Some people worry about asking for help because there can be stigma around mental health problems. They may believe that asking for help means admitting that something is wrong. Asking for help means that you want to make changes or take steps towards your new health goals. We should celebrate the courage it takes to speak up and make changes. Getting help is part of recovery.
Recovery can mean many different things. Some people see recovery as going back to their daily life before signs of a health problem. Other people see recovery as learning to live well, contributing to a community, and building relationships while living with the challenge of a health problem. Recovery is a process or journey rather than a single end goal. A support team can help you on your way—no one should ever have to follow their journey entirely on their own.
Former Kitchener Rangers Coach, Troy Smith, encourages you to build your team: “On the ice, you can’t win hockey games as individuals; you need to build your team. This same principle applies to life as well. Don’t do it alone.”
Building your team
The first steps may be the toughest, but knowing where to look for help is a good start. Here are good places to begin building your team:
- Talk with supportive friends and family. Share your feelings with them and let them be part of your team. This can be scary, but think about the people in your life who love you and can help start building your team.
- Talk to your family doctor. They are a great resource and can link you to other professionals, if needed. Make sure they are aware of any mental illness or suicides that are part of your family’s history. Just like we tell our family doctor about physical illness histories, we need to do the same with mental health histories.
- Connect with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) for information, support, and services.
- Call Here 24/7 at 1-844-437-3247 to get more information about resources available and to help link you to important resources.
- Connect with others who have personal experience with a mental illness and learn more about their recovery journey. You can do this through Self Help & Peer Support, a division of CMHA WW.
- Talk with a member or leader you trust from your faith or cultural group.
Members of the team
The exact people on your support team will depend on your situation and your goals, but most teams include some combination of the following people.
Your family doctor will assess your needs, rule out other causes, work with you to plan a course of action, support you in selecting other team members, and monitor progress. Some service providers, like psychiatrists, can only be accessed through a family doctor. This process is called a referral.
In Ontario, family doctors are registered with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO). CPSO has a “Doctor Search” tool available here.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor with a specialty in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. They can prescribe medication and use counselling to support recovery. You usually need a referral from your family doctor to see a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists’ fees are covered by provincial and territorial health plans.
Psychologists are trained to assess, diagnose and treat mental health problems and disorders. They hold a masters or doctoral degree in psychology and usually within a specific specialty area or areas like clinical psychology or clinical neuropsychology. A psychologist cannot prescribe medications. Their expertise includes psychological testing and assessment of emotional and cognitive functions, the diagnosis of emotional and cognitive disorders and the use of evidence-based psychological treatments and psychotherapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). When a psychologist is employed by a public institution like a hospital, school or correctional facility, their services are covered by the public health system. When a psychologist practices in the community, however, their services are typically not covered by public health insurance plans. However, they are usually covered by an extended health insurance plan you may have through work. You can make an appointment with a psychologist in the community on your own without a doctor’s referral.
In Ontario, psychologists are part of the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO). CPO has a public register of its members, which can be accessed here.
Registered or certified counsellors or psychotherapists (such as a Registered Professional Counsellor, Registered Clinical Counsellor or Registered Psychotherapist) are trained to assess mental health problems and use different forms of counselling or other methods. This often includes teaching different skills to help improve well-being. Counsellors are not medical doctors and can’t prescribe medications. You can make an appointment with a counsellor on your own—you don’t need a doctor’s referral. A counsellor’s fees are not covered under all provincial or territorial health plans. Ask your private insurance company or workplace benefits provider if they cover services provided by a counsellor.
There are many different counselling agencies available in our community including larger organizations such as Camino Mental Health + Wellbeing, Lutherwood’s Children’s Mental Health, Shalom, Porchlight Counselling & Addictions Services, and more! There are also many independent counselors in our community. If you are overwhelmed by options and don’t know where to start, you can ask family and friends for referrals. Remember, the most important piece is finding a counsellor you can trust and build a relationship with. If the first counsellor is not a good fit, don’t give up; find one that you feel comfortable with.
There are many different professionals who can assist you with your recovery process and support your goals. If you’re seeing a care provider, they may suggest that you team up with other mental health professionals such as a nurse, social worker, or occupational therapist. Art therapists, music therapists, naturopaths can also be members of your support team.
Support Groups and Peer Supporters
Support groups are a safe place to share your experiences, learn from others, and connect with people who understand what you’re going through. Some support groups are formal groups led by a mental health professional, while others are more casual groups of peers. Peer supporters are trained to provide support and understanding, help people navigate the mental health system, link people with community services, and support work towards personal goals. Peer supporters are people who have experiences of mental illness or support a loved one. Contact Self Help & Peer Support, a division of CMHA WW.
Reference: Canadian Mental Health Association, www.cmha.ca