Monday, April 14, 2014

Battling Substance Abuse

This past weekend, I heard some terrible news.  A friend and co-worker from a previous job had passed from the effects of substance abuse.  Her heart became too weak to do its job, and she was gone.  A sweet, vibrant, funny girl, who always had a smile for you when you were talking to her, a hug for when you were down or got great news, and someone you could always talk to, no matter what.

But she, like many others, had a problem with substance abuse, and while she was trying to clean herself up, they overcame her and took her life.

My heart is heavy, as I think of her family, friends, co-workers, and her two little pups who she loved to the moon and back.


If you have someone in your life who is dealing with a substance abuse problem, there is help out there for them, and for yourself.

But, how do you know if someone is dealing with substance abuse?  Sometimes, it can be more difficult to spot than on someone else.

Physical Signs Can Include:

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming
  • Unusal smells on breath, body or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
Behavioral Signs Can Include:
  • Drop in attendance & performance at work or school
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in friends, interest, activities
Psychological Signs Can Include:
  • Change in personality or attitude
  • Mood swings, irritability or outbursts
  • Unusual hyperactivity, agitation or giddiness
  • Lack of motivation, lethargy or lack of concentration
  • Appears fearful, anxious, paranoid or becomes panicky for no reason
Not everyone will have these symptoms, and someone else may have all of them.  Substance abuse targets each individual differently.

How can you help someone who has fallen into the substance abuse trap?

  • Talk to the person.  If you are comfortable talking to this person, do so.  Talk about your concerns, offer your help and support, and be non-judgmental and unbiased.  
  • Don't attempt threats or bribes
  • Provide resources, like the Distress Centre's phone number 613-238-3311 and information about rehabilitation for the person, but be prepared to hear that they don't want or need help.  This happens more often than not, but it's not your fault for offering.
  • Research substance abuse rehabilitation programs in your area for them to help take the pressure off of them finding one.  Keep it to 3-5 choices, max.  
  • Listen to them.  There is a reason that the substance has taken over the person's life.
  • Don't hide, throw away or do the drugs or alcohol with the person.  
  • Don't argue with the person when they are under the influence
  • Do let them know that you are there to help them (if that is the case) when they are ready and willing.
Also, be sure to take care of yourself during this time - ensure that you too have support.

All of this being said, substance abuse comes from somewhere.  It is the age old question of "What came first, the chicken or the egg?".  Did the person start abusing because he/she is dealing with something in their lives they wanted to escape from?  Did she/he start abusing and then with the effects of abusing, came depression, anxiety, etc when they weren't using, so they had to use to "stay normal"?  Only the person abusing knows for sure.

While getting clean and sober is a scary feat for so many, there are hundreds of thousands - possibly millions who have done it, and stayed clean and sober for a very long time.

If you or someone you know needs to talk about their lives, their substance abuse, or are looking for community resources, we are here to listen and provide support.  You can call us at anytime of day or night at 613-238-3311.

I'd like to close this post off with a simple Rest In Peace for my friend whose smile and warm heart I will remember for a very long time.

(Name of deceased is withheld from this post)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Welcome Home, Soldiers.

This morning, on my daily commute into work, as I was congested in the traffic going west on the 417, a plane caught my attention.  It wasn't a normal commercial airliner flying in.  This was a massive, grey plane, with another small plane following just behind.

I watched it as I was stopped on the highway, trying to figure out what kind of plane this was.  Traffic started moving, and I was on my way to the office again.

On my normal social media check when I got into the office, this tweet came across from our friend Alison at CFRA:

Cue feelings of happiness.  Happiness for the families being reunited, children meeting their dad for the first time, partners holding on to one another not wanting to let go.  Happiness for each of the 93 troops, who have made it home to Canadian soil.  Happiness for our country.

Welcome home, soldiers.  

In the recent months, there have been many stories of soldiers taking their lives, after returning home from overseas.  Seeing unimaginable, tragic scenes, battling, losing comrades, incredibly long, hot days, and cold nights, even coming home can be terrifying. These things can become inner demons, that these brave soldiers may have a hard time coping with after they are home, and on rest for a couple of weeks or longer.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Fatigue, Anxiety, and other mental health disorders can be developed from experiencing instances like I mentioned above.  These can range in severity from mild depression, to severe PTSD, resulting in black outs, isolation, hallucinations, and suicidal ideations.

