• Health

    Misunderstanding autism

    The cultural narrative of autism  The current narrative of autism in today’s culture is wrong, according to a growing number of advocates.  “I think a lot of people get stuck in this very narrow, medical model of disability that really doesn’t work well when talking about autistic people,” says Harmon Pope, an Ontario-based autism advocate. The “medical model” Pope references is a body of research and advocacy efforts from the past several decades that suggests autism should be treated like a disease. More specifically, a disease that should be cured, despite it not being viewed as a disease by experts. Even still, great efforts have been made to “cure” autism…

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    Safe at home 

    Cindy Hershal*, an English major studying at the University of Toronto (U of T), has always struggled with anxiety. She dealt with social anxiety and the fear of public speaking throughout all of elementary and secondary school.  When Hershal had her first panic attack during class, things began to spiral. Feeling lightheaded, dizzy and short of breath, she abruptly left the classroom. Hershal found a private washroom to be alone and calm her nerves.  The terror was visceral.  “I thought I was going to die. Or just completely lose my grip on reality. It was so scary,” she says. This first attack left Hershal frightened about it happening again. She…

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    Navigating depression and anxiety in youth

    According to researchers at Youth Mental Health Canada, around 1.2 million youth in Canada suffer from mental illness. Only about 20 per cent receive appropriate treatment such as support from mental health services.  Statistics Canada also reports that Canadians aged 15 to 24 have the highest rate of depression. Roughly a quarter of deaths in this age group are caused by suicide.   Depression and anxiety are among the most common disorders that affect youth. In more severe cases, either can lead to consequences like isolation or death. In fact, most of those affected don’t receive proper help.  Options like exercising frequently or talking to a therapist can be inaccessible and…

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    Detachment from reality as a coping mechanism

    People space out from time to time, especially while doing everyday activities. Daydreaming becomes part of daily life—washing the dishes, attending a meeting or the morning commute to work. It’s an entirely innocent escape from what is happening in front of a person and is caused by someone being lost in their thoughts while awake.    However, some people go into an entirely different realm when they detach from what is happening in front of them. When this feeling becomes frequent and intense, this could be a result of someone experiencing dissociation.  A 2021 article by WedMD says that dissociation is a complete disconnect from reality as well as a person’s…

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    Finding solace in solitude

    When people hear the word loneliness, they often associate it with a negative connotation.  Feeling lonely can be uncomfortable due to the social pressures of having friends to talk to and do activities with.  Alone time is looked down on because people are naturally social creatures. People desire companionship throughout their lives, so the thought of being alone can seem unnatural. But being lonely is a frame of mind, because it’s more about feeling alone than actually being alone. It causes people to feel undesired by others, and it is this mindset that makes it even more difficult to venture out and seek human connection. In other words, loneliness can…

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    Disconnecting online to reconnect offline

    When Alyssa Alibaksh entered the workforce in 2020, she had never expected to be working from home and spending most of her time on digital devices. Not only was she online for seven to eight hours a day for work, but she also found herself looking at screens a lot during her free time.  “I end up going from one screen to another and even though the other half of my day is spent looking at things just randomly and leisurely and not anything focused on work, it’s still a great amount of time spent staring at a screen,” says Alibaksh, who works as a communications specialist at a bank. …

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    When PMSing takes an extreme turn

    If you’ve been menstruating for a while, you’ve probably experienced premenstrual syndrome (PMS) at some point.   PMS affects up to 75 per cent of menstruating individuals, according to a report published by UpToDate. It causes physical and behavioural symptoms, like fatigue and irritability, that will usually begin during the 14th day of a menstrual cycle and can last until seven days after the start of menstruation.  Usually the symptoms are mild or moderate, but for some these symptoms can be much more serious. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of PMS that causes symptoms and intervenes with daily functioning.  Here is some information to learn more about PMDD,…

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    Functioning, but barely

    Over the years, the mental health community has stretched and expanded to support people with a variety of mental health issues. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) says that one in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem in their life. Youth continue to take the biggest hit, as roughly 10 to 20 per cent of Canadian youth are affected by mental health problems.  The mental health community should be all-inclusive, but the reality is that it can leave the potential for some issues to fall by the wayside. Once a mental health problem is socially neglected, those who suffer from that problem may feel confused about what they…

