Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Eating Disorders

I'm sure you've had a meal that you just stuffed your face with every bite in sight, and then waddled your way over to the couch complaining about why you ate so much.  Who hasn't done that around the holiday season when the food is plentiful and oh-so-delicious. 

Or maybe you wanted to fit into that little black dress, so you cut back on your calorie intake or do one of those "fast action cleanses" with water & lemon for a few days.

Or maybe you came home from work and literally ate everything out of your fridge and cupboard.  Like, everything.

Eating disorders are serious but treatable illness with medical and psychiatric aspects.  Anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorders are most commonly known.

Bulimia Nervosa is a disorder that is defined by the individual binge eating and purging - making themselves vomit everything they ate.  It often becomes a sense of power, of control of one's body that they are the ones making the decisions for their weight, for their lives.  Often, Bulimia is seen in young women, teenagers, and into 20's - but this is not an exhaustive age range.  Eating disorders can be with someone their entire life, or begin later on in life.

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder defined by the individual drastically cutting their food intake to a dangerous low-calorie level, for the irrational fear of putting on weight.  Even one pound of weight gain can cause someone who is dealing with anorexia into a downward spiral.  Anorexia is most popular in women, at about 85%, while 15% of people dealing with the disorder are men. 

Eating disorders aren't just about binging, purging and starving yourself.  Some individuals have problems with being able to stop eating.  There are people who deal with the fact that they will eat all day long - and not necessarily healthy food.  They may be eating 25 hamburgers a day, buckets of fried chicken, sweets and baked goods.  And while they know what they are doing is not good for them, they simply cannot stop.  They often become immobilized, and dependant on others to fulfill their food intake needs.

Some individuals may take laxative pills or teas to help them with the purging of the food they've eaten.  This can create a real dependency on the OTC drug, cause internal issues that go unseen for a long time.  Ulcers, colon and intestinal wall breakdowns, and more.

Purging (vomiting) causes the stomach to become weak, acid burning away the enamel on one's teeth, causing the esophagus to become inflamed and raw. 

Starving one's self causes weakened organs, the heart to work and beat faster, exhaustion, the muscles to breakdown strength and bones to become brittle.

Over-eating causes heart concerns, obesity, organs to become sluggish and tired.  There is also the financial factor - the food intake can cost hundreds of dollars every couple of days, thousands a month.  Often this individual cannot work, and is supported by others or social assistance.

Many factors play into an eating disorder.  There may be an underlying mental illness, there may be pressure from peers.  Possibly, the person is obsessed with what the perfect body is - when Hollywood calls 150lbs "obese and fat" it's easy for a woman to question herself.  There may have been a traumatic experience in the individual's life, and having this one thing that they are in control of, self-gratifying.  Again, this is not an exhaustive list of possibilities for developing an eating disorder.

Do you have someone in your life who you may fear has an eating disorder?  Here are some signs for you to watch for regarding Anorexia, Bulimia and Purge Eating:

  • Constant or repetitive dieting (eg. counting calories/kilojoules, skipping meals, fasting, avoidance of certain food groups or types such as meat or dairy, replacing meals with fluids)
  • Evidence of binge eating (eg. disappearance of large amounts of food from the cupboard or fridge, lolly wrappers appearing in bin, hoarding of food in preparation for bingeing)
  • Evidence of vomiting or laxative abuse (eg. frequent trips to the bathroom during or shortly after meals)
  • Excessive or compulsive exercise patterns (eg. exercising even when injured, or in bad weather, refusal to interrupt exercise for any reason; insistence on performing a certain number of repetitions of exercises, exhibiting distress if unable to exercise)
  • Making lists of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods
  • Changes in food preferences (eg. refusing to eat certain foods, claiming to dislike foods previously enjoyed, sudden interest in ‘healthy eating’)
  • Development of  patterns or obsessive rituals around food preparation and eating (eg. insisting meals must always be at a certain time; only using a certain knife; only drinking out of a certain cup)
  • Avoidance of all social situations involving food
  • Frequent avoidance of eating meals by giving excuses (eg. claiming they have already eaten or have an intolerance/allergy to particular foods)
  • Behaviours focused around food preparation and planning (eg. shopping for food, planning, preparing and cooking meals for others but not consuming meals themselves; taking control of the family meals; reading cookbooks, recipes, nutritional guides) 
  • Strong focus on body shape and weight (eg. interest in weight-loss websites, dieting tips in books and magazines, images of thin people)
  • Development of repetitive or obsessive body checking behaviours (eg. pinching waist or wrists, repeated weighing of self, excessive time spent looking in mirrors)
  • Social withdrawal or isolation from friends, including avoidance of previously enjoyed activities
  • Change in clothing style, such as wearing baggy clothes
  • Deceptive behaviour around food, such as secretly throwing food out, eating in secret (often only noticed due to many wrappers or food containers found in the bin) or lying about amount or type of food consumed
  • Eating very slowly (eg. eating with teaspoons, cutting food into small pieces and eating one at a time, rearranging food on plate)
  • Continual denial of hunge
Physical Warning Signs
  • Sudden or rapid weight loss
  • Frequent changes in weight
  • Sensitivity to the cold (feeling cold most of the time, even in warm environments)
  • Loss or disturbance of menstrual periods (females) 
  • Signs of frequent vomiting - swollen cheeks / jawline, calluses on knuckles, or damage to teeth 
  • Fainting, dizziness
  • Fatigue - always feeling tired, unable to perform normal activities
Psychological warning signs
  • Increased preoccupation with body shape, weight and appearance
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Constant preoccupation with food or with activities relating to food
  • Extreme body dissatisfaction/ negative body image
  • Distorted body image (eg. complaining of being/feeling/looking fat when actually a healthy weight or underweight)
  • Heightened sensitivity to comments or criticism about body shape or weight, eating or exercise habits
  • Heightened anxiety around meal times
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Low self-esteem (eg. feeling worthless, feelings of shame, guilt or self-loathing)
  • Rigid ‘black and white’ thinking (viewing everything as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’)
  • Feelings of life being ‘out of control’
  • Feelings of being unable to control behaviours around food
  • Fear of growing up/taking on adult responsibility
If you need someone to talk to about yourself and a potential eating disorder, or someone you care about, our Crisis Line Specialists are here 24/7 at 613-238-3311.  We have resources to help you get healthy again.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Depression

