re-energized. So instead of grabbing another cup of coffee, eating a chocolate bar, or taking an aspirin to fend off a headache, take a few seconds and B-R-E-A-T-H-E.
Exercise # 2: Meditation
This next exercise is simple but very effective. For some of us, meditation sounds intimidating because we equate it with sitting for long periods of time, disciplining the mind, or having some sort of religious or spiritual experience. While it can be all of the above, it can also be much more basic.
Mediation is simply a way to quiet the mind and take a break from the millions of thoughts that pop in and out of your head every day. Here’s how to do it:
- Choose a quiet, comfortable place and close your eyes.
- Think of a mantra - a positive, inspiring word or phrase. For example, “Life is Beautiful!”
- Clear your mind and begin to breathe deeply. With each complete breath repeat your mantra, creating a rhythm or pattern.
- Continue for at least three minutes. If you are distracted by a thought or physical sensation, simply return your attention to your mantra and your breath. You may have to do this many times. Don’t worry – this is normal. Our mind can have a tendency to “chatter” and it takes practice for it to become quiet.
Research has scientifically proven that meditation is a safe and simple way to balance your physical, emotional, and mental state. Its countless values have been known and practiced for thousands of years in every country and culture.
We experience stress in different ways and are often unaware of how much stress we are holding onto. One of the most important benefits of the exercises above is that they release stress from our bodies. Practiced regularly, they will lead you to a deeper level of relaxation, they will enhance your energy, increase your ability to concentrate, and create an overall feeling of well-being.
Relaxation in the workplace is achievable. Keep in mind that taking some time out for yourself during your lunch or break does not have to be complicated or take away from productivity and accomplishment. In fact, the reverse is generally true. You’ll find, when you get back to work, what seemed overwhelming or unmanageable suddenly seems possible to accomplish. What you may have thought of as an indulgent break may in fact be an excellent boost to your productivity, good for both you and your employer!
Homewood Health - Oct 2nd 2017
Experiencing a Community-Based Natural Disaster
In light of the recent devastation caused by a series of hurricane’s and the predicted path of Hurricane Maria, coupled with the catastrophic earthquakes experienced in Mexico on September 19th and 7th, many communities are in ruins with scarce and diminishing resources. Families have become displaced and the populations are anxious about the personal and long term implications of these natural disasters. In an effort to provide assistance, we’ve put together some suggestions on how to help employees affected by a natural disaster.Read more
Experiencing a Community-Based Natural Disaster
By Homewood Health - Sep 20th 2017
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In light of the recent devastation caused by a series of hurricane’s and the predicted path of Hurricane Maria, coupled with the catastrophic earthquakes experienced in Mexico on September 19th and 7th, many communities are in ruins with scarce and diminishing resources. Families have become displaced and the populations are anxious about the personal and long term implications of these natural disasters. In an effort to provide assistance, we’ve put together some suggestions on how to help employees affected by a natural disaster.
As these disasters have resulted in families having to leave and evacuate their homes, this can create enormous physical, social and psychological disruption in people’s lives. While such disasters can often challenge the psychosocial capacity of coping for families, most people will gradually recover, often with the aid of personal, social and community support.
Some people find that previous experiences with personal crises or trauma have helped them develop coping skills which may prove beneficial in managing their reactions to the current incident. Others, however, may find that they are experiencing some strong reactions with increased intensity or frequency. An individual’s reactions will also be influenced by the degree to which personal safety and security have been affected.
Disasters also have a tendency to bring communities closer together. At this time, people will value the support of their neighbours, co-workers and emergency personnel. For those individuals experiencing intense reactions, the following information may help you better understand and cope with the current crisis.
As always, we’re here if you or your employees need anything during and after the storm.
Seek Support From The Employee Family Assistance Program
As part of your benefits, your family has access to EFAP services and as such, you and your family members can call the EFAP for support and counselling when needed. EFAP is a confidential service available to you at no cost, 24 hours a day, seven (7) days a week.