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    Picture this: therapy, without the costs

    Emotions can be complex and puzzling, and not only affect your daily life but your outlook on the world around you. Sometimes, whirling thoughts can cause a state of brain fog and make it hard to put your emotions into words. This can be especially difficult when you try to address your mental health issues through traditional therapy that involves talking with a professional.  Luckily, there’s an alternative to the one-on-one therapy method: art therapy. Resources to Recover defines art therapy as a personal therapeutic session dedicated to using the visual arts as the main treatment tool. It puts a literal meaning to facing your problems. Don’t worry about not…

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    Choosing the right birth control method

    Did you know that a common birth control method used in ancient Egypt involved crocodile poop?  Yes, you read that correctly.  Ancient Egyptians would mix crocodile poop together with some other ingredients to create a blocking device that was then inserted into the vagina as a way to prevent pregnancy. The jury is still out on whether or not this technique actually had any medical merit (maybe a lack of willing research participants?). Today we’re lucky to have a wide selection when it comes to birth control methods, none of which involve any type of animal poop.  Read ahead to learn about the available options and decide which one works…

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    Safe places to fall apart

    Beige tote bags with the print “mental health over everything” lined the table outside of the entrance of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s auditorium on the night of Nov. 1, 2021.  Guests arriving to see Rosa Laborde’s True—a play about the traumatic effects that alcoholism and domestic violence can have on a family—were offered self-care bags that included resources such as tissues, a note pad, pen, a bag of stress relief tea and a stone engraved with the word “hope.”  True is one of the many pieces involved in Rendezvous with Madness Festival (RVWM)—an annual event that shines a light on mental health through art installations, educational workshops,…

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    Passion jobs versus healthcare benefits 

    In Canada, many services like vision care, dental care and pain management like physiotherapy are not covered by provincial insurance plans. This is also the case for prescription drug coverage.  Some people need help with extra healthcare costs more than others. For example, people who require medications may need assistance with costs, as well as someone in need of frequent dental work and vision care.  This has led to some Canadian artists taking on two or even three jobs to fulfil different needs. One job may be an artistic “passion job” that brings joy and a sense of purpose, while other jobs may be imperative to gain access to healthcare…

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    Embracing the child within

    Everyone’s childhood is different. Some people have fond memories of running through a sprinkler on a hot day, playing with siblings and creating recollections that form their behaviours and personalities at an early age. However, as a person grows up and enters early adulthood they are often told to be professional, more mature and to suppress that child-like nature that made them who they are. This suppressed child-like nature is referred to as the “inner child.” The concept was created by psychiatrist Carl Jung, who says that everyone has an inner child.  A person’s inner child is the part of themselves that was created during their early stages of life.…

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    Reclaiming the narrative of mental health

    Nobody can know.  Alexandra Grifone still remembers her parents’ reaction when her middle school guidance counsellor suggested that she should attend therapy to deal with their divorce. They were adamant that nobody could find out, especially other family members.  “They viewed it as embarrassing,” Grifone says. “It was kind of seen as a weakness, as something you wouldn’t be proud of.” Growing up, her parents’ lack of understanding around mental illness left her without the tools or outlets to properly understand what she was going through.  She says that the media’s negative portrayal of mental illness strongly influenced her parents’ conceptualization of the topic, such as the ways in which…

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    Looking inward

    “I struggled a lot with derealization and depersonalization in my teenage years,” says 21-year-old Lisa-Sophie Berthold, an architecture student from Munich, Germany. “Since then, whenever my head starts feeling cloudy, I make a conscious effort for more self-awareness and evaluate what I can do to feel more like I actually belong to the world instead of just walking on it.”  Self-awareness is defined as the ability to examine oneself with objectivity. Having a high level of self-awareness allows people to understand their strengths and weaknesses, and make better decisions in life based on self-knowledge.  Berthold says that going to the gym has been a beneficial practice for her. “Whenever I…

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    Seasonal depression: the not-so-colourful side to the changing seasons