The holidays are here, and for many it's mistletoe, snowflakes, hot chocolate, family, friends, stockings, lights and joy.

For others, this is a dreaded time of year if you're dealing with depression.

There are many scenarios that can contribute to depression during the holidays, and know that you're not alone.  It is more common than most think.  Often you'll hear people say they don't like Christmas, or they're a modern day Scrooge, and are just "Bah-humbugging" through to the new year.

Between the physical demands of the holidays, financial stressors, and relationship woes, it's easy to get pushed down into the dark hole of depression.

We borrowed these tips you can try to keep holiday depression at bay from Mayo Clinic:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.
  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives: Donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.
  6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  8. Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
  9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
  10. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

We are here over the holidays - Christmas doesn't mean that our phone lines are closed.  So if on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or any day before of after you need someone to talk to, our amazing volunteers are here for you.  Simply call 613-238-3311 or 1-866-676-1080.

Have a safe & happy holiday season from all of us at the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region!

Monday, December 10, 2012

New Year, New You

2012 has flown by hasn't it?

Does it not seem to you that we were just relishing in the warmest spring, the hot, dry summer, walking in the leaves this unseasonably warm autumn?

And yet, here we are, about 15 days until Christmas, and 22 days until 2013!

Time to start thinking of those 2013 New Year's Resolutions!

Let's see...there's the usual, lose weight, quit smoking, go to the gym, eat better.  These are all great, and kudos to those of you who really stick with it.

But have you ever considered making a difference with your time?

2013 can be the year that you help out thousands of callers at the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region.

Through 59 hours of training, you'll learn vital tactics to learning how to support callers, without the use of providing advice.  Our job is to lend a supportive, non-judgmental, and unbiased ear.  Sometimes people just need someone they don't know to listen to them, sometimes it's just easier to talk to someone who doesn't know you personally.

You'll also be trained in the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training workshop.  This is a 2 day course, that we provide free of charge to our volunteers.  You will learn how to listen for warning signs of someone with suicide ideations.  You get the chance to interact with many others and our very qualified educational managers to learn how to diffuse suicidal intentions, and help the person in need get to a safer place for themselves.

We sometimes hear people "Oh I couldn't do that, I couldn't talk to people who are in distress or suicidal."  And that's the truth - you need to be comfortable, and with all the training that we have each volunteer partake in, by the end of it you will feel comfortable.

Take it from me - I just finished my own training, and 2 days later, I got asked to help out on the phone lines.  And let me tell you, it was a very rewarding couple of hours!

So if you think that your New Year's Resolution will be to volunteer at the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region - fill out your application today!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Music Moves Us

Quite often, we'll hear callers tell us that listening to, playing or composing music helps them through difficult times, stress, grief, loss, anxiety, depression.  Music moves them to a happier, safer place, that it has its own healing powers.

Emotions can run rapid with a song, making us feel things by the melody, the lyrics, the harmony of the voices.  Songs can remind us of past events, present situations, and inspire us.  It's so remarkable how even the first 5 seconds of a song can take us somewhere.  It's a natural coping strategy - there is music all around us on the radio, the tv, iTunes, YouTube, and more.

We find ourselves saying "This song was written for me", or "These lyrics are exactly how I feel".  It's a great way to show we're not alone in what our lives have brought us - that someone else has been dealing with something similiar and has put it into song.  It becomes relatable and we are able to understand.

Last night, I (Leslie, Community Relations Coordinator) was at the Xavier Rudd concert here in Ottawa.  Xavier Rudd is an Australian artist, who sings, and plays the didgeridoo, while playing the drums at the same time.  He truly is a one man band.

Now, I've been a fan of Xavier Rudd's music for a couple of years, and while I've listened to his songs many times, I wasn't prepared for the emotions I felt last night, when I heard him sing "Follow The Sun" live.  The atmosphere of the people at the show changed, and you could feel a certain energy with the lyrics that made me want to share this post with you.

