Sep 8, 2022 | Mental Health
I love to write. I always have. So, when I was asked to contribute to this blog on the topic of loved ones and suicide I said yes without hesitation.
But then I had to write.And I have found myself experiencing writer's block.Not for any reason other than I have mixed emotions about this topic given my professional role as a mental health social worker and a loved one with experience of having watched a family member struggle with their mental health and take the steps to end their life.My belly is anxious as I type.There is no cure-all to suicidal ideation and/or thoughts of self-harm.It’s an issue layered with bold colours and no right answer despite loved ones seeking something concrete to help explain what and why this is happening to their loved one.What I can say with certainty is it’s ok to talk about it; as a loved one concerned, as a person struggling with suicidal thoughts. It is ok to talk. It is ok to ask. It is ok to feel sad, frustrated, and angry. It is ok to cry.There is no blueprint for suicidal ideation but what I can offer is some suggestive signs that may indicate your loved one is struggling with their thoughts.
These signs include, but are not limited to:
This is not easy for anyone. Not for the individual struggling or the loved one, family member, friend or caregiver. It is painful, worrisome and encompasses a new definition for fear of the unknown.
Because of this fear, we have to talk. We have to ask questions. We have to invite conversation, despite how hard it may be to hear, to ensure we are helping our loved with kindness, understanding and compassion. We do this by asking. Talking. Being open to hearing what is shared. And getting the professional support to be the best support we can be.
We take care of ourselves once we have our loved one connected to the appropriate support. To all readers, I strongly recommend you take care of yourselves by reaching out to supports like those offered at the Community Crisis Centre housed at the Crisis and Mental Wellness Centre at 744 Ouellette Avenue. The Crisis Centre is operated by Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare and services include 24-hour phone support (519-973-4435) and walk-in service 7 days/week from 8:00 am- 8:00 pm. You, as a loved one, can attend the Crisis Centre and speak with a highly skilled Crisis Worker about what is occurring with your loved one and how to help them and yourself through supportive and educational counseling.
As a human who has watched their loved one struggle with their mental health and who has witnessed the frightening consequences of a loved one attempting to end their life, I ask you to remember that no matter how difficult the conversation may seem; no matter how hard it is for you to find the words; ask. Tell your loved one you are worried. That you are anxious. That you are scared. It is ok to be honest. And counter those thoughts with, I love you. You matter to me. You are a light in my life.
Sometimes, we all need that reminder.
Ivanka Simeunovic holds a degree in Master of Social Work and is a Registered Social Worker employed at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare since 2005. Her current position is a Crisis Worker on Windsor C.O.A.S.T, a community partnership between Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare and Windsor Police Service.
To learn more about Mental Health and Addictions Programs and Service at HDGH including Windsor C.O.A.S.T visit https://www.hdgh.org/programsservices
Aug 12, 2022 | Mental Health, Faces of HDGH
August 12th is International Youth Day. For this Blog, we have a very special Q&A session from Malek Mekawi, HDGH Youth Advisory Council (YAC) Member as well as Student Trustee for the Greater Essex County District School Board. If you had any fear about the future of our world, you will fear no longer after reading more about this bright, talented, and driven Gen Z. Enjoy and breathe a little easier knowing our future is in good hands with youth like Malek!
My name is Malek Mekawi, and I am currently headed to the University of Windsor for Engineering this fall. Throughout the past few years, I’ve come to gain a deep concern, understanding, and passion for issues in need of social awareness. This led me to join not only the Youth Advisory Council at HDGH, but also seek the position of Student Trustee for the Windsor-Essex public board; GECDSB. I’ve come to meet many individuals across WE that have shared similar concerns and a drive to take action. Aside from my roles in youth advocacy, I am involved with several extracurricular activities in my school community, including student council, mock trials, and helping plan a series of fundraisers for those in need. I’m almost always talking and tend to be an outgoing individual, which allows me to better connect with my peers. Aside from that, I enjoy any and all Italian food and spend most of my free time binge-watching any action thriller I can find on Netflix.
