This mental health support awareness campaign, featuring people with lived-experience and YSSN staff and peers, aims to raise awareness around resources and local supports available to people in crisis or who need help connecting to mental health and addictions services.

This year, we’ve asked our staff and peers to provide their tips and experiences that have helped people get through their mental health challenges and connect them to supports.

Dealing with anxiety and depression? Tips from a peer…

-Jenn, YSSN Peer Support Worker
Let’s talk.  To someone who is experiencing anxiety, depression or in crisis, those two words can be a lifesaver.  As a peer support worker I understand the importance of reaching out and asking for help in those dark times, especially to someone who has had similar experiences with depression and anxiety.

As a peer, I encourage people to speak their truth.  Often individuals first resist talking about their pain as they can often feel ashamed, have feelings of guilt, feelings of being a burden, or just being afraid of what the other person might think of them.  When I share a little about my own pain, and then ask the person if they have ever felt something similar, I often see the other person’s eyes light up and then hear, “Yes!  I feel that too, I thought I was the only one, or I thought I was crazy.”  Then the flood gates open.  When they do open up, I actively listen, give validation and ask them questions.  As the conversation proceeds I often see and feel the relief it brings to the other person.

If they ask what I have done in the past to move through the pain, I offer them these suggestions:

  1. Ask for help. Reach out to someone you trust and can confide in.  Sharing is caring and often it lessens the feeling of loneliness. If you don’t have anyone to talk to contact the crisis line in your area.
  2. Write or draw it out.  Even if you’ve never written anything before, writing down how you feel can shift your mood. If words are not your thing, draw, scribble, paint, colour, sculpt, play an instrument if you can or even if you can’t, take photos, put your creative powers to work to express yourself.  You do not have to be an artist, it’s not about what you create it’s about the process.  Art is a single-pointed focused activity which can help you focus on what you’re doing instead of letting your mind wander through the past or future.
  3. Speaking of being in the present moment!  Meditation and mindfulness has scientifically proven to reduce depression and anxiety.  When we focus on the present moment and not worry about the future or relive the past, we can find peace.
  4. Practicing radical acceptance is key to staying present.  When we accept where we are we actually create more space for positive change. We can see more clearly from an objective perspective which often leads to ideas of how we can move forward with confidence.
  5. Get moving!!! Move your body in a way that feels good for you.  If we spend too much time sitting or lying down, we spend more time in our heads worrying.  Go for a walk, put on some music and dance it out, do yoga.  If you have physical issues, move your body in anyway it allows you too with ease, even if it is just your baby finger tapping to tunes any movement is good movement.  It will help keep you out of your head and in the present moment.
  6. Get outside. If you are able to, get outside and get connected with nature.  Stop and smell the roses!
  7. Stay connected to the people, pets and things you enjoy and love.
  8. Keep it simple.  Often when we are depressed or anxious we feel like we need to solve all the world’s problems by noon.  If you simply show up for yourself and do what need to be done in the moment, no matter what state you are in, your problems will take care of themselves.
  9. Laugh!  At what you say?  At nothing, that’s what makes it so funny.  Laugh for the sake of laughing. Laughter is contagious and if you have to fake it till you make it I guarantee you it will leave a silly smile on your face.

It can be challenging opening up and allowing yourself to be vulnerable and seen, however the benefits are powerful as it creates connection, support, inspiration and healing.  It takes courage and strength and practice.  Be gentle with yourself and practice healthy self-care routines.  Healthy, caring and compassionate relationships are the key to our health and well-being.  The most important thing to remember is you are not alone and we are all in this together.  So…Let’s talk.

Need a mental health boost? Tips from our crisis staff…

-Jill and Kristen, YSSN Crisis Response Workers

Never underestimate the importance of the basics: good sleep hygiene, moderate activity, showering, regular meals and breathe, breathe, breathe!

Simple things that can make a big difference may include:

  1. Expressing gratitude. Start and end day with 3 things that you are grateful for.
  2. Stay in the moment! You can’t change the past and you can’t predict the future. You have today, be present.
  3. Identify where your control lies. Only concern yourself with areas within your control.
  4. Do something that you are really good at! No matter how small it is, it will build your confidence.
  5. Don’t allow the “ Big Picture” to overwhelm you. Break each issue down into small, manageable steps. One step at a time will get you there!
  6. Do something creative! Sing with the radio, colour, paint, dance, write  poem. Whatever interests you.
  7. Look for laughs! Hang out with a funny friend, watch funny videos.
  8. Disconnect, you don’t need to be in contact 24/7. Meditating, walking, even watching tv can give you a much needed break.
  9. Create a coping tool kit that you can take with you. Use a pencil case, make up bag, ziploc bag or whatever works for you and keep things that help you to either distract, ground, or self-soothe. Examples can be a lotion that has your favourite scent to self soothe with smell; a peppermint or tea to self soothe with taste; a photo of people or places that are comforting; a small fidget toy/stress ball; a puzzle or colouring book to distract your thoughts. They are simple things that aren’t going to change the big stressors in life, but can create moments of different, more positive emotions.
  10. Don’t be afraid to speak to someone. It can be anyone, a friend, family member, doctor, or a mental health professional. We are here to listen. In times of crisis, call your local crisis or distress line, we are here to help!