The song is about being inspired, that tomorrow is a new day.  That following your heart, mind & soul is okay to do, that your energy can be refreshed in your own way.  While we don't give advice to our callers, we provide support, and through this song, I hope you'll find support to get through your day today, and know that every day is a new chance for change. 

Lyrics: Follow The Sun - Xavier Rudd

Follow, follow the sun
and which way the wind blows
when this day is done.

Breath, breath in the air.
Set your intentions.
Dream with care.

Tomorrow is a new day for everyone,
rand new moon, brand new sun.

So follow, follow the sun,
the direction of the bird,
the direction of love.

Breath, breath in the air,
cheerish this moment,
cheerish this breath.

Tomorrow is a new day for everyone,
brand new moon, brand new sun.

When you feel love coming down on you,
like a heavy wave.
When you feel this crazy society,
headin' to the strand.
Take a straw to the nearest waters
and remember your place.
Many moons have risen and fallen long, long before youve came.
So which way is the wind blowin',
and what does your heart say?

So follow, follow the sun,
and which way the wind blows
when this day is done.

We're always here for you to talk to.  If you or someone you know is struggling to cope, call us at 613-238-3311 in Ottawa, or 1-866-676-1080 in the Outaouais.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Benefit Concert

If you're in the Ottawa area, and love live music, while helping out a not-for-profit company - this post is for you!

This Friday night, November 30th at the Elmdale Tavern, there is an acoustic showcase benefit concert, in memory of Janet Vachon, and in support of the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region (us!)

One of our volunteers, Jessica, has been organizing this show, and has put together an awesome array of local musicians such as:

  • Apocalypstic
  • Claudia Acoustic
  • Tenaj
  • Tara Holloway
  • Fiona Noakes

I wanted to hear why Jessica decided to host this event, and this is what she said:

"I chose to create the Acoustic Showcase Benefit Concert for many reasons. The event is close to my heart because it is in memory of a dear friend who was part of the music community. It also combines the talents of 5 bands in Ottawa showcasing their music. All bands have a significant connection to the cause in one way or another and we are hoping to raise awareness and money to support the efforts of the Distress Centre to help people in crisis. I also believe music is a beautiful way we can bring a community together to support each other and remember that we are not alone."

Cover is $10 at the door, and the doors open at 8:30pm.  We hope to have a full house for the showcase - to both honor the passing of Janet Vachon, and to support the Distress Centre. 

Hope to see you all there!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

National Addictions Awareness Week

November 19-25th is National Addictions Awareness Week.

Addicition is the continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse dependency consequences, or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviors.
(Source Wikipedia)

Addicition is a long road where someone abusing a substance cannot find the original "high" or euphoric feeling they got the first, second or third time they tried it.  The dosage becomes higher, it becomes more frequent, and while said individual is on the search for that feeling, their world around them is falling apart.

  • They may have started isolating themselves from family & friends
  • They may be burning through bank accounts and savings to pay for the addiction
  • They may be stealing from others to pay for the addiction
  • They may be owing a lot of money to their drug dealer(s)
  • They may be having trouble thinking clearly or solving easy problems
  • They may start dealing with anxiety, depression, or irritation
  • They may start blacking out, forgetting where they are or leaving where they are without knowing it
  • They may start having legal issues like being arrested
  • They may not see the danger in driving or working under the influence
  • They may not see any of the above, or realize they have a problem
  • They may start seeing their addiction of a way of suicide

So how do you help?

One of the best ways you can help is to be there to encourage a treatment plan.  Changes like breaking an addiction have to come from the person that is addicted.  They need to make that choice for themselves.  Even going into a treatment plan has to come from the individual, unless court ordered.  Many addicts will lose a lot of their support during their addiction, making it hard to see the treatment options.

There are many resources are available in our areas including:

Centre for Addiction & Mental Health

Amethyst Women's Addiction Centre


Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre

This list is certainly not exhaustive.  At the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region, we have many more resources for yourself or for another person.  Do not hesitate to call and ask for a resource from us at 613-238-3311.

Addictions can happen at anytime to anyone.  The person does not need to be facing a terrible trauma in their live to become addicted.  Some people simply experiment due to peer pressure, and they get tangled in the mess.

Addicitions are not always drugs either.  They can range from smoking, alcohol, gambling, sex and more. 

Make yourself aware of what addictions are out there, and if you ever feel the need to talk to someone about yourself or some one else in your life, please call us.  We're here for you.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Younger Callers

We'll talk to anyone at the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region.  Often we hear from younger callers, dealing with a wide range of issues.

A younger caller may be putting on a brave face with those around them, but are struggling inside.  Children may feel as if they will not be taken serious or understood, and while they'll try to ignore it or deal with it in their own ways, they often lack coping skills that we as adults know about.

Sometimes we often wondering if the behavior we see in children of our own or a friend/family member, is normal.  What is normal?  Things to look for are loss of appetite, isolation, severe withdrawl, emotional changes (anger, hysterical, crying all the time), and anything regarding drugs, alcohol and sexual activity.

Relationships with family, friends are important to younger callers.  They get their morales and values from you, from their peers, from television.  Asking about what qualities are important to them in friendships is a great question for kids who may be struggling with friends.