If you have a soldier in your life, or are a soldier, one who is just back from overseas, or someone who has been home for awhile, or even someone who is still rooted to Canadian soil, we are here for you.

No matter what you want to talk about, whether it is something you have experienced, something you cannot shake, thoughts that you don't want to be having, we are here for you.  No matter what.  

Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  We are here to provide support to you, your families, friends, and loved ones, so that you can make it through another day.  Whether it is your first call, or your 50th call, we are always here, that we promise you.


Welcome home once again, soldiers.  We are proud of you.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Coping with a Breakup

Sometimes, it comes at you like a freight train, and other times it's comes completely unexpected.

A breakup in a relationship.

It may be your significant other, a friend, even a work relationship.  

Regardless of what the relationship is, it is now a "was" in your life.

Emotions are expected to be all over the place when it comes to a break up, depending on the circumstances.  There is no one perfect emotion that you are supposed to feel during this time.

Why does a breakup hurt so badly when you know in your head that it was for the best?  Simply because it signifies a loss - of commitment, hopes, aspirations and plans for the future.  

Someone coming out of an abusive relationship may lean towards the "when things were good they were great" times, and may not be able to see past the abuse, whether it was physical, mental, emotional or sexual.

A younger person may find heartache in losing the first person they truly cared for, or loved.  As parents, or older friends, we may tend to the "You're so young, you don't really know what love is".  That one person may have loved in their own way, that relationship, the person and the times together.  Love is a unique and wonderful experience, and is different for each person.

A couple that has been married for a number of years, were blessed with good fortune, children and that cliche "white picket fence", may find themselves at the end of their romance, and having just stayed together for their family's sake.  A split may be amicable, however, there is still the feeling of loss that can come through.

A work relationship may end on good or bad terms as well.  Something that you perhaps once saw yourself doing for a long time suddenly comes to a screeching halt, and you're left dazed.  Perhaps you decided to leave something behind and are walking away proud and feeling validated on your choices.

Someone may be completely blindsided in a breakup, not expecting their significant other to end things or walk away.  There maybe was another man/woman, an illness, an argument, or simply the person was not ready to honor their commitment.

As mentioned above, there are many emotions that can come through a breakup, including but not exclusive to:

  • Anger
  • Hurt
  • Resentment
  • Relief
  • Grateful
  • Happy
  • Confused
  • Depressed
  • Liberated
  • Sad
One person may experience all of these emotions, while another may only experience one or two.  It all depends on the person, the situation and the relationship itself.

So how can someone cope with a breakup?

In the age old way: time.

There is no magic spell to make going through a break up easier, whatever the case may be, even if you are the person doing the breaking up.

Be true to yourself during this time.  Do what makes your soul happy.  Love to dance?  Have a dance party with your closest friends.  Are you an outdoor-sy type?  Go skiing or snowshoeing or even for a long walk.

Share you feeling with your family or friends.  You're not alone - the majority of us have also gone through a break up or two in our lifetime and can be a great resource to lean on.

Allow yourself to feel whatever emotion comes your way, but please recognize if it starts to become dark thoughts, depression, thoughts of self harm or suicide come your way, please reach out and talk to someone.  If you aren't comfortable talking to someone you know the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region is always there for you, 24 hours a day.  

You aren't alone, and we'll listen to anything you want to talk about, even if it's just a memory of the relationship.

613-238-3311 any time of day or night.

Be well.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Tuesday Canada

We've all heard about Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday - where we can score some great deals on items that we have been coveting for ourselves or to save money on gifts, support our local businesses, etc.

This year, Canada Helps is launching their first annual "Giving Tuesday Canada" on Tuesday, December 3rd.  A day where you support a local charity of your choice - a day to give something to agencies that are working hard to provide you, your family, friends and community with services that benefit in one way or another.

It's very easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and Giving Tuesday is about taking a step back and thanking those charities with a donation. 

Most charities will provide a charitable tax receipt for income tax purposes, although some may have a minimum donation requirement (normally found on their website).

Making a donation to the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region on Giving Tuesday not only benefits our crisis line services, but the lives and mental health of so many individuals in our communities.  Did you know that we answer 40,000 calls for help each year?  This number is growing year over year, as the stigma of mental health lessens, and more people are open to speaking to someone about any issue that they are facing.  Anything that is affecting your day to day coping skills is worth talking about, since it affects your own mental health in one way or another.

