Monday, October 17, 2016

How to Deal with a Mental Illness Diagnosis

The month of October houses Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct 3-7) and International Mental Health Day (Oct 10). In the interest of breaking down stigma, this month’s blog post features tips on how to deal with a mental illness diagnosis.

If you have recently been diagnosed with a mental illness, chances are you have had a long and hard road to get to where you are today. You may have started to notice symptoms in yourself, your moods, your behaviours, your thinking, or maybe a friend or family member noticed signs of your mental health slipping.  Like many, it might have taken you a while to reach out for help because you didn’t quite know what was happening, where to turn or who to talk to or even what to say. It’s quite unsettling to not only begin to experience signs of mental illness and then also not have anywhere to turn to for support. 

After you reached out and confided in someone, you likely saw your doctor who may have been able to help or might have referred you elsewhere for specialized help. It took time to get these appointments, have assessments done and wait for the results to come back.

Now that you’ve been down the long road to a diagnosis, the road ahead of you likely looks foreign, scary and maybe you’re feeling confused, unprepared, or angry. You could also be feeling a little bit of relief that what you’re feeling has been validated by a name. Maybe you’re even feeling hopeful that there is specialized help available for you, now that you know what you are dealing with.

If you’re wondering if this is your fault – it isn’t. Like physical health, there are many factors that contribute to mental illness and no one is immune from mental illness, nor is it entirely predictable who will suffer from mental illness in their life. Different factors like genetics, traumatic events, socioeconomic status, the environment, etc. all play a part in affecting our mental health. In time and with help, you will learn how best to cope with your mental illness and the strategies that do and don’t work for you. Remember, you are not alone. 1 in 5 Canadians will have a mental illness in their life and there are many options of support available to you.

Now that you’ve received your diagnosis – you are probably wondering what comes next.  You will probably want to think about how this mental illness is going to affect your life. Also, what treatments are available (medication, therapy, counselling) and what can you expect through treatment and your recovery. Knowledge is power so you will want to learn the most you can about your illness in order to understand what’s happening and how you can deal with things that arise. Two ways you can gain information are through formal education (lectures, books, credible websites) as well as lived experience of others. It can be really helpful to know that other people have experienced what you are going through and this can give you some ideas on how to go about your own recovery.

As always, no matter what part of your journey you are on, we are here to offer a supportive and non-judgemental ear. Whether you have been experiencing symptoms for a while or have just starting to notice something is off, if you have just been diagnosed or are still waiting or trying to get the help you need, we are here, always.

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