Sakina Rizvi

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Sakina Rizvi is a PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto in the Departments of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Neuroscience, and a Clinical Research Coordinator in the Department of Psychiatry, University Health Network. She has worked as a researcher in mental health for over a decade and has published numerous articles on psychiatric illness.

 

Sakina Rizvi est doctorante au département des sciences pharmaceutiques et des neurosciences de l’Université de Toronto et coordonnatrice de la recherche clinique au département de psychiatrie du University Health Network. Elle travaille comme chercheuse dans le domaine de la santé mentale depuis plus d’une décennie et elle a publié de nombreux articles sur les troubles psychiatriques.

Studying Abroad: Evaluating a Prospective Student’s Mental Health

When screening students for study abroad programs, it is important for you to ensure they have the capability to manage the challenges of their new life abroad. An inability to adapt to a new environment can result in a student feeling isolated, overwhelmed, and even guilty. For students with mental health issues that are not stabilized or have yet to be addressed, the additional pressures could worsen their health. Access to a psychiatric history is often not available when screening students for school placements. Sometimes students may not even realize they have a problem. In these scenarios, there are questions you can ask to get a sense of whether the student may be at risk for a mental health issue and if the symptoms would interfere with their ability to prosper in a study abroad program, far away from the comforts of home. Before you start asking questions, take a…

Coping with the Effects of Cyberbullying

Being insulted or humiliated is never fun. It often leaves the victim feeling helpless and alone. In cases of cyberbullying, it can be more difficult since the victim doesn’t always know who their attacker is. If you are being cyberbullied, pretending that you are fine when you are not will just make you feel worse, so be honest with yourself. It is important to remember that you have more power than you know, and that you can take steps to deal with how cyberbullying is affecting you. It’s okay to be angry, but channel itBeing cyberbullied can cause intense feelings of anger for several reasons. You may feel violated, and might think there is nothing you can do about it, or you may feel badly about yourself because a person has embarrassed you in some way. Anger is a normal reaction to feeling like we have been wronged. However, anger…

Mental Health Issues: Overcoming Stigma in the Classroom

Mental health is a global concern, and yet it’s an issue that is frequently misunderstood. The first step towards conquering the harmful stigma associated with mental health issues is to encourage greater public education surrounding mental illness. As teachers, you are poised to be front-runners in overcoming mental health stigma in your classrooms. Openly communicating with students from an early age can help them develop empathy and can lead to an increased likelihood of symptom recognition and treatment seeking.  The following four steps will help you determine what obstacles exist and give you ideas on how to overcome them. Become aware of your own biases—and those of your students Biases or prejudices can arise without you even knowing it. Why? Because in order to process large amounts of information, we create stereotypes that decrease our information processing time and free up more brain power to focus on other, more important…

Going to a Counsellor: What to Expect – Part II

In “Going to a Counsellor: What to Expect – Part I,” we talked about the questions you can expect to be asked at your appointment. But what about your questions? If you have concerns about your experience, how your counselling sessions are going, or any recommended treatments, ASK! If you still haven’t scheduled that first appointment and aren’t sure where to begin, read on to find some answers! Why am I being asked all of these personal questions?If, at any time, you feel uncomfortable answering a question, feel free to say so. The point of counselling is to help you feel better. Don’t feel that you must talk about certain topics before you are ready. But keep in mind that your counsellor is gathering this type of personal information for several important reasons. Knowing more about you will help your counsellor… understand if you are experiencing acute stress and/or determine…

Worried Your Friend May Have a Mental Health Issue? Here’s What To Do

If you suspect that your friend is dealing with an undiagnosed mental health issue, you can play an important role in helping him or her to seek the needed treatment to get better. Making the decision to get help depends on a variety of factors including understanding a problem exists (or its severity), overcoming feelings of stigma or attitudes towards help-seeking, knowing where to look for help, and having a supportive network. If your friend is unwilling to go for help, it is important to understand what key limiting factor is preventing them from taking that step. As your first step, it is necessary that you are informed and educated about your friend’s potential illness. Remember, they may not be fully aware of the symptoms either. There are many resources available to gather information on signs and symptoms of a mental health issue. The Canadian Mental Health Association and the…