If everyone took $25 that they would normally spend on one of these event days, and donated it to a charity of choice, what a difference that would make for those charities!!!

Making your Giving Tuesday Canada donation to the Distress Centre is easy!  Remember to have our Registered Charitable Number: 10807 9815 RR0001

Option 1

If you're not comfortable making a donation online, you can call our office at 613-238-1089 x 223 and speak with our Manager of Operations, Judy, who can process a credit card donation over the phone.

Option 2

You can make your donation by cheque or money order and send it to our office at: Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region, P.O. Box 3457 Station C, Ottawa, Ontario, K1Y 4J6

Option 3

You can make your donation online through Canada Helps!  Simply follow this link:  You can choose a one time donation, or even set up a monthly donation!

Option 4

Businesses can choose to join our 100 x $100 Challenge on Giving Tuesday!  We're searching for 100 businesses to donate $100 each, helping us to raise $10,000 for the Distress Centre!  More information can be found here: or by calling me, Leslie, Community Relations Coordinator at 613-238-1089 x 222.

Giving Tuesday Canada is a great way to give back to your community this year - and we appreciate every penny (nickel?  since pennies cease to exist...) that is donated to our Distress Centre! 

More information regarding Giving Tuesday Canada can be found here:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Holidays?

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or another special time, there's no avoiding it, it's coming and it's fast approaching with December 1st being this Sunday.

The holiday season is one that is full of a mixture of feelings and emotions, ranging from excited & happy, to stressed and overwhelmed, to depressed and sad.   These emotions vary from person to person, and the level of them depends on each individual.  For instance, myself, I LOVE Christmas, and am a very prepared woman who is almost done her shopping and preparation.  (Go ahead, make a face at your screen, it's okay, I'm used to it!)

While the hustle & bustle of the holidays can be exciting, it's crucial to take excellent care of yourself while you are suddenly doing way more than your normal routine.  Last year, we wrote about how to deal with the depression that can sometimes accompany the holidays, and provided some helpful tips to those who perhaps were looking for a way to cope.

1) Keep yourself organized.  Are you finding the whole idea of getting prepared and doing the shopping and the wrapping and the baking and, and, and, and.....too much?  Start with a trusty old "To-Do" list.  Make separate ones for each task you need to complete - shopping, food prep, decorating, etc.  Tackle one task at a time, and watch how satisfying it is when you cross each item off the list.

2) Take time for YOU.  Indulge in something that makes YOU happy.  Whether it's a specialty coffee at your favorite coffee shop, or a yoga class, a massage, or a guy's night out (or girl's!) taking time to do something nice for yourself will make a big difference in how holiday stress will affect you.

3) Go see the big guy in red!  If it falls into what holiday you celebrate, taking yourself, partner, kids to see Santa at a local mall or a parade can really bring joy and smiles to your face.  Yes, the line up of crying children, and hot parents, can be daunting, so check out the times at your local mall and choose an off peak time of day/night to see Santa.  One, you'll get to relax more, and two, you may just get an extra few minutes to talk to Santa!

4) Do something completely unselfish.  Have you heard of "Elfing"?  It's where you put something together, either handmade or purchased, your choice, and put it all together in a little package, maybe include some hot chocolate mix, and a little note (see below) and leave it on someone's doorknob, office desk, customer service area, wherever you decide to!  Just knowing that you've brightened someone's day will certainly brighten yours!

5) Take pictures!  Have you ever been so busy that you forgot to take your camera or smart phone out and snap some pictures to have for the years to come?  Grab some fun props, or go out in the snow (looks like Ottawa will get their first snowstorm tomorrow!) or have fun lighting the Menorah or decorating the tree, or out for a walk taking in the festive lights.  How about a photo a day challenge?  One photo each day that falls into a category like below.

If the holidays are just not your thing, don't feel badly.  You're entitled to feel the way you do.  However, if you are feeling severely depressed, anxious, stressed and do not know how to cope with these feelings, please know that we are here for you 24/7. 

We have volunteers here even through the holidays.  These volunteers have given us the best holiday gift of all - their time - to ensure that someone is always here to answer the line when you call.

So if you wake up on Christmas Day, and you are needing someone to talk to, please know that we are here for you - as the same goes for every other time period over the holidays.


As we head into December, we would like to wish each and every one of you a very happy holiday season, with however you are celebrating.  May the season bring you great joy in your life, and peace in your body, mind & soul!