Possible Reactions That May Be Experienced
Feeling overwhelmed, stressed, sad and anxious are within the range of normal reactions. As the initial shock diminishes, reactions vary from one person to another. Some of the more common reactions are:
- varying feelings of sadness, anxiety and uncertainty about the extent of damage to family homes and the resulting possible loss of personal belongings and property;
- worries and preoccupation with potential financial hardship and economic distress;
- overwhelming feelings that may become unpredictable–you may become more irritable than usual, and have frequent mood swings;
- experiencing repeated and vivid memories related to this disaster (which may occur for no apparent reason and lead to physical reactions such as rapid heartbeat or sweating);
- difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or becoming more easily disoriented;
- questioning the uncertain and unpredictable nature of this crisis;
- disruption in sleep and eating patterns;
- becoming withdrawn and isolated and wanting to avoid usual activities; and
- symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension and stomach upset, often related to extreme stress.
Concerns About Personal Safety
You may find yourself focusing on personal safety and the safety of those you care about. As a result, you may be taking extra precautions, for you, your family, and friends, both in and outside the home and workplace. On a positive note, you may find yourself developing new connections and relationships, as the community comes together for mutual support.
Severity of Reactions
Incidents that last longer and involve the threat of (or actual) physical injury, financial insecurity or significant property loss, will result in a stronger reaction. Most people report that even intense reactions diminish over time, after the crisis subsides.
For those experiencing other emotionally difficult situations, such as serious health problems, family difficulties or job stress, more recovery time will likely be required.
Suggested Self Care
- Seek support from people who care about you and who will listen and empathize with your situation. Keep in mind that your usual support systems may be experiencing some of the same strong emotional reactions.
- Communicate your experience in whatever way feels comfortable to you; by talking with family or close friends, or keeping a journal.
- Take good care of yourself by eating at regular intervals, resting and sleeping, and listening to your body’s needs. If sleep difficulties continue to be a problem, you may be able to find some relief through relaxation techniques and exercise.
- Avoid alcohol or non-prescription drugs.
- Establish or re-establish routines, while it may be difficult, to whatever extent is possible.
- Postpone, where possible, important decisions that need to be made during this time until you are feeling emotionally more settled.
- Attempt to restore some of your own sense of personal control and self-confidence in your ability to manage this crisis. In this way, you can also help others in need of your support.
For additional support, please reach out to the Red Cross or FEMA.
Red Cross South Florida
Red Cross - Caribbean and Americas
FEMA – Hurricane Irma Updates
Red Cross - Mexico
Homewood Health - Sep 20th 2017
Helping Grieving Employees
It’s never easy to lose a loved one, whether it’s a spouse, child, family member, co-worker or friend. For some people, grieving (the period of learning to live with the fact that the deceased is gone forever) can bring about strong and sometimes delayed reactions. In the workplace these reactions are important to recognize so that managers and co-workers can provide the best possible support. When the deceased person is a co-worker, employees are likely to go through a grieving process.Read more
Helping Grieving Employees
By Homewood Health - Sep 8th 2017
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Grieving is a normal process and the duration and intensity can vary depending on the individual and the situation. During this process, the mourner must come to terms with the fact that the deceased will never come back, and gradually learn to live with the memories that remain.
Mourners generally, but not necessarily, go through different stages (denial, anger, disorganization, reorganization) during which their daily functioning may be affected to varying degrees. Normal reactions include feeling sad, questioning the meaning of life in general, or of one’s own life, needing more solitude or more social support than usual, experiencing concentration problems, irritability, etc.
The loss of a loved one is a destabilizing experience that requires time for recovery. In the early stages, most people feel intense grief which diminishes over time, but may return with varying degrees of intensity when certain events rekindle the feelings of loss (the person’s birthday, the first office party without the person, etc.).
After a certain amount of time, which can last two years or more, mourners come to feel that they’ve done their grieving and have regained a feeling of stability that is comparable to (although different from) the stability they had before their loss.
How you can help
If any of your employees show signs of grief, either directly (by talking about it) or indirectly (by unusual behaviours or attitudes that emerged during the grieving process), here are some strategies that can be helpful:
- Tell them regularly that you care about how they’re feeling and that you’re there to help if they wish.
- Respect the fact that people may be deeply affected by a death, even if they did not have much direct contact with the deceased, because they may have been significant to them in some way. It’s also possible that the death may have reactivated another grieving process which they had not completed.
- Resist the temptation to want employees to “get on with it” quickly. Grieving is normal, and you can’t speed up the process. If you show signs of exasperation, this can make the grieving period longer and more difficult.
