Brittany: Hello, my name is Brittany Ramgolam and I am in my first year at York University. I am taking Research for Professional Writers and I am doing this podcast to decide whether using alternative methods is better or if talking to a counsellor is better. With my personal experience of dealing with mental health issues I can conclude that you get the best results while using both methods simultaneously with some sort of routine. To help me decide I have interviewed Jennifer Mackenzie who is a social worker in downtown Toronto.
*Start first interview*
Brittany: What motivated you to become a social worker?
Jennifer: Umm I think it was a lot of things that directed me to go into social work I think first and foremost my compassion to working with people. I’m a people person, I love people and I love working with people. I’ve always been an advocate from a young age for different populations and I think that kind of happened through education.
Brittany: So when you talk with your clients, sometimes they can be prescribed with certain medications and sometimes do you talk with them about alternative methods in dealing with their problems.
Jennifer: I think when we are looking into addressing their problems there’s a variety of treatments and philosophies if you will or approaches that we can, you know, work from and use to support these individuals. I think what’s most important is that an individual has choice and autonomy and an understanding and awareness of different approaches. Medication certainly comes from someone with a pharmaceutical background and is something we often think about with treatment, but it is not something I would say is the cookie cutter approach to solutions of mental health. It could be a piece of a treatment plan but there are many, many you know, different things and programs that are working for the mental health population and medication is not the magic wand. They can be helpful they can improve someone’s quality of life and allow them to be apart of day to day activities that they might not have been able to without it, but a goal is to stop the use. We have to make sure we are looking at all the ways in addressing mental health and ensuring that individuals are connected. I really, really look at how isolation manifests some symptoms when they are not connected and involved. We support them in different compacities and how things can manifest. Im always an advocate for an individual to have choice to be informed, to be educated in terms of approaches and treatments and to have that support so that they can have a safe space to talk about their mental health free of stigma. That’s really important and hard to find sometimes—
Brittany: It is—
Jennifer: And it think its really important in creating that safe space as well as the judgement creates unease it is apart of that safe space—
Brittany: Of course—
Jennifer: And meet the individuals where they are at. If you have an individual who is on medication and not enjoying their experience and isn’t appreciating sleeping most of the day and not being able to feel emotion and getting stuck with that and not feeling good about that. I gotta explore alternative options and changing the medication and that could be a bunch of things and actually hear what’s going on here and what you’re working with. Where they are at and where they see themselves and where they want to go. Right? Not what I think they should be doing but what in fact it is.
Brittany: I’m basing my podcast on an article called Run, Swim, Cook: The New Prescription for Happiness. What do you think about that title?
Jennifer: Run, Swim—
Brittany: And Cook: The New Prescription for Happiness.
Jennifer: I think you’re tapping into healthy coping strategies you could also look at them as self care insulators like exercise and cooking and these are all important things. You know, we could look at them proactively and look at them as healthy coping strategies. I mean, that is a great start and its important to look at all those. We are looking into those and mindfulness and maybe have a positive impact so yeah I think its great. Mental health really is a bunch of things. So, running, swimming, and what was the other sorry—
Brittany: Run, Swim, and Cook—
Jennifer: I think these are life skills too; and I think that is really important cause we are really seeing not really seeing many life skills as we saw historically so we really want to kind of bridge those and teach those and gain new skills. These skills are important for stability for future success. These are insulators into living independently. So I think that should absolutely be a priority. We want you to be successfully you need life skills too—
Brittany: Of course.
*End first interview*
Brittany: That was Jennifer Mackenzie answering a few questions that I had about the topic of mental health and what works best with it. In the end, it is client’s decision on what route they want to take to being healthy. If the medications are not working, then the therapist has to figure out a different way to help them son that they can eventually have a life that they want to live.
