By Melissa Lyon
Did you know that Stats Canada reports that 1 in 4 adults have depression or anxiety? Even more discouraging is the fact that people with disabilities are three times more likely to experience mental health issues than those without disabilities.
With today being Bell Let’s Talk Day, I thought it would be a great time to share some resources and tips for addressing mental health issues in the disability community:
Acknowledge your anxiety. Take a moment to consider ways to reframe the issue and make it more positive. My uncle has always told me that 80% of worry is a waste of time because it never actually happens – so consider what the chances are that what you are worried about will actually become real in your life. Consider what the worst possible outcome could be and then consider some problem-solving scenarios for that worst case. Often even the worst case scenario feels better if you have a plan in place to deal with it.
Make an effort to socialize and stay connected with others, even if this is done virtually. CPABC has a free peer support group for those with disabilities who are feeling isolated or lonely. The program allows them to connect with each other and form meaningful connections.
Try to focus on the positives. Experts say that practicing gratitude really helps one to be more positive. There are some great ways to do this, including creating a gratitude jar or using an online gratitude journal. I have found that when I write down what I am grateful for and revisit it regularly, it really helps to put things into perspective.
Get involved in activities or hobbies that you enjoy. It is amazing how fast time will go when you are engaged in something that makes you happy. It is also a great way to meet new people. For me, karate has been a real lifesaver during the pandemic as it has kept me feeling healthy and I have been able to continue connecting with my karate family, even though at times it needed to be a virtual session. The Cerebral Palsy Association of BC has some excellent online activities – including dance, movement therapy, yoga/meditation, and a weekly program for connecting with others who have cerebral palsy.
Limit the amount of time you spend watching the news. Experts say that watching the news can greatly increase anxiety, and I know from experience that this is true. Since avoiding news links in my social media and limiting the amount of time I listen to the news on TV, I have felt much less anxiety. Check out this article about anxiety and the news as it has some good suggestions.
Learn something new! There are so many options – Maybe it is learning how to create a podcast or learning to paint or cook. Even if you have a disability and may not think you can do an activity, there are often ways to adapt activities, so don’t dismiss ideas before looking into possible adaptations. My karate is an excellent example of this – my Senseis work hard to adapt movements to meet my needs. So tap into your own interests and give it a try! One new thing that I have been trying to learn is Spanish – I have found a great app called Duolingo that has made learning fun. For adults, there is a good blog with suggestions and for kids there is a great site called DIY.org that has many different project ideas.
Schedule a worry break. This may seem like it would be the opposite of what you should do, but experts say that allowing time each day to consider your worries and even write down your thoughts and possible solutions can help to alleviate anxiety. A friend of mine once told me that she allows herself ten minutes a day to focus on the bad stuff and then she makes a real effort to move on to more positive things. I have tried hard to incorporate this into my life and for the most part it has worked for me.
Escape for a while! For me, that means watching movies or listening to an Audible book. There are many healthy ways to transport yourself into another world, even if it is just for a few minutes. Check out this article that has eleven scientifically-proven ways to escape everyday life.
Try some meditation and mindfulness activities. As you likely already know, meditation and mindfulness activities can be a great way to reduce anxiety. For younger children, there is a great exercise called Breathing Buddies, which uses stuffed animals to teach children to think about their breathing and to slow down. For teens and adults, there is an excellent guided meditation website. My go-to choice for a meditative activity is to do some mindful colouring. There are lots of great options out there for all ages, but here is one example to try out.
Talk about it! Just like having a disability, having anxiety or depression unfortunately often carries a stigma with it. Being open about it will likely not only make you feel better, but it will also help reduce the stigma. As it says on the Bell Let’s Talk website, “two out of three people suffer in silence, fearing judgement and rejection. Being open to a conversation is the first step towards eliminating the stigma. Know the facts, be kind, be a good listener and a friend. Be part of the conversation to eliminate the stigma once and for all.”
There are also some excellent resources for those who are suffering from depression and anxiety. Check out:
Anxiety Canada– a website with a wealth of information for both adults and children
Bounceback Program – a free Canadian skill-building program for people age 15+
Foundry – provides health and wellness programs and services for people aged 12 -24.
BC Government Mental Health Resource List – This list includes helpline numbers, online resources, and in-person resources in BC that are related to supporting mental health issues.
Stats Canada (2021) https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210927/dq210927a-eng.htm
Canadian National Institute of the Blind https://www.cnib.ca/en/blog/covid-19-mental-health-and-disability-you-are-not-alone?region=bc
- Bell Let’s Talk https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/
About the Author:
Melissa Lyon is a disability consultant for the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC. She has a master’s degree in Special Education and has worked hard to get to where she is now. As a person with mild cerebral palsy and epilepsy, Melissa is a strong advocate for people with disabilities. When not working, Melissa enjoys doing karate, where she is working on getting her black belt.