According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, "the shortening days of late autumn are the beginning of a type of clinical depression that can last until spring." Starling Minds has created a new Regulation Essentials course to help our members to learn how to manage the intensity of their emotions to handle pressure and make better decisions. It is available for our members on Decemeber 11th, 2017.
In our last blog, we shared the story of Henry, who experienced a decline in his mental health functioning after being diagnosed with a chronic health condition. His doctor was puzzled why Henry wasn’t responding better to treatment, and suggested that mental health might be at play. You can catch up on Henry’s story here. Otherwise, read on to learn what happened after Henry agreed to see a psychologist.
“Turns out it wasn’t so bad.”
My first appointment with the clinical psychologist, I was nervous. I barely slept the night before. The day of the appointment, I remember sitting in the waiting room — picking up a magazine, not being able to concentrate, putting it down. Then, two minutes later, picking it up again. If it weren’t for Megan, I probably would have left. But I promised her I would go.
I often talk about the many parallels between mental health and physical health – but that’s not to suggest that the two exist side by side without ever intersecting. In fact, the two are intimately connected; one can have a major impact on the other. To illustrate, today we bring you the story of Henry.
“He said sometimes these things just happen.”
It all started with a diagnosis. Chronic kidney disease. It was a surprise to everyone, including me, my wife and my doctor. I’d always been a healthy person – I don’t smoke. I eat well and exercise often. My doctor couldn’t explain it. He said sometimes these things just happen.
And what happened was my life got turned upside down. Within a week of my diagnosis, I was on a medical leave from my job. One month turned into two, two to six, six months turned into a year. Before I knew it, I’d been off work for four years.
One thing we’ve heard from our members over and over again is that you love to hear the stories of other educators’ experiences with mental health. So today we bring you the story of David, an educator and member of Starling, told in his own words. Thank you, David, for sharing your story with the Starling community.
‘I just reached a tipping point.’
“It wasn’t one particular thing that brought me to Starling Minds. It was a series of events over many years. I was at one school for a long time, and I was happy there. Then the district closed that school, and I had to move to a different one that wasn’t so wonderful. That was one factor. I also had a marriage end, which was another factor. There was a negative relationship with an administrator at one school. Then there were some difficult classes and a grade level I hadn’t taught before. Eventually I just reached a tipping point, and I knew I couldn’t do it anymore.
Back in December, we shared a post about how seasonal changes can affect a person’s mood and overall functioning. This month, we focus on similar patterns – but this time we’re looking at trends that are specific to educators like you.
Starling collects data – anonymously, always – that helps us understand how members are doing, collectively. In reviewing the data we’ve collected from teachers and administrators, one thing we’ve noticed is that spring can be a tough time for educators.
For this example, let’s examine three factors: anxiety, depression and work functioning.
For educators, February to May are among the most stressful months of the school year. This is manifested with increased symptoms of anxiety and depression (i.e. fatigue, irritability, concentration problems) and a decrease in work functioning (i.e. more absenteeism and presenteeism).
As a mental health provider, it’s heartening to see a growing public conversation about mental health. This conversation, amplified by initiatives like last month’s Bell Let’s Talk campaign, helps to lessen the stigma around mental illness. We still have work to do, but we’re making progress.
This year, one of Bell Let’s Talk’s spokespeople was broadcaster Michael Landsberg. In a video created for the campaign, Michael tells a story about publicly sharing his battle with mental health, which he says “changed the direction of [his] life.”
“I got a call from my neighbour. She said, ‘You’d better sit down. I have something to tell you.’ She told me that my daughter had been cutting herself, and had shown the cuts to her friends at school.”
When Starling team member Niina Niemi found out that her then-12-year-old daughter was struggling with depression, Niina felt a lot of things: panic, sadness, shame, self-blame, frustration, confusion.
The leaves are gone. The heavy coats (and toques and scarves and gloves…) are back in rotation. The days are short – most of us leave for work in the dark, and come home in the dark. If the sun shines sometime in between, it’s easy to forget it. It’s winter. Though it doesn’t officially begin until Winter Solstice on December 21, many of us are already feeling it, physically and maybe emotionally.