We get calls about bullying.  It's a hot topic these days, and we encourage our callers to speak about what is going on in their lives, what's happening at school. 

We also get calls regarding abuse.  We are obligated to report any abuse towards a child. 

Children may be confused in regards to their sexuality.  Our volunterers create a safe and respectful place for the caller to explore what they are feeling and going through.  GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Trans-Sexual) youth are at a greater risk for low-self esteem and suicide.  We're on alert for statements like "I'm so tired of people n ot accepting me"  "I wish I could change" and "No one cares about me".

Eating disorders are high among younger girls who want to be thin and pretty like the Hollywood actresses and artists they idolize.  There is often presssure from sports, ballet, gymnastics to be thin, and tiny, and can take a real toll on a vulnerable child.  The Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence was recently quoted saying:

"I’m just so sick of these young girls with diets. I remember when I was 13 and my friends thought it was cool to pretend to have an eating disorder because there were rumors that Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie were anorexic. I thought it was crazy. I went home and told my mom, ‘Nobody’s eating bread—I just had to finish everyone’s burgers.’ I think it’s really important for girls to have people to look up to and to feel good about themselves.”

Remember to keep the lines of communication open for your children - whether it's with yourself, or with us.  And for yourself as well - sometimes parents need support with what is going on with their children, because as much as you are Super-Mom & Super-Dad, your kids are your Kryptonite.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Stay (Relatively) Stree Free This Holiday Season

The malls, the crowds, the commercials, the kids whining, the out of town relatives, the parties, the food, the presents...........

(Go ahead and scream, it's okay!)

We're 40 days away from Christmas, and it seems like the holiday season comes around earlier and earlier every year.  Trees are up in stores the day after Halloween, holiday tunes are playing on the radio stations, and Santa arrives in the malls across the city this weekend.

It's enough to make many of us extremely stressed out, like there aren't enough hours in the day, or enough dollars in your bank account, and like you just haven't got it right.  Maybe you or your partner aren't working and there is the added anxiety of how you are going to make Christmas work.  Maybe there is someone who is sick in your family, and aren't sure if they will make to the holidays.  Perhaps someone in your circle of friends is dealing with substance abuse, and you aren't sure whether to have them to your party, or how to deal with them when they're there.

While we are here for you 24/7, to talk about any stresses relating to the holidays coming up, we've complied a few tips to help you be less stressed this year.  By no means, will these suggestions work for everyone, but a little support can sometimes go a long way!

1) Make a budget & stick to it!  Stick with a set spending amount that won't make you stress this holiday season.  Remember, it is the thought behind the gift.  Are there kids in your life that you're buying for?  Look for gifts that keep them interested & occupied.  Little girls love anything they can make to show off - one example is a "Make Your Own Headband" kit.  10 headbands already made, and the little girl can decorate it with flowers, glitter, fabric and other things that come in the kit.  Add some accessories and extra stuff from Dollarama and you have a great gift for less that $30. 

2) Simplicity is best!  You do that big holiday party at your house every year, and go all out?  Keep things simple and classic.  Check out some easy DYI ideas on Pinterest using items you already have at home.  Or, again, hit up Dollarama, who has been bringing in some name brand items for $3.00 each, and their decorations are fabulous!

3)  Recruit Helpers!  Don't feel as if you're in this alone.  Get your family, friends, and kids to help you out.  Have tons of baking to do?   Recruit friends into a Cookie Exchange and stick with something simple.  Having the big dinner at your place?  Do it potluck style.  Don't refuse someone if they want to help with preparations or clean up!

4) Exercise!  It doesn't have to be a class at the gym every day, but at least 30 minutes every day, do some sort of exercise.  Have kids?  Put on some holiday tunes and have a dance party in your living room.  Like to see the lights at night?  Go for a brisk walk with someone!  Enjoy yoga?  Use free Youtube videos to do some deep breathing and stretching.  Your body and mind will be happier!

5) Get in some YOU time!  We're in the car, travelling back and forth from different households during the season, but remember that you need time for YOU.  Choose 1-2 days where you can just put your feet, and relax. 

6) Get your shopping done early!  Ask people you're buying for, for 3-5 items they're wanting by November 25th.  This gives you lots of time to get out and get your shopping done.  Does the thought of shopping with hundreds of people in a crowded mall turn your stomach?  Shop online!  Many outlets provide free shipping, along with a guarenteed arrival date before Christmas Eve.  Make a deadline date to get your shopping done.  Ask a family member or friends to watch your kids for an afternoon while you go out and play "Santa"

7) Volunteer!  Believe it or not, those who volunteer during the holiday season feel at peace with everything else in their lives.  While we're starting to accept applications for our January training classes, you can choose to volunteer with other holiday organizations liked Operation Rednose or the Salvation Army Kettlebell.  Then, apply online at www.dcottawa.on.ca to become a volunteer with us in 2013 :)

Hopefully some of these tips will help you relax a bit over the holiday season.  Remember that being with those you love & cherish is what Christmas is about!

613-238-3311 is how you can reach us 24/7 to talk about your holiday experiences, and if you are having anxiety or stressful feelings.

