Federated Health Charities’ mission is to improve the health and quality of life of all Ontarians by supporting 21 different health charities providing critical services to those experiencing, or affected by, illness. We believe education and prevention are key parts of supporting the health of our communities so our weekly Health Hint series strives to provide tangible and easy to implement hints and tips on how to maintain your health, prevent disease, and enjoy increased quality of life. Check out our latest Health Hint on managing your mental health. We hope you find it helpful. If you would like to join our efforts to support the health of Ontario please consider a donation to Federated Health Charities.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, distressed, or otherwise mentally unwell, there are several resources available where you can reach out for support. Here is a list of organizations that exist to help you:
Telehealth Ontario is a free, confidential service you can call to get health advice or information. A Registered Nurse will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Assistance is available in more than 300 languages. When you call Telehealth, tell them what language you speak and you will be connected to an interpreter. Here is the Telehealth Ontario number: 1-866-797-0000 (toll free).
ConnexOntario provides treatment service information if you have problems with gambling, drugs, alcohol or mental health. You can call toll free: 1-866-531-2600 or try the email or web chat. There is more information on this website: https://www.ontario.ca/page/mental-health-services.
The Canadian Mental Health Association has a website and so does the Government of Ontario. For those living in Toronto, there is also the Distress Centers of Greater Toronto whose number is 416-408-4357.
One of the charities associated with Federated Health Charities, the Institute for the Advancement of Mental Health, also provides support. Their website offers support for individuals, families, and caregivers. You can reach out to one of their counsellors at 1-855-449-9949 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you can see, there are many organizations staffed by wonderful people who want to help you. Your general practitioner (family doctor) is there to provide treatment and assistance with next steps.
Common Cognitive Distortions
Mental health issues can arise because we normalize negative thought patterns that change the way we perceive the world around us. Our perspective becomes biased, leading to irrational thoughts which can be reinforced through repetitive negative feedback loops. These pitfalls or traps have been identified by the medical community and come in many forms. They can be very damaging because they often manifest unconsciously – its difficult to change something you may not even be aware of! Take a look at this site as well as this one (or this one) to read more about them. Let’s take a look at some of the more common cognitive distortions.
1. All-or-Nothing thinking. Do you ever find yourself compartmentalizing people, actions, objects, or events too strictly? If you think of things as either completely positive, or completely negative, or completely something (ugly, clean, etc.), you may have fallen victim to black and white thinking.
2. Filtering. If you focus very strongly on certain details of an event or person (e.g. the negative) while refusing to acknowledge the positive or other aspects involved, you may have a filtered perception of the world around you. This cognitive distortion is similar to all-or-nothing thinking.
3. Overgeneralizing or Global Labelling. If you come to conclusions based on singular events that seem to forever colour your perception of a person (including yourself) or event, you may be overgeneralizing. If you are identifying a single event with a pattern of failure, that is also overgeneralizing.
4. Catastrophizing. If you have a tendency to believe a negative outcome will be much worse than it really is, that is catastrophizing. If you find yourself magnifying the negative outcomes of an event, you may be experiencing this cognitive distortion.
5. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy. This one involves the false belief that extreme sacrifice and self-denial will always pay off. This is an absolutist version of believing in karma. While hard work often times leads to positive outcomes, overworking yourself can lead to burnout (which has its own negative mental and physical health effects) and no cosmic force is keeping score in the universe.
6. Personalization. This is a cognitive distortion where a person believes that everything others do or say is a personal and direct reaction to them. While your behaviour and attitude effect how people interact with you, different people will also have their own personal burdens and communication styles unrelated to yourself; These will undoubtedly effect the way they communicate with you. If you are having trouble separating people from their interactions with you, you may be suffering from Personalization.
Try to think about whether you have succumbed to some of these negative feedback loops. This website has a free worksheet to help you reframe your thinking to escape negative thought patterns. This website as well as this PDF give an overview of basic steps to help identify and challenge your negative thought patterns. Seek help from a medical professional who can walk you through the process of reframing your thoughts in a therapeutic setting. Cognitive behavioural therapy is commonly utilized to help people escape their negative thought patterns to alleviate mental illness.
One of the very useful and well acknowledged practices for alleviating anxiety and other mental health issues is mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness helps to ground the practitioner in the here and now to avoid racing or spiraling thoughts. Especially now during a pandemic when there is much uncertainty in our lives, mindfulness exercises, which are a form of meditation, can help us brave the challenges we face. Here are two resources to help get you started in meditation and mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness works best when practiced regularly and can take as little as a couple of minutes per session.
Remember, many people experience some form of mental health illness in their lifetime. It’s important to take care of yourself, do your best to identify any mental health issues, and get help so you can enjoy your life!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our latest Health Hint!
Written by Jennifer Nemcik
NOTE: This article is intended to provide general health tips based on available research. You should consult with a health care professional for specific medical and dietary instructions that are right for you.