Health

Taking Care of Your Mental Health

Seeking help for a mental health issue is not always easy. When you hurt yourself or get the flu, the symptoms are visible and the cure is familiar. A mental health problem is not as clear-cut, so this makes the situation much harder to gauge. Sometimes you (or others) might believe that it’s not that bad, that you just aren’t strong enough, or even that you’re imagining the whole thing. The truth is, stress is normal and experienced by everyone—especially in situations like coming to a new country, meeting lots of new people, or facing your final exams. But if you’re beginning to feel bad more often than you feel good—or if you are having trouble controlling these negative emotions—then it may be time to do something about it. How can I tell if it’s time to seek help? We’ve compiled a list of signs that could indicate something…

Why Your ‘Invincible’ Kids Aren’t All That Invincible

This Spring Break, Consider My Story before Your Kids Drive Off into the Sunset I’ll never forget the car crash I was in so many years ago. I was just 17, and it had been barely a year since I had passed my driver’s test. It was a summer’s evening, the sun had already set, and a soft rain was hitting my windshield. A mix of hot and cool had produced a foggy mist that didn’t seem to be affecting my visibility. I realized how wrong I was when something I couldn’t make out suddenly appeared on the road a few car lengths ahead of me. I slammed on the brakes before I even had time to process what the object was, but still, I hit it—a car, without its hazard lights on, unmoving in the middle of my lane. I wouldn’t hold it against you if you assumed that,…

Keeping Your Heart Warm

February is heart month, a good time to take stock of our both our physical and emotional hearts. This month, we are lucky to have two opportunities for celebrating the people who make our hearts beat a little faster: Valentine’s Day and, in some provinces, Family Day…

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…

Fighting the Winter Blues

After the holiday season has passed, it’s not unusual to feel a little blue. However, people who are affected by the lack of sunlight during the winter months might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)…

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…

Should Canadian Snowbirds Care About Obamacare?

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you will have heard more than you wish from the US media about Obamacare. Officially known as the Affordable Care Act, the ACA promises to “reform” the way health care is provided and paid for in the US, provide insurance coverage for the uninsured, and restrain the costs of health care overall. 

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…

Be Careful With Medical Questionnaires

The great majority of Canadian snowbirds are likely to have some medical conditions they are either monitoring, treating, or for which they are taking medications: high blood pressure, high cholesterol,an unpredictable gall bladder, asthma, lung or breathing deficit, and so on. It’s part of enjoying their “Golden Years.” That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t travel or spend several winter months in the sun, out of the range of snow drifts.  Travel insurance is available to virtually anyone except those who have been declared terminal or have certain conditions such as HIV/AIDS, some aggressive cancers, and a handful of other quite rare conditions in advanced stages. With snowbirds expected to make close to one million trips south this winter, travel insurers have to spread their net wide to get as many of them signed up for coverage as they can, and that means offering flexible terms to the hundreds of…

No Hip Replacements on Travel Insurance

I hear it all the time: “Why can’t I get my hip replacement done in Florida? It’s going to take me a year to get it in Canada.”

It’s a common complaint from patients being stabilized in U.S. hospitals until they can get home and join the wait list for hips, knees, heart bypasses, any number of chronic conditions.
They know they can be treated right where they are—in Arizona, Texas, Florida, California—but travel insurers  will not approve the procedures.