Brittany: Mental health can really be something that’s hard to work with. Sometimes medication doesn’t work, sometimes somebody needs a change in their medication. A change in dosage or how many times a day. Some people refuse to take it because of a stigma and that is really difficult to work with because the therapist, counsellor or whoever does know what to do for their client, but the client does not comply with what the therapist believes is best for them. Because, again, there is a stigma. And at the other end of the spectrum some people believe that when they are sitting at home doing their alternative methods that it is actually helping them. However, they do not see that they are actually declining. They need that extra push that extra help when it comes to dealing with their mental health. When you are using an alternative method, you are masking the problem you are not really helping yourself. You are just pretending that just cooking, just running, just swimming; for examples, are working. However, in the end they are not working as much as a person with a mental health issue thinks they work.
Brittany: I wanted another opinion, so I reached out and interviewed my old high school counsellor Sharmin Hasan. I spoke to her for three years, because of our experience the conversation started with a mini therapy session for me and with that I realized that it never ends. There is always work to be done when it comes to the mind and the more you work on it the better it becomes. If you stop it then the issues can arise again and sometimes it can be more prominent depending on how bad it was the first time around.
*Start second interview*
Brittany: I am with Sharmin Hasan who is a—
Sharmin: Counsellor at Lester B. Pearson.
Brittany: What made you want to be a counsellor here?
Sharmin: Well, I’ve always wanted to work with children and youth in some way. Before working at the school board, I was working in a treatment agency doing counselling in conjunction with a psychologist providing therapy. I realized that it was really unstructured role and it required time and I wanted to use my skills in something that was more structured so I love school and thought it would be ideal if I provide counselling to students.
Brittany: Okay. So, lets gets started on the questions. How often do you speak with people who have been diagnosed with a specific mental health disorder?
Sharmin: I would say on a daily basis. Most of my students who are referred to me do either have a mental illness or are in the progress of getting a diagnosis or it is unidentified. Sometimes it is very difficult for young people to seek support in getting a diagnosis so I also do a lot of not intervention just proactive engaging with them so that they can engage in the process of getting medical help.
Brittany: Do you often talk to your clients about alternative methods on how to cope with their said mental health issue?
Sharmin: Absolutely, that is part of my role. Is to explore alternative measures cause not always medication is the answer. Its coping with adversity so looking at holistic approaches, nutrition, exercise, certain specific coping strategies including mindfulness meditation. So those pieces are really important because it allows you to sustain and allows you to expand your ability to deal with adversity.
Brittany: Do you think that students should seek alternative methods on their own or do you think it is better if they get additional help?
Sharmin: Well, sometimes, its good to have support. Sometimes its really good to have a forum to talk things through and realize that an alternative methods can be useful and even if that specific method is not useful. Its healthy and important for the young person to discuss why it was not helpful and not to give up and explore others. So I think being a young person its beneficial to speak to someone so they are not giving up. Not every method will work for everyone so it is usually useful to explore other methods.
Brittany: What is the most useful coping method?
Sharmin: In terms of what?
Brittany: In terms of a student dealing with their mental health issues. Like which one do you think has worked more often?
Sharmin: I would say mindfulness, mindful body scans, I would say future journaling; writing to yourself and looking at it from a future perspective. Nutrition, definitely right? What we know is that a lot of our serotonin produced in the gut connected to the vagus nerve, so it is really important that we are aware of our nutrition because it does impact our life.
Brittany: What is the best way to deal with somebody’s mental health issue? Medication? Dealing with it alone? Talking to a counsellor/therapist? Etc.
Sharmin: There’s no
standardized answer for this because most times it is a combination. What we know in literature is that medication alone is never enough. So medication in conjunction with therapy in conjunction with physical activity is needed to sustain a balance. Sometimes you can be on medication but there can be an adversity that can be very triggering. Medication cannot fix the imbalance of coping so talking to a therapist is also very useful because you are able to not only bring up your concern but also explore with someone in a very supportive role. So you’re not feeling alone.
Brittany: How effective is talking to a counsellor?
Brittany: How is working with teenagers different from working with adults?