Friday, November 22, 2013


It's one of those days when you have to force yourself out of bed, for either yourself, work, your kids, your pets, WHATEVER.

It's getting stuck in traffic on a Friday when there's never any traffic on Friday.  

It's forgetting your lunch on the kitchen counter, and not having any cash with you to get something else.

It's dealing with your depression and anxiety, and feeling like you're just in a rut with everything.

It's hearing that someone you care about has been diagnosed with a terrible disease.

It's wanting so much more from your life, but not understanding how to get there.

It's that fight you had with your friend/sibling/co-worker/partner that just was not even worth the arguing.

It's having lost something so very precious to you - a person, an object, a life, a job, WHATEVER.

It's knowing the holiday season is just around the corner and trying to muster up the strength to just get through it in one piece.

It's getting your paycheque and knowing that it's just not enough for your family to keep surviving on.

It's like feeling as if today would have been better without you in it.

It's WHATEVER is affecting your life, that you can reach out and talk to us.

We often blog about different mental health disorders, different coping mechanisms, what's going on in accordance to the time of year, etc.

Today, our blog post is just about one thing: having you know that WHATEVER you are dealing with in your life, we are here for you.

Our crisis line specialists are at our phone stations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for WHATEVER you want to talk about.

In fact, this year, we'll have answered over 40,000 calls from people just like you who have been dealing with different issues in their lives that have been affecting their every day.  For some, it may be something that they've been dealing with for a very long time, and they know that we are always there to talk about WHATEVER with them, for others they may be a first time caller, looking for someone to turn to, and we are here.  Honestly, we cannot stress that enough - we are HERE for WHATEVER you need to talk about.  You don't even need to give us your name if you're feeling overwhelmed about calling, but just know that every call is confidential.

If the thought of calling us to talk is just not on the table for you right now, we encourage you to check out our website at to learn more about our services.  

And just remember that no matter what, we are here for you to talk about WHATEVER you need to talk about.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Mental Health & Pets

A wag of a tail, or a purr, even a blub blub?  (that's supposed to be a fish...)

If you are fortunate enough to have a pet at home, you can understand the unconditional love that your little friend gives you on a daily basis.  

But can pets help with your mental health, depression, anxiety?  Some studies show that having a pet can reduce tension and elevate your endorphins, and improve your overall mental health well-being, when combined with proper treatment - medication, therapy, exercise and eating well.  Having a furry friend to take care of when suffering from mild to moderate depression may help you feel more at ease.

Unconditional love

Unlike relationships with family, friends, loved ones, co-workers, a relationship with a pet just allows you to experience your emotions without feeling judged or hurting someone's feelings.  Your pet will always be there to comfort you, as you are their "parent" in a sense, or their pack leader.


Taking care of a pet is a huge commitment, yes, and it may seem very difficult to grasp taking care of something else while you're hurting, but experts say that adding a responsibility to your schedule can help, giving you a sense of purpose.  Of course, if you're not feeling 100% ready to take on a pet, give it some more time before committing. 


If you're like me, you love being a couch potato - because is there anything better than being curled up on the couch with a book or a movie?  Yes, there is!  Pets definitely help with getting exercise!  Dogs especially, because they need to be walked and played with.  Morning, afternoon and night - little walks - and in the meantime - lots of floor or outdoor playing!  A little physical activity will better yourself mentally and physically!


Depression may cause some people to become isolated, pulling back from family, friends and loved ones.  If you have a pet at home, you're never alone, and that can make a huge difference.  Of course, if you are isolating yourself, taking time to talk to your family doctor or us here at the Distress Centre is a good way to cope as well.

Getting Out There

Having a pet can help push you to get more social contact.  You won't find too many people who won't want to pet your puppy or talk to you at the dog park, or while waiting at the vet with your cat, etc.  Pet owners love to talk about their pets!

Remember, if you're not ready to get a pet just yet, take time to think about it.  Pets do cost roughly $1500/year to take care of between food and vet bills and other expenses, so it is a commitment.  However, if you're feeling ready to take on a pet, you can rescue one from the Ottawa Humane Society, or you can look at a breeder.  Do your research as to what you want in a pet, and don't be shy to ask employees at a pet store or friends for their advice and best practices.  

As we always like to close our posts off the same way, we are here for you, 24/7 if you need someone to turn to, to talk to, or just some support.  613-238-3311 anytime of day or night.