    Many people look forward to fall and winter because of the aesthetic of sweater weather, hot drinks, snuggling up on the couch with a book or watching seasonal movies.  Although these elements of the chilly months are wonderful, the changing of seasons can be daunting for some people. The transition into the fall or winter can bring focus to negative aspects like the early dark evenings and the dry, freezing blizzards. A person’s environment has the ability to affect their mood and well being. The changing seasons can result in not wanting to leave bed and having little energy to do any activity at all.  Those that face the changing…

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    The slippery slope of sleepless nights

    Sleep is something that everyone needs and yet many people do not get enough of it. During the pandemic, there has been plenty of time to binge-watch Netflix in bed until the early hours of the morning or pull an all-nighter for an exam the next day. But these habits throw off our body clock and can cause people to fall asleep late and wake up even later.  Here are some basic tips you can follow to repair your sleep schedule from Toronto-based sleep specialists Dr. Colin Shapiro and Dr. John Peever. Get in tune with your body clock The term “body clock” is just another name for the circadian…

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    From overwhelmed to reinvigorated

    As the semester begins, it is easy to become caught up in the hectic mess of essays, quizzes and other assignments. This can especially be the case when juggling other responsibilities such as jobs and personal matters. The term “burnout” was first coined by German psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger in 1974. He defined burnout as a work-related condition in which individuals experience exhaustion, depression and an overall disinterest in everyday function. Recent University of Toronto graduate J. Wang found himself grappling with these symptoms during his time in school, particularly the loss of motivation. “Not wanting to attend classes, being unable to focus and disassociating from my body,” he says.…

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    One size does not fit all

    Lindsay Dobson, program coordinator at Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre in Ottawa, saw a dramatic increase in clients registering for support group services in summer 2021.  Hopewell is a support centre that offers low-cost accessible services such as group therapy and arts and yoga classes. They also offer educational programs for both those struggling with an eating disorder, as well as friends and family members who are affected. Dobson says that the day she opened online registration to the public, the spots were filled in less than 24 hours.  “Before COVID there was already a high demand for support. Now there is even more,” she says. “This is not going…

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    Steering friends through rough waters

    Earlier this year, high school student Sophia Ruselle noticed a shift in her close friend’s behaviour.  Her friend was withdrawn and distant. He had no motivation, his outlook on life had become hopeless, he was always sleeping and his moods were all over the place.  Ruselle recognized that her friend was suffering from depression. When he began to self-harm, she notified his family before the situation could escalate.  She knew all too well the seriousness of untreated depression. In November of last year, she attempted to take her own life. Her suicide attempt was a culmination of the stress invoked by the frequent lockdowns and school closures.  A study conducted…

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    Bubblegum cartridges and popcorn lungs

    Throughout her childhood, Adriana Bellisomo, 18, watched her mother struggle to quit smoking cigarettes. When her mother finally kicked the habit, she made Bellisomo promise to never smoke. And for a while that was an easy promise to keep. Most of her friends found cigarettes to be dirty, so the temptation never formulated.  Then her friends began to boast about their vibrant vaping devices and liquid cartridges full of delectable flavours like bubblegum and sour berry. Bellisomo was intrigued—these seemed so different from the smelly, cancer causing sticks she had watched her mother puff on. These didn’t feel dangerous or dirty, they felt cool. She wasn’t alone; a study conducted…

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    Travelling with Type 1 Diabetes

    I first started travelling when I took a gap year in between high school and college. It was 2015 and I had moved to Whistler, B.C., to work selling ski passes for the mountain. From there, I was hooked. In the years since, I have visited nine different countries and countless cities.  However, a change came in March 2019, when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I spent three days in the intensive care unit (ICU) to bring down my blood sugar after my body had entered Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), which is a complication of diabetes that happens when your body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones.…

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    Exploring the benefits of being outdoors

    Have you ever wondered why going on a camping trip or spending a weekend at the cottage is so alluring? Why, even during the government’s stay at home orders, a daily walk was not only encouraged, but called a necessity? There is scientific evidence that shows the myriad of physical and mental health benefits of spending time outside.  Mental health issues continue to plague the country, with stress and anxiety on the rise due to the impacts of COVID-19. Statistics Canada released the results of their online questionnaire which showed the decline of mental well-being amongst the general population. The results reported that youth, ages 15 to 24, are suffering the most with almost…

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    Police wellness checks are in need of a change

    Police wellness checks are performed when someone whose mental health or well-being are a potential danger to themselves or others. Officers are called to assess the person’s mental health, as well as to ensure that the person’s living situation is healthy and stable.  However, more often than not, wellness checks become violent — and not just at the hands of the vulnerable person. Dr. Taslim Alani-Verjee, a psychologist and the founder and director of Slim Centre for Mental Health in Toronto, said she thinks that police should not be the ones conducting these wellness checks. “I definitely think it shouldn’t be police,” she said. “It’s not their jobs. I think…

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    Kind Mind | Felt for many, managed by few: Why is the impact of childhood trauma being ignored?

