MGH Let’s Listen: “People still use words like ‘crazy’ and ‘unstable’. Mental illness is portrayed as being a negative personal trait rather than an illness.”

In September 2010, ‘Bell Let’s Talk’ began a new conversation about mental health in Canada. ‘MGH Let’s Listen’ is a Hospital series dedicated to listening to the stories of healthcare providers working and caring for patients experiencing mental health issues in the Canadian healthcare system.

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By: Sarah Bingler, Occupational Therapist, Michael Garron Hospital

My name is Sarah and I’ve worked at Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) as an Occupational Therapist for 17 years. My grandparents played an important role in my life as a child, and as a result, I have a deep value and respect for the elderly. As an occupational therapist working with older adults, I have the opportunity to help acutely ill seniors have improved quality of life.

‘Someone I loved was in pain and I couldn’t fix it’

This month, the Bell Let’s Talk campaign is a humbling reminder of how mental health impacts all of us. Mental illness is often portrayed as being a negative personal trait rather than an illness; I think people are reluctant to share their personal mental health issues from a fear of being judged in a negative way.

People use words like ”crazy” and “unstable” casually in conversation or they label someone as having “anger management issues”. This contributes to stigma and is still a big issue for those living with mental health conditions.

I have a close family member who has been diagnosed with a serious depressive illness. As a health care provider, it was really hard for me because someone I loved was in pain and I wasn’t in control and I couldn’t fix it. I realized that the best way for me to help was with simple things like a phone call, offering to go for a walk or an invitation to dinner. I often find visiting my family member emotionally draining so I try to make sure that I schedule some quiet time by myself to recharge afterwards with a little reading or Netflix.

(From left to right): Courtney Grey, Sarah Bingler and Liz Berger finish the Olympic distance Toronto triathlon in 2017.

Mental health and the power of self-care

Being physically active is a great stress release for me. I run a few times a week and I find working up a sweat in the outdoors to be very therapeutic. To help me stay motivated, I sign up for a few organized runs or triathlons throughout the year and have started swimming and biking.

The Wellness programming at MGH has been lifesaver for me. Having fitness equipment and classes at work allows me to fit in a workout on my busiest of days. Within the rehab group we often do workouts together and support each other in meeting fitness goals and trying new events. Over the years we have done many runs together with various members of the group.  Last year one of my coworkers (Courtney Grey) and I trained and completed an Olympic distance triathlon together!

The work that we do every day in healthcare is incredibly demanding on a physical, mental and emotional level. We need to recognize this stress and create an inclusive environment where we can share our experiences and support each other.

#MGHLetsListen: Lois Didyk, Community Social Worker, shares her story

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