Monday, November 5, 2012


This past weekend, over 25 volunteers going through their 59 hours of training, took part in the 2-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training workshop (ASIST).

This workshop is about helping caregivers (meaning you, who has the ability to care for another individual) become confident, comfortable & able to recognize those in risk of suicide ideations, and to intervene through active listening, reflection, and helping that individual get to a safe place through these steps.

The workshop started off with an introduction video, and some chatting about what we were seeing in the scenarios.  Everyone was eager to voice what they were hearing from the actors, and how they felt they would start talking to the individuals at risk.

We then broke into 2 groups.  We were asked to share a story about how suicide has made an impact in each of our lives.  Through tears, pats on the back and a lot of "thank you for sharing" statements, we were all able to breathe and move forward with our training.

Hearing about suicide is a scary, surreal thing for people.  There are a lot of leftover questions that mostly get left unanswered.  There is guilt surrounding the "I never saw it coming" and "I wish I could have known so that I could have helped".  There is fear associated with "If X could take her life, then maybe other people I know are at risk".

We worked through the scenarios from the video we watched, each taking turns to explore the risk at hand, understand what the person is feeling and going through, and contract with them to keep them safe.

We were asked to close our eyes, and envision our normal drive home from work, or school.  That traffic is really backed up on this ride home.  That as you approach the bridge you cross to get to the highway, you see someone standing on the edge, staring down at the concrete.

How would you react?  Would you feel capable enough to get out of your car to try and get the person to talk, to get down from the bridge?  Could you handle the level of personal and reflecting emotions?  This is what the workshop is about - being able to help that individual step down from the bridge. 

At the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region we don't have Facetime or Skype to be able to see our callers, but we hear the distress, the despair, and the feelings of hopelessness, grief, loss and desperation in their voices.  We apply the same tactics we would helping someone face to face, as we would on the phone.

At the end of our workshop, we were asked how we felt about what we've learned, and everyone was in agreement saying that they would feel more comfortable, confident and would be able to help someone with suicidal thoughts.

We were also told to do something nice for ourselves after both days - caregivers also need to take care of themselves.  We had people who went shopping for retail therapy, those who went to yoga, those who went out for dinner with a loved one or friends, just to take a breather again.

The ASIST workshop prepares our volunteers and  staff to take on these calls, as 10-20% of our annual calls revolve around suicide ideations.

ASIST isn't just for the Distress Centre family - anyone can take this workshop.  Businesses, corporations, management teams, organizations, teachers and school staff are encourage to look into taking the ASIST workshop.  You'll be thankful you did, even if it were just for one person in your life.

Call our office today to inquire about booking your ASIST workshop at 613-238-1089.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Imagine your every day being a struggle in terms of fear, shortness of breath, panic, phobia of being around people.  Even going to get a coffee can cause an attack.

Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental disorders in the general population, affecting 10-15%.  Anxiety can range from mild uneasiness to a panic attack - that feeling where the world is crashing down around you, completely falling apart, yet nothing is happening.  Anxiety can last for a few moments, days, months or a lifetime.

Most likely, you have experienced a form of anxiety in your life.  Buying a house, studying for an exam, a loved one being sick, driving in bad weather.  These are all mild cases of anxiety examples, but at any given moment, these examples can become full blown panic attacks, where you just lose complete control of yourself.

People with anxiety often describe symptomes such as: feeling "on edge", difficulty concentrating, irritability, physical symtoms such as trembling or sweating, sleep disturbance, uncontrollable worry that is disproportionate to source and interferes with day to day living.

Anxiety often produces frightening physical sensations as well - shortness of breath is one that can be very scary as people try to breathe, and can't seem to exhale.  Tactics our volunteers take on the phone with callers, are breathing exercises.  "Let's take a deep breathe together, and count to 5".  Often this is helpful for the caller to gain control of how they are feeling so that they are able to talk about what is causing the anxiety.

Another way to cope with anxiety or attacks is focusing on strategies that have worked in the past.  Does going for a walk help you?  Does cooking or baking help you?  Does cleaning help?

Anxiety Disorders are diagnosed by doctors, and can include:
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Phobias
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Operational Stress Disorder (This is a fairly new disorder, focusing on Military, Police, etc)
A great place to start if you're thinking you are dealing with an Anxiety Disorder, is to visit your family doctor, or a clinic nearby.  We have such amazing resources in the city for our use.

As always, if you are experiencing something you need to talk about, call and speak to one of our amazing Distress Line volunteers.  613-238-3311.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Volunteering in Mental Health - Conference

You're invited!

On November 24th, from 8:30am-4:00pm, join the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre for our 2nd Annual Mental Health Volunteer Conference!

This is a one-of-a-kind volunteer initiative, where you can connect with service providers in the field of mental health, and engage with other who are equally committed to excellence in volunteerism.

This conference has been created specifically for volunteers in Ottawa who are involved in various aspects of mental health support.  We've organized what we think promises to be a day full of interactive workshops and presentations from community agencies and leaders in the mental healh field. 

An amazing schedule of speakers, starts right at 9:00, and will feature presentations on giving the gift of our time, understanding adolescent drug use, supporting abused women, anxiety disorders, men's rage & violence, dementia, home visit response, psychosis, addiction, youth & self harm, and all will be a selection of breakout sessions, chosen by your preference of which to attend!