I first joined the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) in the fall of 2019. A grade ten student at the time, I sought out opportunities to put my leadership and deep awareness of advocacy to use. I served as a Communications subcommittee member. Given the council was still relatively new, we worked collectively to spearhead our social media presence and promote the role of the council across Windsor-Essex. Over the course of two years, our committee worked to promote topics related to our mandate of social justice, mental health awareness, substance misuse and poverty in our community. YAC is comprised of three subcommittees that all complete unique tasks to drive change, though we’re all working towards one larger cause: youth awareness and advocacy. Working alongside other subcommittees and the council as a whole, communications shed light on all YAC initiatives, notably the Wellness Through Grace event held in May of 2021. Most recently, I moved from a communications subcommittee member to one of the Events committee co-chairs. This committee is more focused on the planning and execution of our initiatives. Through consultation with our partners, committee members, and youth, we work diligently to host engaging and informative events for students. The Youth Photo Voice Project was the first events-related task I had the honour of working on. The event enabled youth to capture issues across the community through a cinematic and photographic lens. Shedding light on issues that may be overlooked or surrounded by stigma. Students worked for several weeks to capture the perfect picture to help raise awareness on topics from climate change to mental health adversities. The events committee is also working alongside YAC committees, toward hosting our second Wellness Through Grace event in the fall of 2022. The event aims to promote key issues youth in the community value as students hear from notable speakers and experts from across the community.
Most people will often make note that youth are the future, while simultaneously overlooking their critical insight and opinions. It’d be an understatement to say youth hold a unique outlook on life. The input of youth is unlike anything else, given our deep understanding of current trends and issues. As health care continues to progress, institutions like hospitals are required to uphold greater responsibility in the community. Beyond simply serving the emergent medical needs of community members, it is vital that those in positions to engage in preventative care by sharing their knowledge, like health care professionals, work to engage with the communities they serve. There is no better way to truly understand the needs of the constantly evolving generation than to involve them. Involving youth in health care settings helps bring awareness to stigmatized issues that may be evolving within our generation, issues only we can truly understand and work to resolve. The Youth Advisory Council works to do just that, echo the voice of youth in a health care setting. Issues evolve and adapt to the times, so the way some issues are approached needs to change too. Inviting fresh ideas and insight from youth allows hospitals to uphold their vow to truly protect and serve their communities.
The Youth Advisory Council is hard at work planning our second annual Wellness Through Grace event. It offers an opportunity for like-minded youth across Windsor-Essex to engage in an informative, exciting and unique social awareness event. The emerging themes of WTG come directly from our mandate, which we’ve worked on extensively to ensure YAC is representative of the various issues across Windsor-Essex directly impacting youth. This year, students will hear from exceptional guest speakers on topics of mental health, social justice, substance misuse, poverty and a Let’s Get Real session focused on broader and stigmatized concerns.
The Wellness Through Grace event was founded to empower the youth of tomorrow by spreading awareness of ongoing issues in our community. If youth really are the leaders of tomorrow, then we must work towards providing the necessary resources to inspire change, and that begins with relearning stigmatized and seemingly simple issues. WTG will focus on a wide range of issues concerning youth and by the end, we hope students will be inspired to take action in some capacity.
Student participants are encouraged to work within their school communities to create groups focused on tackling a proposed issue. We strongly encourage all high school youth in the region to participate. Teachers are also encouraged to sign up their classrooms for a full day of thoughtful learning. Individuals may register by visiting the link in our Instagram bio, @hdghyac. Students will also be able to register by visiting our platform link.
This year’s theme for International Youth Day reiterates the idea that no one should be left behind, by inviting collaboration amongst all generations, to foster a better future for all individuals. Creating a world for all ages is more than just inviting ideas from across the board. We must work as a collective to hear each other out, truly learn one another’s perspective, acknowledge the work that needs to be done and work towards formulating a solution where all are treated equally, with respect and integrity. Now, more than ever, controversy divides our communities, usually stemming from our lack of understanding for one another. As the leaders of tomorrow, it is up to our youth to prevent that continuous cycle.Intergenerational solidarity starts with a conversation. I encourage all my fellow youth to consider an issue they value and use it to evoke conversation with those from previous generations. As opposed to simply researching the headlines, look into how these issues have evolved, from one generation to the next. Consider how and why previous generations have failed to resolve the matter. To truly work towards an everlasting solution, we must equip ourselves with the knowledge of those before us. Generation Z is strong, resilient, and smart. So, to Gen-Z, use that to embark on a journey of social justice and awareness. However, such an initiative should be inclusive of the intersectionality that exists. Next time any of you decide to step up and take action, do so by inviting help from your parents, cousins, friends, teachers, mentors and so forth.Lastly, to promote solidarity across all generations, it is important to continue to be understanding of one another. Ahead of jumping to conclusions when a controversial conversation is struck, try to uphold respect for others and be understanding of their perspective, regardless of how difficult that may seem. If we can continue to host valuable conversations and pinpoint arguably outdated ideals, we can work towards fostering a system that will grow and prosper for all. We should be working as one, to ensure one generation's errors are everyone’s responsibility, otherwise, we will never truly evolve as a society.