Personal experiences

How my case manager has helped me

~YSSN clients

“My case manager has been very helpful in my situation. They are non-judgmental, friendly, approachable, very supportive and understanding.  You are able to open up to them about your darkest feelings and feel safe doing so.  Working with a case manager has helped me to execute simple day to day tasks which if left to my devices would not get done.  When tasks don’t get completed you can discuss the obstacles that got in your way and they help you to work through them.  Having mental health is very difficult as there much discrimination and misunderstanding around it.  As a result, it is very important to have a case manager to support you so you can realize that you are not alone and have nothing to be ashamed about.”

“I just wanted to thank you again for all of the wonderful things you did for myself and my family. We are truly blessed and the gratitude is immense. You are truly amazing and I feel as if I could shout it from the rooftops.”

Get help right away

~a YSSN client

My story

I witnessed violence growing up for twenty years. It led, as a young adult, to crippling anxiety and depression. My family suffered greatly emotionally and financially.

What I would tell others facing mental health challenges

Don’t feel ashamed.
Anxiety is like a shark on the end of a toy fishing rod. I know tons of ways to cope.
Don’t let it define you. You are safe now; often it’s from past trauma.
You need to heal.
Get lots of hope and help.
Get help right away.
There is no shame in taking your medication; it gave me my life back.

My experience with YSSN programs and services

I would highly recommend your organization and services.  All of your staff are so warm, inspirational, comforting and empowering.

310-COPE has been a Godsend. Your staff is so compassionate and supportive.

I have taken your WRAP® class; it was excellent. I have also participated in other peer events.

Now I’m able to give back

I helped update the York Region on a Limited Budget resource guide. This is a
life changing guide. Through volunteering; I’ve met such lovely staff. They really value, embrace and respect you.

Reach out. There are people that want to help us.

~a YSSN client

My story

It is difficult for me to share the details of my lived experiences, but one thing that has not been broken is my compassion for us all. When I was invited to participate in the shoot the words that I wanted to share were these. People have helped me, thank you people.

What I would tell others facing mental health challenges

My advice to others would be to reach out. There are people that want to help us.

My experience with YSSN programs and services and other community organizations

There are people out there that can help us. I have received help from York Support Services Network (YSSN), Addiction Services York Region, Crosslinks, Canadian Mental Health Association, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Salvation Army, Food Pantry, my family doctor and psychiatrist, as well as, others.

Three times in my life I have had to reach out for help. Each time I started by talking with my doctor and was referred to people who could help me.

My recent experience with YSSN saved my life. Not from suicide or exposure–from Murder! My case manager knew my life situation intimately enough to give me the right advice at the right time. I am alive. Thank you YSSN.

Now I’m able to give back

I have been invited to be a member of the Up Hub Steering Committee and Heart of the Matter Support Group.

My story

I was in bad shape–drug and alcohol addictions, full of fear and seriously depressed–suicidal thoughts, homeless, no friends, feeling totally hopeless.

Then I met someone who connected me to York Support Services Network (YSSN). I called and was able to get a case manager.

What I would tell others facing mental health challenges

YSSN helped me go from hopelessness to where I am today which is no comparison–I’ve never been happier in my life than I am today!

All the agencies and services I was involved with helped me discover who I am and my true potential.

I went from hating myself and the world to liking myself and being proud of what I have accomplished.  I now feel I belong in this world as a productive member of society.

My experience with YSSN programs and services

The YSSN case managers I have been assigned to have helped me in the following ways:
  • Taught me how to manage my finances (e.g. pay rent), and life skills such as doing the laundry, grocery shopping, meal planning, keep track of appointments.
  • Advocated on my behalf to move from receiving Ontario Works to applying for Ontario Disability Support Program and helped me through the appeal process when I was denied at first.
  • Apply for CPP and subsidized housing—which I moved into last year.
  • Linked me to groups, services and programs such as Addictions Services York Region (ASYR), the York Region Abuse Program, the Smoking Cessation program, WRAP®, and Dialectical Behaviour Support.
  • Access OSAP (and negotiate a repayment plan) so that I could attend Everest College, where I received my diploma in the Addiction and Community Services Worker Program.
  • Get through a serious car accident and navigate an insurance settlement case, and overcome the depression and loss of independence that occurred after the accident.
  • Overcome many of my fears and increased my independence immensely to the point I was awarded the DREAM award – for overcoming so many obstacles.
  • Encouraged me even when I couldn’t hold my head up.
  • Coaching around advocating for myself so I am able to navigate many systems on my own now.

Now I’m able to give back

Because of this support I have been able to do facilitation in substance abuse programs NA, AA, and am involved in YSSN’s Up Hub initiative, as well as, the Heart of the Matter Peer Support Group.

Connecting to Services

If you are 16 years of age and older, are struggling with a mental health need and/or addiction, or have a dual diagnosis (mental illness and developmental disability), we can help.

We offer individualized support through our case management, crisis response, and peer support services and can help you connect to community services.

I want to support this campaign!

You can help people facing mental health challenges learn about and get access to more local supports and services by sharing these stories via social media.  You can also help us provide more programs and services to help those in need by making a financial contribution. Please click on the Donate Now button below to support our clients and this important campaign.