Lunch is provided for all attendees, and will be an hour break in the day to regroup, just in time to see a play entitled "Voices" by Hannah Brunsdon.  "Voices" is about a young women's experience with grief, depression and suicide.  The show features the voices in the main character's head.  Hannah Brunsdon wrote "Voices" when she was in Grade 9, a year before she became sick with depression and anxiety.

The 2nd Annual Mental Health Volunteer Conference is now open for registration, and has limited space available!  Registration fee is $75.00, and interested individuals can register here: http://www.regonline.com/volunteerconference .

We hope to see lots of you come out for this amazing day of information, for people who are simply passionate about their volunteering lives!

For more information, you can call the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region office at 613-238-1089!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

#CHEOConnects - What We Learned

On Monday night this week, we attended the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO)'s Mental Health Information Night for parents.

To say there were some interested folks out there would be an understatement.  Nearly 200 parents showed up to listen to a panel of experts talk about Mental Health issues that their children may be facing.

The information night was scheduled months ago, and by sheer coincidence, came less than a week after British Columbia teenage, Amanda Todd, took her own life.  Alex Munter, President of CHEO, acted as the moderator for the evening, asking experts Ian Manion, Phil Ritchie, Neil Gottheil (all Child Psychologists) and Clare Gray (Pediatric Psychiatrist) questions that were submitted by parents in the audience.  It proved to be very well received, as we noticed as the talks when on, more and more parents were handing in their questions.

It was amazing to see so many parents in one room, either there because they are worried about their own children, just wanting to educate themselves, or they have concerns for their children's social circle.  Either way, everyone was there for the same reason - to get answers.  There were lots of questions about anxiety, bullying and how to talk to your child/teenager about suicide - a topical question coinciding with the death of Amanda Todd, and previously, Jamie Hubley and Daron Richardson.

Before and after the session, we were on hand to talk to parents about our services for them.  Our focus was to tell parents that while we aren't able to give them advice, we are here to be a support system for them.  Sometimes, in situations with your children, you can find yourself embarrassed to talk to a friend, another family member or a co-worker, as you may feel like you're being judged for not being a good parent, or not paying close enough attention to your children.  That's not the case when you call the Distress Centre.  We're unbiased, non-judgmental, and just here to listen and provide support for you and your family.

All of the experts took their time in answering questions, and we were tweeting some of their answers & recommendations.  Knowledge is power and the more we are able to share with one another, the more we'll educate the world on Mental Health.  These are some of the tweets that we shared from the event:

  • Don't be afraid to talk to your kids about suicide, keep the door open, emotions good, bad and in between

  • Physically healthier helps teens be mentally healthier

  • Anxiety lives through avoidance. Skills can be implemented to help get through anxiety isssues.

  • Kids that bully are defined as looking to take control and a level of power. Redirect kids to leadership rather than bully

  • Parent should know that our phone line is an excellent way to talk to someone non-judgmental about their kids 613-238-3311

  • Bullying has been taken to another level than it was years ago with social media/cyber space.

  • Boys bully very directly, and girls more indirectly

  • Beware of your children's technology and social media so that if they start to use in a dangerous way you can intervene

  • From psychiatrist - no cells during family time, learn about each other, about their lives beyond what you see.

  • Have your children unplug their electronics 30 minutes before bed - promotes healthy sleep and helps with depression symptoms.

  • Medications are not the only treatment for depression - therapy is also needed

We were so fortunate to be able to attend this event, so thank you to CHEO for allowing us to be there, and put our information in the hands of all of the parents in attendance.

If you're a parent, reading this for the first time, and are wishing you knew about the event, contact CHEO, and put a request in for another session. If you feel as if you could benefit from speaking to one of our amazing volunteers, give us a call at 613-238-3311.

 Our information table at Sir Robert Borden High School, before #CHEOConnects

Alex Munter, President of CHEO (left) asks panel of experts, questions from the audience

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ottawa Race Weekend

Attention all runners, walkers, wheelchair racers and anyone who wants to make a difference!

In May 2013, the annual Ottawa Marathon/Race Weekend happens.  Spectators flood the sidelines of the 2k, 5k, 10k, Half & Full Marathon routes to cheer on the thousands upon thousands of runners.

Last year, I (Leslie - Community Relations Coordinator) ran my very first 10k race.  I only had a few months of training (just 3 months) and was dealing with shin splits before the race.  I ran my race in 1 hour, 29 minutes, with a goal of finishing it it 1:30 - so I did it!

Let me tell you: there were times where I was in shock with how many spectactors cheered me on as I ran the race.  Amazing.  Really keeps you going.

In 2013, the Distress Centre is looking for YOU to participate in a race, and raise funds for the centre!  Not a runner?  No problem.  They accept walkers in every race, including the Full Marathon.  It's an amazing weekend, and your registration fees include a t-shirt for your race, chip for your time, and some great deals from the sponsors.

We're looking to recruit 100 participants to take part in one of the races!  You choose your race, your time, and raise funds for the centre from now until May 25 or 26.

It's easy to get started! 