Substance Abuse and International Students

Adolescence is a high-risk age group for alcohol and drug abuse. Internationally, rates vary depending on drug and alcohol accessibility, social norms, and religious customs. For example, rates of adolescent alcohol use are highest in the Americas and European regions, whereas they are low in Middle Eastern countries where alcohol is prohibited and not easy to locate. Even within a region, drug use can vary considerably. In Africa, prevalence of lifetime drug use in 13- to 15-year-olds varies from under 5% to over 30% (requires Adobe Reader), depending on the country. Therefore, it is difficult for teachers of international students to determine how much exposure they have had to drugs or alcohol. The rate of drug use in the past year in Canadian youth (ages 15–24), however, is about 5–23% depending on the drug, with cannabis and prescription drugs being the most frequently used. So students coming to Canada to study…

Study Habits to Help You Conquer the Mid-Semester Crunch

When mid-terms are just around the corner, it’s difficult to think of anything else. Essays, tests, group projects—when will it end? Until your time is yours again, here are some tips to stay on top of things so that you don’t feel like you are getting buried under a mountain of papers and deadlines. Know what you have to do It is hard to manage your time and know what to study if you aren’t clear on what you have to do. Understanding your course requirements is more than being aware of the deadline dates for your exams and assignments. The first place to look for more information is your course syllabus. Often neglected by students, your course syllabus offers a wealth of information. It should include key learning objectives for the course and a description of the course content. Giving it a review will help you understand what…

Defining and Dealing with Sexual Harassment in Canada

How do you know if you’ve been sexually harassed? If you are the target of sexual comments or behaviours that are known (or should be known) to be unwelcome, you may be experiencing sexual harassment. These occurrences aren’t always solely sexual in nature; for instance, they can involve a person treating you in an upsetting way because of how you look. Specific examples of sexual harassment (requires Adobe Reader) include the following: Insults about your sexuality Rumours about your sexuality Unnecessary or unwanted touching Suggestive or direct comments about sexual ability Requests for sex in exchange for doing you a favour or giving you a good grade or promotion Comments about your level of attractiveness If you find yourself in a situation like this at home, at school, or at work, here are some things to keep in mind: It’s not your fault. Everyone is accountable for their own actions.…

Your Guide to Becoming a (Mentally) Healthy Student

Finally, you made it! You’ve left the comforts of home to pursue your post-secondary education. For the first time in your life, you are your own boss, in charge of your own future. But this sudden leap into adulthood brings with it more responsibility, an increased workload, and competing demands on your time, money, and energy levels. All of these new expectations can be overwhelming, and may trigger mental health issues that could include burnout, anxiety, or even depression. Want to stay mentally healthy while at college or university? The tips below should help! Know your limits and start simple While you might be tempted to do it all—five classes, a part-time job, clubs, and sports—the simple answer is: Don’t. Packing your schedule so tight that there is no room to breathe will only cause you further stress. The result will be reduced memory, decreased attention, and lots of anxiety.…

Communicating with Parents or Caregivers

A mental health issue can have a devastating impact on a child’s success in school and in life. While it is understood that treatment should be sought as early as possible, it is difficult to do so when a mental health issue goes unrecognized. This problem is heightened in the case of children and adolescents if the individuals who play the main role in their health care (e.g., parents or caregivers) do not have enough information. Parents of students studying abroad face additional challenges: differences in cultural perceptions of mental illness, language barriers, and not being physically there to help their child with day to day care. In these instances, teachers, homestay coordinators, or homestay parents may need to get more involved in the child’s care and may have to approach parents to discuss specific mental health concerns. With so many factors involved, it becomes clear that communicating to parents…