- If you obtain more information on the circumstances of the death, tell your employees. In the case of a suicide, consult your Assistance Program specialist, before sharing any information as some information may have a negative effect.
- Be on the lookout for signs of serious destabilization which could indicate that the person needs additional help (i.e. no improvement, or even deterioration of attitudes and behaviours). Offer your support, and encourage the person to contact the Assistance Program.
- Resist the temptation to use clichés like “I know how you’re feeling,” “It was fate,” or “At least now he’s at peace.” You’ll never know exactly how the mourner feels, and minimizing death is never helpful. Although such comments are intended to diminish the feeling of loss, they often have the opposite effect.
Feel free to contact the Assistance Program yourself if you’d like to obtain advice on how to help your employees, or if you’d like suggestions for improving the action plan you’ve already developed. We’re here for you, too.
Homewood Health - Sep 8th 2017
You've Just Been Through a Difficult Event
Has something traumatic recently occurred where you work, or associated in some way to your work? Perhaps it was a serious accident, a robbery, an act of violence, or some other incident that has left people directly or indirectly involved feeling distraught, or perhaps devastated. The purpose of this article is to help you understand the reactions you may be experiencing to this incident and give you some suggestions on how you can help yourself to begin feeling better.Read more
You've Just Been Through a Difficult Event
By Homewood Health - Sep 7th 2017
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What are the reactions?
Even though everyone reacts differently here are some of the more common ways people who have witnessed a very difficult incident will respond:
Headaches, loss of appetite, insomnia, persistent heart palpitations, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems.
Fear, anxiety, distress, anger, irritability, sadness, mistrust, guilt.
Tearfulness, vigilance, withdrawal or isolation, increased tendency to blame or criticize people close to you, increased consumption of alcohol or medication.
Loss of concentration, forgetfulness, indecisiveness, vivid memories about the event. Are these reactions normal?Absolutely. These are the reactions of a normal human being to an abnormal situation. Research has shown that when you acknowledge these stress reactions and take care of them, they usually disappear within a few weeks.
Do these reactions always occur right after the event?
Not always. Some individuals don’t experience these reactions until later, but this isn’t the case for most people. Whether these reactions occur right away or later, they are generally experienced by almost everyone who goes through an abnormally stressful situation.
Is there any way to avoid these types of reactions?
You can never avoid them completely. Even individuals who are well-informed and well-prepared have acute stress reactions in such situations. Police officers, ambulance technicians, first-aid workers, and fire fighters may have strong stress reactions to emergency situations, despite their training and experience. Remember that these are normal reactions.
What can you do?
- Pay more attention to your feelings and reactions than to the event itself.
- Don’t judge or blame yourself. Don’t criticize yourself for having these reactions. Be patient with yourself. Think about how you’d talk to a friend in this situation, and then treat yourself the same way.
- Try to reduce other sources of stress in your life for a while.
- Take the time to talk about your physical and emotional reactions to someone close to you (friend, spouse, relative). You can also turn to co-workers. They’re probably feeling the same way, since they experienced the same event.
- Within twenty-four hours following the event, get some physical exercise, no matter how light it is.
- Find something that will help you forget the event for a while. Some people find it helpful to keep busy (leisure activities, hobbies, manual activities, warm baths, physical exercise, etc.), while others find it helpful to relax or go out with friends.
- Take time to rest.
- If you find you’re getting mental images of the event or other fears, remind yourself that you’re safe now and that you no longer have to be on “red alert.” Then direct your attention to something else.
- Many people will be curious and ask you questions about the event. If you don’t feel like answering, it’s perfectly appropriate to explain politely that you prefer not to talk about it. You can say, “I understand that you’d like to know more about what happened, but I’d rather not talk about it. I hope you’ll understand.”
What should you do if your stress reactions don’t diminish from week to week?
It’s better not to keep the problem all to yourself. People close to you don’t always know how to help, despite their best intentions. If these reactions have not diminished from week to week, don’t hesitate to call your organization’s Assistance Program to meet a professional.
What have you gained from your experience?
Once things have calmed down, it can be useful to ask yourself, “What have I gained from this experience?” After a difficult event, most people learn something about themselves or others, or about what matters most to them. Take some quiet time to think about this. You may make some interesting discoveries.