Step 1: 

  • Register.  Go to www.runottawa.ca and click on the image that looks like this:

  • Choose your race.  It's up to you what you would like to participate in.  There is a Family 2k, and a 5k race which are excellent for beginners, or if you're feeling ambitious, there is the 10k, 21k and 42k.

  • Fill out your registration form, and pay your registration fee. 

  • Send your name to me, Leslie, at lscott@dcottawa.on.ca so that I have you on record as you've signed up.

Step 2:

  • Fundraise.  Regiser to fundraise using a personal Giving Page at www.canadahelps.org and click on the Giving Pages option like listed below.

  • Set up a Giving Page by clicking the next Giving Page option like this

  • Register a Giving Page with Canada Helps by clicking here:
  • Go through the set up with your personal details, and you can start by setting up your personal page.  Set up your page as you wish - your story, your words.  Set your fundraising goal!  We ask that all participants raise a minimum of $50.  100 runners x $50 each = an amazing $5000 for the Distress Centre!!!

  • Remember!  Choose the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region as your charity of choice!  You'll be prompted on-screen to do so.  Seach Distress Centre Ottawa, and click "Add to Giving Page".  Let your donors know that they will receive a tax receipt for income tax purposes through Canada Helps!

When your page is done, it should look similar to this:

Step 3:

  • Run & have fun!  All of the funds that are raised, will go to the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region! 

  • Get your friends, co-workers and family members to sign up and raise money for the Distress Centre too!  We are not limited at 100 participants!!

  • Start training!  If you've signed up for a 5k or higher, and are planning on running the race, please make sure you take time to train for it.  There are lots of running clinics in the city, and a lot of them are free!

We hope to see lots of of participants running for the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region!  Let's make a difference in Mental Health!  See you at the start...and finish line!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day.

A day where we all take a second to think about what mental health means to us.

Maybe you've been affected by someone who has committed suicide.

Perhaps you know someone who is dealing with depression.

Is there a soldier in your life who has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Quite possibly, you know someone who is in an abusive relationship.

You witness office bullying on a daily basis, and see how it affects the person on the receiving end.

You yourself, are depressed, dealing with anxiety, are bi-polar, or simply, you need someone to talk to.

The Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region is proud to be a part of various communities, and with over 200 volunteers answering our phones, we are so very fortunate. 

We participate in charity fairs, community presenations, we educated workplaces, we provide free training to our volunteers.  We're also a not-for-profit organization, funded in part by the United Way of Ottawa - which we are so thankful for. 

We answered over 39,000 confidential calls last year, of people experiencing distress in their lives. 

If you need someone to talk to, and you're in the City of Ottawa, counties of Prescott-Russell, SD&G, Renfrew, Grey-Bruce, Outouais, please call us. 


We're here to help.  Take time to better your mental health today.

Friday, October 5, 2012


Who's looking forward to turkey, family & friends, the long weekend, and yearly traditions this weekend?

Sometimes the anticipation of a holiday or family get-together can cause people anxiety, depression, and feelings that they don't know how to deal with.  Maybe you're anxious about seeing that Aunt, who always puts pressure on you to get a husband, or maybe your brother in law always drinks too much and ends up embarrassing you.  Sometimes it's just the panic of having so many people in one spot.  Maybe you're dealing with issues that you don't want your family to know about, such as depression or PTSD.

Whatever the case may be, here are some great ways to cope!

  • Do what needs to be done, and don't feel the need to go overboard.  Don't put pressure on yourself to pull off a Martha Stewart Thanksgiving meal for 50 people. 

  • Don't be afraid to ask for help.  Did you promise to bring 3 appetizers and a dessert, and bring activities for the kids to do?  Ask a family member or a friend to come over and help you prepare.

  • Steer clear of overindulging.  Alcohol may cause even more anxiety, and prevent you from doing what you need to.

  • Stay within budget.  Holidays and family get togethers can be expensive enough, so make yourself a budget, and stick to it.  You don't need those fancy napkin rings with your family initials engraved on them!

  • Take time for yourself leading up to the event.  You are important to take care of as well.

  • When others offer to help with clean up, don't shoo them away.  Accept their offer, and you can go to bed without worrying about the massive pile of dishes that you need to do in the morning.  If you're at someone else's home, pick up the sponge and wash or dry.  Even spending time with other's children is a big help to parents.

  • Be respectful of others and their home.  Sometimes putting aside your differences can make for an enjoyable event.

  • Enjoy yourself! 
From all of us at the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region, we'd like to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.  What are you thankful for?


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Volunteers Are Always Needed!

Did you know that our phone lines are run completely by volunteers?  24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, volunteers are answering the calls from our community.  We get calls from people who have had a bad day at work, people who are dealing with relationship problems, have suffered a tragedy in the lives, and calls from people who are contemplating suicide.

We're always recruiting, training, and developing volunteers for the Distress Centre. 

Currently, we're accepting applications for our January 2013 training classes.  What a great New Year's Resolution for 2013 - deciding to make a difference in the lives of others. 

To apply to be a volunteer, you'll need to fill out our Volunteer Application Form, provide us with a Police Record Check, and three references. 

