Rajpreet Lotay’s father worked in construction for 50 years.
“Right now he struggles with a mental illness,” the education lead, mental health promotion with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Peel Dufferin, described during a safety breakfast held at the Highlight Condos site in Mississauga, Ont. marking Safety Week and Mental Health Week.
“Most days he wins but a lot of it was not talking about it for years. Now he is on medication daily, trying to get better. He regrets not ever talking about it early on.
“It’s really important that we do these things because I’m telling you right now the research shows that it can create a permanent effect on somebody if you don’t get the help.”
Some tell tale signs of someone in need of help include fatigue, lack of focus, self-medicating, anger and irritability, not being able to sleep or sleeping way too much, and the inability to bounce back when you’re having a problem.
“What do we do when our mental health starts to plummet? We don’t take care of ourselves and what happens? That leads to long-term diagnoses like depression or anxiety or bipolar disorder,” she explained. “You can also have something called a concurrent disorder which means that there is a mental illness happening at the same time as a substance use problem.”
“The important thing is that we can’t escape, whether you would like to admit it or not…talking about mental health. We can’t escape being affected by mental health.”
In any given year in Canada, one in five people will be diagnosed with a mental illness. That doesn’t include the people that don’t get help, Lotay said.
“Just like we take care of our physical health, we also need to take care of our mental health,” said Lotay. “Getting help does not mean that you are weak…it’s actually the opposite, which means that you are aware of what is going on and that you need additional help. Just like if you were having chest pain you would seek help for that I would hope, or you hurt your leg at work.”
She also explained the difference between mental health and mental illness.
“With mental illness, this is when your mental health is not in a good place for a long time,” Lotay noted. “The time range that we usually give is two weeks or more. When your mental health, which means our mood, our feeling, our ability to handle problems, when it dips down and stays down for a long time…that is when we say that those are kind of the warning signs that maybe somebody needs help.”
A lot of people go through difficult times but if there is no support or access to services mental health will start deteriorating.
“If somebody comes to you and they tell you, ‘Lately I’ve been having a hard time, I’ve been struggling, I’m not doing so well,’ what’s the response?” Lotay asked.
“‘Hey man it’s OK, man up, everything’s OK, let’s keep moving forward.’ What happens to that person? What happens to their mental health? It goes down, it plummets.
“What we need to do is we need to have conversations, we need to normalize it especially with men in mental health.
“If you are the person that is struggling, it’s OK for you to share that with someone you feel comfortable sharing that with,” she added. “I’m not asking you to share that with the whole group, but I am asking you to at least share that a little with somebody that you feel comfortable with. If you don’t feel comfortable with anyone that’s OK.”
CMHA Peel Dufferin has a 24-hour crisis line eligible to anyone who lives and works in Peel Region.
What does help look like?
“Help can be calling a crisis line,” said Lotay. “Help can also look like a hobby…like making an appointment with a family doctor, telling them about your symptoms and what you’ve been struggling with and getting an appointment with a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Help can also look like taking medication. I’m not saying everyone needs to be on medication.
“Just like you would take medication for your heart disease, just like you would take medication for diabetes, some people take medicine for mental illness.”
Another option is therapy.
“Not everyone has mental illness but everyone definitely has mental health,” Lotay said. “If you don’t take care of it with hobbies, with family, with friends, with talking to a doctor, you are at risk for a mental illness.”
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