Homewood Health - Sep 7th 2017
Moving Beyond Anxiety
Were you ever afraid of the dark when you were a child? Were you convinced that a boogey man lived in the darkest corner of your closet, and nobody could convince you otherwise? Did the sight of certain insects, such as spiders or earwigs, make your skin crawl? We are all blessed with the gift of imagination. When used wisely, our imaginations are the source of our most creative projects. But if misused, our ability to imagine things can become the source of our anxieties, apprehensions and fears.Read more
Moving Beyond Anxiety
By Homewood Health - Sep 6th 2017
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Anxiety and fear are a part of everyone’s lives – they are natural and necessary emotions. They are aroused whenever situations threaten us or place extreme demands on us. When we experience these emotions, our stress response is triggered. It kick-starts our sympathetic nervous system into action so that adrenaline is released into our blood, our hearts beat more quickly and our major muscle groups get ready-to-go. In situations where a threat is imminent, this “supercharging” helps us take self-protective action quickly and effectively.
For some people, events such as public speaking or completing a report on time can trigger a severe stress response. In such cases, the perceived threat is subjective – there is no actual physical risk. Those of us who suffer from anxiety have an overactive stress response which is triggered by subjective fears. The end result is that we suffer from anticipatory worries, doubts, avoidance and a diminished capacity for enjoying life.
It is estimated that about 30% of the general population experiences anxiety problems sometime in their lifetime. Anxiety can manifest as a dry mouth, headaches, muscular tension, insomnia, a rapid heartbeat, poor concentration or digestive problems. In severe cases, it is associated with compulsive behaviours, phobias or with the avoidance of situations that trigger concerns about being out of control. Luckily anxiety disorders are amongst the most treatable of all psychological problems. Even though, by temperament, some of us may always have a tendency to be anxious, we can learn effective ways to minimize anxiety’s negative and long-term impact.
It is estimated that about 30% of the general population experiences anxiety problems sometime in their lifetime. Anxiety can manifest as a dry mouth, headaches, muscular tension, insomnia, a rapid heartbeat, poor concentration or digestive problems.
The starting point for transforming anxiety-based responses into more functional behaviours is to understand the physical symptoms associated with anxiety are a misguided way in which our bodies attempt to protect us from an unwanted harm – real or imagined. By reaching this understanding, we open the door to identify other protective coping strategies that are more benign and helpful. We may not be able to control the intrusive thoughts and feelings that accompany an anxiety response, but we can develop new ways to respond to them as soon as they enter our awareness. We can choose to implement strategies to soothe ourselves rather than rushing headlong into an anxiety attack.
If you experience anxiety, before choosing to explore counselling or self-help interventions, it is important to ensure this condition doesn’t have an organic cause. Anxiety can be associated with thyroid problems, endocrine disorders, hypoglycemia, certain neurological and cardiovascular conditions, and so on. Be sure to have a complete medical exam to eliminate these potential causes. The symptoms of anxiety can be intense and physical, as anyone who has ever had a panic attack can attest to. We need to be sure these symptoms result from emotional issues rather than physical ones. This knowledge lets us explore effective treatment strategies.
More often than not, anxious behaviours are habitual and unconscious responses developed to cope with long-forgotten but nonetheless upsetting events. When faced with an apparently overwhelming situation, such as having to present in front of the class, a child may develop the habit of compulsively over-rehearsing and over-planning the presentation. As an adult, these same behaviours become problematic when, as an employee, there is an expectation to participate in team meetings without an opportunity to “prepare”. Over time, what was once a solution to a problem becomes a problem in its own right.
So what are some of the ways in which we can impact anxiety? What do we need to do to become more peaceful when we encounter situations that trigger us? How do we learn to be less anxious?
Here are some suggestions to help you get started in managing your anxiety. As with any behavioural change, you will need to give yourself time to establish new habits. You will also need to practice new skills regularly so they can become established as second nature. Don’t be shy about seeking help.
- Healthy thinking is a choice. The first place to start is to separate your current thought habits from your core identity. Give yourself space to change how you think and respond to situations. You are not your thoughts. You can select what you think about. Just as you can change the TV channel if you don’t like the show that is playing, you can select whether to attend to your anxious thoughts or to replace them with calming ones. Although life itself is not controllable, you can exercise choice in how you respond to events. If you believe you are destined to be anxious forever, you will certainly prove yourself correct. However, if you give yourself permission to experiment with new ways of thinking and being, you will identify options that you didn’t previously know about - and you may just end up changing your beliefs about yourself in the process!