The Distress Centre has volunteers that come from all walks of life.  They are united by their desire to help their community and provide a lifeline to those in need.  Those who get the most out of volunteering are emotionally mature, calm and empathetic individuals.

Do you have the willingness to listen and provide non-judgmental support?  Are you able to commit to three (3) shifts per month, including an overnight shift, for one year?  Are you applying at a point in your life where you have not experienced any major upheavals or life stressors? 

As a volunteer, you can expect an amazing, 59 hour training session, done by our expert trainers in where you'll be taught active listening, stress and crisis management.  You will also attend a 2-day LivingWorks ASIST suicide intervention workshop.  You'll be provided with a comprehensive training manual. 

As mentioned before, as a new volunteer, we expect you a 1 year commitment or 144 total hours, which breaks down to 24 daytime or evening shifts (2 per month) and 12 overnight shifts (1 per month).  The 1 year commitment is based on the fact that are providing the training, workshops and ongoing education services free of charge to our volunteers in order to give them the necessary tools and skills they will need once they are on the lines.  Our commitment to each other is what will ensure the longevity and success of the Distress Centre.

Shifts are scheduled according to your schedule!  We work around you time! 

Being a volunteer is incredibly rewarding

"Being a Distress Centre volunteer has helped me realize how similar we all are. Over a lifetime, we all experience stresses and we should not have to always face these difficulties alone. I have witnessed time and again the benefits that arise from talking about an issue with someone who really listens to your concerns. I believe in the Distress Centre's impact and this is why I volunteer"

If you're interested in becoming a volunteer with the Distress Centre of Ottawa, apply today at www.dcottawa.on.ca and watch what a difference you can make in our community!

          Monday, October 1, 2012

          Mental Health In The Workplace

          It's Mental Illness Awareness Week, and while it's a rainy Monday morning in Ottawa, and we're all back to work, it's fitting to talk about Mental Health in the workplace.

          Scenario:  Your alarm clock goes off at 6:30am, and as you roll over to shut if off, you groan, thinking about your day & week ahead of you.  You struggle through your morning getting everyone out the door, and on their way for the day, only to sit in traffic for 30 minutes.  By the time you get to work, you're already feeling like you've ran a marathon, and you open your email to see that you have piles of work to do.  As you work away, your co-workers start gossiping about others in the office.   You try to block these individuals out, but the constant hum of their voices irritate you.  After lunch, you come back to your desk to see more piles of work, with urgent deadlines on them.  You start to feel anxious, flustered and panicky.  Everything seems to swallow you whole.  Your phone rings, and it's your daughter's school, telling you she is sick with the flu, and you need to come pick her up.  Your brain is almost at capacity - and then you spill your coffee on your pile of papers marked URGENT.  You break down, and wonder why you even bother anymore. 

          Seems like a bad day right?  Sometimes, this anxiety, stress, depression is not just a bad day, but a sign of mental illness.  Did you know that 1 in 5 Canadians experience diagnosable mental illness?  And that almost 4000 Canadians commit suicide every year?

          There are many ways to maintain a healthy work environment for yourself.  Some suggest getting up on the hour every hour, just to stretch and get the blood flowing, and oxygen to your brain.  Getting outdoors on your lunch hour to alleviate the ho-hum of the office can boost energy levels for the rest of your work day.  Of course, it's not always easy to get out and about during the Canadian winters, but having access to a gym close by can help you get some mid-day exercise to release endorphins that will be a mood enhancer.

          Having a healthy lunch, and healthy snacks during the day is a great way to keep your mind feeling great.  The better you eat, the healthier you are.  Fast food creates feelings of sluggish-ness and can make you feel even worse.  Comfort food is always a go-to in the colder months, so instead of picking up a burger & fries, why not make a homemade soup at home and bring it in for your lunch?  It's easy and packs the same "comfort-food-punch".

          Work with your boss and colleagues to have an open door policy.  Being able to effectively talk about issues, without feeling like you have to hold them in will better everyone.  Having a problem with a co-worker that you just can't deal with?  That open door policy will help with that. 

          Breathe.   We breathe to live, but have you ever turned out the lights, turned off all electronics, just for a few minutes to hear what your breathing sounds like?  Try it.  Shallow, quick breaths suggest anxiety and stress.  Deep, balanced breaths suggest a healthy being overall.  Take time to close your eyes if you're feeling overwhelmed, and just breathe, in and out, slowly, feeling your lungs expand and deflat.  Do this for a couple of minutes until you start to feel better.

          Finally, work at a job that you like and that you're good at.  Having a career is an amazing thing, but if your heart isn't in it, neither is  your mind.  Consider making a switch, even if your background isn't in that field.  Many of us aren't working in the field we went to school for.  (Me - Radio Broadcasting, now working for the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region)  You may just surprise yourself, finding something you are passionate about!

          Be healthy, mentally, in your workplace.  Make a pledge to yourself to try some of the above.  The Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region also provides a Speaker's Bureau in which one of our speaker's can come into your workplace to talk about mental health.  Simply call us at 613-238-1089 and ask for Leslie.

          If you're experiencing depression or have a workplace problem you need to talk about, we're here, 24/7.  613-238-3311.