Cyberbullying: Stay Aware and Stay Away

Cyberbullying is the act of insulting or threatening another person online, with an intent to cause harm or fear. For example, someone may send cruel text messages or emails, create a malicious website about an individual, harass others in chat groups, post inappropriate photos, or make nasty comments on social networking sites. Unfortunately, cyberbullying has become more common than “traditional” bullying (i.e., bullying in person) with some studies in North America estimating that over 50% of kids have experienced some form of cyberbullying. Who are cyberbullies? It is estimated that a third of cyberbullies do not bully kids in person. This means that cyberbullies must be somewhat different than traditional bullies. In fact, research shows they are more likely to be aggressive, and feel that moral standards don’t apply to them in certain situations (e.g., online chat rooms). Because they are not physically in front of the people they…

Going to a Counsellor: What to Expect – Part I

Often the biggest difficulty to overcoming a problem is recognizing that one exists. With mental health issues, it can be even more difficult due to social or personal beliefs. You may be thinking that your symptoms won’t last or that they are a sign of personal weakness. These feelings can stop you from getting the help you need because you may feel embarrassed. Remind yourself that the most important thing is getting better—and this means getting help as early as possible. Taking that first step Your first step could be a visit to the on-campus counsellor if there is one available at your school. This initial meeting will typically last one hour, and will consist of a series of questions to help him or her understand what you are experiencing. It is normal to feel nervous at your appointment, especially since you will be sharing some of your most…

Mood Changes and Bad Feelings: Knowing When to Look For Help

Getting used to life in another country is challenging. Add to that the pressure of succeeding at your studies. You may feel like you are being pulled in 20 different directions. It is normal to feel overwhelmed, but sometimes our negative feelings can last longer and feel different than everyday stress. If your bad mood is turning into a series of bad days, ask yourself if you have been experiencing any of the key signs below. If they sound familiar, it may be time to take the next step and talk to a health professional about how you are feeling. I feel sad or hopeless most of the time.Everyone has bad days, but if you notice your negative feelings are here to stay, there may be a problem—especially if they don’t go away when something good happens, like scoring an A+ on an important test. Feeling sad or hopeless…

Mental Health and International Students: What Educators Need to Know

Mental health issues are prevalent globally, and are one of the leading causes of disability at the workplace and even at school. While not adequately researched, it is well accepted by health care professionals that early intervention could be the key to reducing the burden of psychiatric disorders across an individual’s lifespan. However, there are considerable limitations to implementing early strategies for care. Limitations can be related to individual or societal beliefs about mental health and treatment seeking, diagnostic uncertainty, or systemic issues that result in a lack of resources. On the individual level, you as educators are in a unique position to have a positive impact on the mental health outcomes of your students. Why? For the very basic reason that a student or parent may not be ready to acknowledge the problem or may not be aware that there is a problem. Below are some key behaviours to…

Mental Illness in the Classroom: How Educators Can Help Students Succeed

Teachers are an invaluable resource for facilitating student development academically—and mentally. For educators, mental health is a serious issue that cannot be ignored. In a national survey of over 3,900 Canadian teachers, half of them reported that 10% of students have a mental health issue that is not being addressed, while another 10% have received a formal diagnosis but are not receiving the support they need. And in a recent survey of Ontario school boards, 92% of teachers reported having to deal with a mental health problem, while 93% felt their training had not adequately prepared them to deal with these issues. So, what can you as an educator do when faced with mental health issues in the classroom? Educate yourself before educating others. Studies show that public literacy on mental health matters is poor. There is a lack of understanding of psychiatric terms, failure to recognize symptoms, as well…

Home Away From Home: Helping a Student Understand Cultural Norms in Their New Country

New country, new school, new friends, new home… These are just a few of the adjustments an international student will need to make. Throw into the mix a set of brand new customs and it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. Feelings of acceptance and belonging can significantly affect how well and how quickly a student adapts, but it’s important to understand that a student shouldn’t have to abandon their own traditions in order to integrate. As a homestay parent, you are first-hand representatives of your country’s culture. But be aware that any learning is reciprocal, and you stand to learn just as much from international students as they can from you. Travel the world in your own home Just as two words can have two different meanings, so can actions be perceived in completely different ways. So before your student arrives, try to do some research on cultural norms in…