- Stay grounded in the present. Anxious thoughts are focused on the future. We may think we can control how we will feel or think in the future, but this is an illusion. We can imagine the future but we can’t actually know what will happen or how we will react until events unfold. When we are anxious we travel forward in our minds - making plans about “what ifs”, worrying about things that may or may not happen, and trying to control events that haven’t occurred.
Our bodies cannot distinguish between what we imagine and reality. This is why we cry at sad movies – we perceive something sad has happened and we feel sorrowful feelings. If we are imagining something bad will happen to us, we feel the anxiety and tension that goes along with that bad experience – in effect, we create the negative experience for ourselves whether or not it actually ever comes to pass. This is why if you spend all night lying awake worrying about getting your work done, you wake up exhausted. You’ve been “working” all night! No wonder you feel tired.
To counter the tendency to be future-oriented we need to develop ways to stay grounded in present reality. Practicing deep breathing, going for a walk, paying attention to the details of your surroundings, or writing down your thoughts in a journal are common ways to get connected to the present. Using strategies such as these let you short circuit anxiety. Whatever means you choose, the intent is to stay here and now, in the reality of the moment. We make choices about how we will think and act in each present moment, not in the one that just passed or the one that is yet to come. Right here, right this minute is where we have control. The present moment is where we have the ability to choose health and refuse anxiety.
- Learn to accept feelings. Don’t resist or judge them. Feeling emotionally or physically out of control, or experiencing anxiety symptoms (such as a rapid heart beat, breaking out in a sweat, or becoming so self-conscious that we are unable to speak) is frightening. Sometimes we react to these symptoms by becoming even more anxious. This self-generated, negative reinforcement is counterproductive – we end up creating more of the condition that we are trying to escape
To break this negative cycle, we need to be able to witness the symptoms of anxiety with neutrality – to identify “rapid heartbeat” or “sweating palms” without telling ourselves that we are headed down a slippery slope that is only going to get worse. If, when I experience “rapid heartbeats”, I take several deep breaths and remind myself that I’m OK, that I can slow down and take a moment to centre myself – I will start to calm down. On the other hand, if I interpret “rapid heartbeats” as a potential cardiac arrest, I will increase my anxiety.
It takes effort to reinterpret our perceptions of events. We have to be open to new possibilities. We have to be willing to experiment. We have to value being healthy. We may need help from others to show us what to do. But the rewards of making this change are sweet - we reclaim our self-esteem, we get to participate in our lives in ways that were previously impossible, and we show ourselves that we have the courage and ability to take on big challenges.
Homewood Health - Sep 6th 2017
What to Do If a Co-Worker Is Suicidal
For some years now, it seems that an increasing number of people, when faced with adversity, psychological distress, or despair, are tempted to end their suffering once and for all by turning to suicide. Since this can affect anyone, it may happen one day that a co-worker reveals to you that he or she is suicidal.Read more
What to Do If a Co-Worker Is Suicidal
By Homewood Health - Sep 5th 2017
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For some years now, it seems that an increasing number of people, when faced with adversity, psychological distress, or despair, are tempted to end their suffering once and for all by turning to suicide. Since this can affect anyone, it may happen one day that a co-worker reveals to you that he or she is suicidal.
You may learn that your co-worker is suicidal in one of the following ways: (1) the person tells you directly, (2) You observe signs of psychological distress and/or warning signs that the person is suicidal, or (3) your co-worker is in serious crisis and threatens to commit suicide soon.
Each of the above situations calls for a specific approach.
If your co-worker tells you directly
If a co-worker tells you they are having suicidal thoughts or contemplating suicide, the best thing to do is to reflect back to them that if they are having these thoughts, they must be feeling overwhelmed, powerless, and hopeless about finding a solution to their problems.