    Kind Mind is a health and wellbeing column committed to sharing stories of recovery, transformation, healing and hope. Columnist Simone Côté is a Master of Arts in Education and Society graduate from McGill University. Her Master’s thesis focused on art and wellness. A personal essay by Simone Côté It took me the majority of my Master’s program to figure out why so many young people are at such a great risk for mental health problems. Other people often agreed with me about the severity of the issue, but, like myself, weren’t able to give scientific language to the problem. At one point in my research, I had discovered that not…

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    Bell: Let’s talk about what Bell won’t talk about

    January 2020 marked the 10th anniversary of Bell Media’s mental health awareness campaign, Bell Let’s Talk, which has fundraised over $100 million. The trend-setting hashtag #BellLetsTalk maximized the virulent nature by which information spreads on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, to create over a million interactions on the topic. The awareness campaign has set new records on the sheer amount of discussions about mental health awareness and curation held in the decade that the hashtag began trending. Some people, however, feel that the success of the campaign is a poisoned fruit and suspect the true motives in which Bell launched the campaign to be less than altruistic. Bell…

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    Kind Mind | Pandemic possibilities: Paving a career path (while maintaining wellbeing) during COVID-19

    Kind Mind is a health and wellbeing column committed to sharing stories of recovery, transformation, healing and hope. Columnist Simone Côté is a recent Master of Arts in Education and Society graduate from McGill University whose Master’s thesis focused on art and wellness. The ongoing reality which today’s youth find themselves in is unsettling and increasingly stressful. Throw in a pandemic, and we’ve arrived at the present day. Statistics Canada says youth employment continues to lag behind in Canada’s COVID-19 economic recovery. Unemployment remained high in September, with its rate currently sitting about ten per cent lower than what it was in Feb. 2020. Recent research from Elsevier publishing highlights the negative psychological…

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    PASS Inc. creates ‘gap product’ for mental health care

    While it is common to see first aid kits for physical health, it is not as common to see first aid kits for mental health. This is where Tina Chan’s company, PASS Inc., comes in handy.  PASS — which stands for Panic, Anxiety, Stress, Support — aims to provide physical resources catered to mental health, through their PASS kits. “[The kits are] inspired by the idea of the physical, traditional first aid kits that were always there in workplaces and especially schools, to treat in the moment, non-severe burns, cuts and wounds,” said Chan, who is also pursuing a master’s degree at the School of Public Health and Health Systems at…

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    Counselling only goes so far: How art hives can be effective mental health tools

    Kind Mind Introducing Kind Mind, a health and wellbeing column committed to sharing stories of recovery, transformation, healing and hope. Columnist Simone Côté is a recent Master of Arts in Education and Society graduate from McGill University whose Master’s thesis focused on art and wellness. Throughout the years, my counsellors have always commended me on how actively I engage in my treatment, how willing I was to try what they recommended. Journaling, scrutinizing negative self-talk with opposing evidence, listening to music I enjoy, creative writing, meditation, yoga — these were all things I practised in order to work out the intense trauma-based fear responses I had learned in childhood. It…

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    Staying active while staying home

    Most colleges and universities in Ontario are holding all classes online during fall semester, which means that post-secondary students won’t have easy access to school gyms or reason to walk around campuses. Much of Ontario moved to Stage 3 of reopening in late July, which allowed gyms to reopen. However, many students normally use school gyms, and some may feel uncomfortable going to public gyms, for risk of their own or their family members’ health. As classes resumed online this month, many students are spending their days doing coursework from home.  That makes it crucial for students to stay active, says Jess Takimoto, a third-year commerce student at Queen’s University…