Sharmin: So, working with teenagers is a lot different than working with adults because sometimes there is resistance. Sometimes they don’t really realize that their adaptive patters impairs their function. For example they might not realize that their heavy substance use prevents them from attending classes compared to adults they are aware of what their target problem is and have to try to change and they are more willing. They are able to follow through with the strategies compared to teenagers who during the session may be all eager. No fault og their but then get distracted or derailed in some way and come back and say that they haven’t tried that. So it’s a lot of that in process of change compared to adults I find that when they are there they are paying for it. They are paying for extended health or out of their pockets so they have more of an invested interest in changing.
Brittany: What is your view on Bell Lets Talk? Does it actually work in spreading awareness?
Sharmin: I think it is a great program I think it does spread a lot of awareness but I’m not too sure on what they do with the funds raised. I feel personally that a lot of funds are being raised in terms of research and awareness but there is a disconnect in terms of providing direct service. The wait times are extensive. A lot of people have to wait for therapy, and some cannot afford external therapy or extended health, right? So, I’d like to see them using the funds to provide more for the Y (ymca), What’s Up Walk In, and stuff like that. Support other research. I think it does a good job in raising increasing awareness to everyone. A lot of people are aware of Bell and they do a good job in terms of publicity, in terms of getting agencies involved and getting supporters but there is no transparency in terms on where the funding goes. I would like to it being allotted to services.
Brittany: Never even thought about that, okay. Well, that was Ms. Sharmin Hasan, counsellor at Lester B. Pearson.
*End second interview*
Brittany: Both counsellors seem to talk about the same things. It’s the clients’ choice whether they want to talk to them or not. But doing alternative methods for your own good and talking to a therapist at the same time is best. Next, I had a conversation with 2 of my friends who’s names are Bryan and Sekander, who are involved with psychology at York University.
*Start third interview*
Brittany: Hi guys, how are you?
Bryan: I’m good, how about you?
Brittany: How are you?
Sekander: I’m good.
Brittany: You ready?
Brittany: So first introduce yourself.
Bryan: I’m Bryan Kemeny, I’m a second year psychology major at York University whos also trying to get a double major in Kinesiology
Sekander: I’m Sekander Alakoozai, I’m trying to get out of my business economic degree; because it is horrible and get into a communication psychology because I am more passionate about it.
Brittany: Perfect. Why psychology? For both of you.
Bryan: I like how, I like psychology because there’s not just the book stuff there’s neuroscience behind it. I enjoy learning how the brain works how physical manifestations can become psychological manifestations and are biological and seeing the differences. It also helps me learn about my own condition which is ADHD. Sekander, why are you going to change your major?
Sekander: for starters I really hate calculus.
Bryan: And then why psychology?
Sekander: Psychology is always good to know to know how the brain works and also how a lot of mental health issues in the Afghan community go under seen.
Brittany: In the Afghan community?
Sekander: No one really talks about it. Most physical health problems are not talked about. You’re healthy if you don’t have high blood pressure some people don’t really talk about mental health as much.
Sekander: It’s not something to be ashamed of.
Bryan: Something you should be ashamed of even though its something you shouldn’t.
Brittany: Exactly no one should ever feel like they should be ashamed about whatever mental health issue.
Bryan: It should be extremely free to talk about.
Sekander: It’s okay to not be okay.
Brittany: Of course and I hope that this podcast somehow raises more awareness about mental health issues.
Bryan: This is why I talk to everyone about my condition, I’m Bryan I have ADHD sorry for being hyperactive.
Brittany: And that’s okay you shouldn’t even feel the need to do that though. What is your guys view on counselling?
Sekander: My relationships with counsellors, counselling in general is actually quite sour to say the least. More specifically York counselling. They haven’t actually gotten back to me in a while, so I signed up back in November and still to this day I have not gone to a single appointment because they haven’t called me when they are free like when is the appointment and such—
Bryan: it shows the issues within the counselling. I would love to suggest for people to go to counselling but at the moment its not the greatest thing. Firstly over-expensive but the ones that are free are very unavailable.