It’s very important never to ridicule the person, make them feel guilty, or try to reason with them. Their pain and distress must be heard, so the only way to soothe some of their pain and get them to accept help is to reflect their feelings back to them so they feel understood. It’s also important to tell them that you understand their distress and that today, at this moment in time, they see suicide as the only solution to their problems. Then you should tell them firmly that they need help, and encourage them to get it. At this point you need to make sure that they immediately speak with an counsellor. You can tell them to call a counsellor while they are with you; or, if you need to be even more direct, you can make the call yourself, ask to speak to a counsellor, and pass them the telephone. If, despite your encouragement, your co-worker does not make the call or refuses help, or if they tell you they are going to commit suicide soon and resists your attempts to get them help, you should immediately contact either your Employee Family Assistance Program or a counsellor to get expert advice.
If you notice signs of emotional distress
It may be that you suspect a co-worker is suicidal because they are clearly not themselves. The most common signs of emotional distress are when a co-worker:
- Withdraws, or conversely, is much more sociable than usual.
- Talks much more or much less than usual, especially about their difficult situation and its consequences for themselves and those close to them.
- Is experiencing a difficult situation but seems “above it all,” as if they are not in touch with reality.
- Seems overcome with sadness (ruminates, cries, seems “elsewhere”), or in deep despair.
- Complains much more than usual.
- Looks haggard, seems to be in a daze.
- Is more irritable than usual.
- Acts more aggressive than usual for no reason, or out of proportion to the situation.
- Often talks about how difficult their situation is, how they can’t see any way of improving it, how there’s no way out.
The warning signs that a co-worker is contemplating suicide are when they:
- Makes direct or indirect references to the fact that they have found a solution to their problems, and that soon everything will be settled or they won’t be bothering anyone any more, or that other people’s problems will soon be settled.
- Talks directly or indirectly about suicidal thoughts (they may even describe how they will do it, when they will do it, etc.).
- Suddenly seems happier and more carefree, after having gone through a period of deep despair.
- Is suddenly extremely generous with everyone, paying off their debts (big and small) and giving away their possessions (including things of great value) to friends and co-workers.
If you notice any of these signs, try to “open the door” by sitting with your co-worker, telling them openly the signs you’ve observed, and asking if there’s anything you can do to help them.
If they open up to you, use the strategies described in the first scenario above. If they don’t open up to you, raise the subject of suicide with them directly by sharing your observations. Tell them that you’re concerned, and that if they feel suicidal, help is available.
If you think that someone is about to commit suicide soon
Another possible (though rare) scenario is a colleague who is about to commit suicide very soon. They have a method of doing it right there or are threatening to do it now (e.g. has a weapon, is standing near an electrical panel to electrocute themselves, is threatening to jump off a platform or from the roof of the building, or calls you from their car or home and tells you they have swallowed poison or is about to do something irreversible). The only thing you can do in these situations is to talk to your co-worker, tell them you understand how much they must be suffering, and get them to talk about their suffering, their distress, their problems. If possible, ask other co-workers for help. Call 911 (if available in your area) or the police, explain the situation, and ask for immediate assistance. If you can’t call yourself, get someone else to call immediately.
If you’re near the suicidal person, keep a good distance from them. If they are armed, don’t approach them unless they put down their weapon, move far enough away from it, and give permission to approach them. Never try to restrain someone who is threatening to jump or kill themselves in a violent manner, because you could get seriously injured or killed. When emergency workers arrive, let them take charge of the situation. If you were the person to whom the suicidal co-worker was talking, don’t leave the scene until you’re told to do so (the suicidal person may want to continue talking to you because they trust you). After this type of incident, contact your Employee Family Assistance Program or a counsellor to talk about it. A counsellor can help you express your feelings, make sense of your experience, and process your reactions.
If you suspect that a co-worker is suicidal or if they have let you know directly or indirectly that they are contemplating suicide, we strongly advise you to call one of the specialized counsellors at your Employee Family Assistance Program or a counsellor for advice on the best way to help your co-worker.
Homewood Health - Sep 5th 2017
Homewood Health is the Canadian leader in mental health and addiction services. With over 130 years of experience, we achieve outstanding outcomes every day through our national network of nearly 4,500 employees and clinical experts, and through the Homewood Health Centre — one of Canada’s largest and leading facilities for medical treatment of mental health and addiction disorders. Our complete continuum of services includes organizational wellness, assistance programs, assessments, outpatient and inpatient treatment, recovery management, return to work and family support services, customized to meet the specialized needs of individuals and organizations. Homewood Health is redefining mental health and addiction services to help Canadians live healthier, more productive and more fulfilling lives.