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: .

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 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 so that I have you on record as you've signed up.

Step 2:

  • Fundraise.  Regiser to fundraise using a personal Giving Page at 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 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.