Brittany: Would you be more willing to go to counselling if it was more affordable?
Bryan: Affordable and easier to access, if we signed up in November we want to see you within months not the next new year
Sekander: Actually, you know still to this day, I have not seen them.
Bryan: And now its April.
Sekander: I’ve only done the beginning part and where they get to talk to you about where your mental state is at and to recommend a certain counsellor for you. And they only recommended one appointment for me and it was on the day of an exam and I told them and after that they didn’t really hit me back up even though I’ve called them many times. Its very discouraging to say the least.
Bryan: That’s the way I would put it.
Brittany: What’s your view on alternative methods? Because the article that I’m basing this podcast off of is called Run, Swim, Cook: The New Prescription for Happiness. What is your view on that title?
Sekander: I think its a good title mainly because whenever things seem stressful and things seem out of reach and out of control its good to remind yourself that you have control over yourself.
Bryan: its also good to know that there are avenues that you can do to control such as swimming, sports, and stuff. I use sports or hobbies you can control my attention span or fidgeting also to control my attention when doing projects or tests.
Sekander: Me, I tend to also play a lot of sports but one thing that also helps me to think in said sports is a lot of trash talk, not proud of it but… so yeah it does help me get a competitive edge
Brittany: That’s completely understandable. So another question I have for you guys is what’s your thoughts on Bell Lets Talk.
Bryan: what I would say its good but needs a lot of tweaking.
Sekander: Please Elaborate.
Brittany: Yes please.
Bryan: I like the social media aspect and I like that they do donate for every text, but my problem is that they are not very open about where it goes, how the money is distributed and how much they get. It has a good public aspect but I also wish they could create s space or building where people can go for their free fruition where they can talk about their problems. Like an AA meeting where you can talk and no one will judge you and freely talk about your problems. Bell is a big company where they can lease a place or build a place.
Brittany: I agree, Sekander?
Sekander: to add onto what he said a cell phone company like Bell, its very odd for them not to have a suicide hotline.
Brittany: Right! They should.
Sekander: When you hear “Lets Talk” you think hotline or actually talking about it but I see very little people actually talking about it.
Brittany: Because of Let’s Talk?
Sekander: I feel like there’s very little people.
Bryan: not everyone has the capabilities of having a phone or having Bell as a service, they use a different company.
Brittany: I get that, but its on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and everywhere.
Sekander: And better yet with the hashtag they can have the hashtag Bell Lets Talk and a number. Have that perpetuate in that. One the number gets out there and it becomes more of a household number
Bryan: Bell Lets Talk, I know that it is on social media and texting but not everyone one has access to internet, power, and these things because it seems like more people that have money get on social media and that’s the one problem with it and should be something that anyone on the street can have money and access it. If they have a message that can add onto the donation.
Sekander: And also to add onto that, its not the best company to base this off of but using it for a lack of a better example but Bell has the resources and funding in order to create a significantly better product than Better Help.
Bryan: They don’t have to make a better product they can just invest into these companies that already exist.
Sekander: there are so many things that they can do there’s one more thing about Bell Lets Talk they do not fund anything that is research based. That seems hypocritical for a company that wants to support mental health issues not support mental health research. To me it seems very irresponsible.
Brittany: Okay, I loved everything you guys have to say. Everything you guys talked about thank you so much for talking to me today.
*End third interview*
Brittany: that was a really good interview I like having a conversation with them and having a younger persons opinion on the topic of mental health that’s the end of the podcast I will be saying a few numbers that the viewers can call. The Kids Help Phone numbers 1-800-866-8686, The Trans Lifeline is 1-877-330-6366, The Ontario Crisis Line is 1-866-531-2600, The Ontario College and University hotline is 1-866-924-5454 and thank you for listening to my podcast.