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Knowing the signs and getting help — Mental Health Week

This week is Mental Health Week.
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To help us better understand how the pandemic has affected our mood, the difference between self-care and treatment, and when we should be seeking professional help, Dr. Jane Sun, the director of interprofessional practice at BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, and Dr. Nick Mathew, the medical director for complex mental health and substance use, share some insights.

Why has the pandemic changed my mood?


“The pandemic has affected people’s mental health through an increase in low mood, anxiety and nervousness. This makes complete sense given we’re losing people we care about, we’re not able to engage in hobbies or in our social supports and for some of us, we’re working a lot more or a lot less than we’re used to. If people feel they need help, they can first reach out to family or friends and if they need more help, talking a family doctor or calling a support hotline or making an appointment with a counsellor is the next step.”

What’s the difference between self-care and getting help for a mental health issue?


“One of the differences between self-care and treatment is that self-care can be thought of as ways to build up resiliency to help deal with stressors big and small, steps like going for walks. Treatment is more for targeting specific symptoms that have become overwhelming or unmanageable, taking steps like speaking with a family doctor or counsellor.”

When should I get professional help?


“If you’re noticing changes in your mood or your ability to control your substance use, we recommend you get treatment. There’s no shame in getting help. If you had a wound, you wouldn’t hesitate to speak with your doctor. An untreated wound like an untreated mental illness can lead to greater problems down the road.” 

Where can I go to get help?


“Many people don’t know you can go to any family physician to get help with your mental health issues. A family doctor can help you by creating a treatment plan that is individualized to your needs that would include things like talk-therapies or medication. They could even refer you to a psychiatrist if necessary. If you don’t have a family doctor, you can visit a walk-in clinic.”

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