We may not be able to control the time era we’re born into, but we can surely make the most of it. I’m finally heading to university next year, and if there’s anything 18 years of being part of “Gen-Z” has taught me, it’s that nothing is truly impossible. My generation embodies the spirit of true natural-born leaders, in all forms. There are no overlooked issues, no tolerance for harmful outdated ideals and certainly, there is no such thing as giving up. The leaders of tomorrow are unlike anything the world has seen before. Our commitment to resolving the issues of previous and current generations is evident. This generation can band together in seemingly impossible situations, to be heard, be seen, and enact true change. My generation was born to fight, overcome and make noise.
May 6, 2022 | Mental Health, Leadership
I have always worked in healthcare and most of my career has been spent in mental health. I began working in Children and Youth Mental Health when HDGH was first applying to become the Lead Agency. I fell in love with the work and went from working on the application to being the operational lead supporting the work from a project management perspective. I had a great mentor in Dr. Mary Broga who was the Executive Lead at the time. The strategic system-level work was a perfect fit for me and things evolved from there.
A lead agency is an organization that both delivers Child and Youth Mental Health Services and is responsible for working with other providers to ensure that the right services are in place within the community.
Lead Agencies work with other agencies that receive funding for children and youth mental health services and other community partners to improve the local C&Y mental health system. Together with our partners, we develop plans in which we identify several key priorities aimed at improving access and/or services. We then work together to achieve the goals and objectives outlined in those plans. We are also often responsible for making recommendations regarding funding allocations and where new investment should go to address system pressures or gaps.
This work is so important because mental health is health and it all begins in childhood, in fact, it begins even before. Continually assessing the needs of the children, youth and families of our community and ensuring the system is responsive to those needs is key. The unique aspect of the Lead Agency model is that it allows for those closest to the work – with boots on the ground - to assess the gaps and challenges and to be able to collaborate with system partners in an attempt to respond to those gaps and challenges.
The next three years will be about strengthening our partnerships so that we can improve pathways into and through services. Increasing access to the right kind of care, at the right time, is essential. All of this needs to be done using data and evidence to drive our decisions. We also need to make sure that the voices of those with lived experience have an opportunity to not only have their voices heard but to be part of co-creating solutions with us as they are equal partners in the building of a strong system for Children and Youth Mental Health.
WEConnectKids is about helping families who don’t know where to go for help get connected to the right mental health and addiction services. One of our goals as a community is to make it easier for families to find the help that they need. When you are struggling, or your child is struggling, the last thing that you need is to have to call several different places before you find the right program. The WEConnectKids team will take that burden off of those seeking help and work with our system partners, work to get folks connected to the right services. That being said, it’s important the community knows that this new central access doesn’t mean that families can’t contact any of our children and youth mental health organizations directly. It’s not meant to create an added layer but instead assist those who don’t know where to start and get connected right away to the right services.
As a Lead Agency, we not only have a responsibility to our local community, but we also work closely with colleagues across the province to improve the quality of and access to CYMH services across Ontario.
Collaborative, family-centred, and system-focused.
Collaborative because we cannot meet the needs nor improve our system, our community by working in silos. Working together with our partners is the only way to move the system forward.
Family-centred as we are working to create a better system based on the needs of children, youth and families. By working with those with lived experience, we hope to learn from them and co-create programs and system improvements that make sense for families.
System-focused because we are focused on breaking down silos. Focused on the broader continuum of care and ensuring that the various core services are in place across the system and that they work together to ensure continuity and that when required, services are wrapped around the family providing a greater, integrated plan of care.
There is a bit of the perfect, or not so perfect storm, that is happening right now in the CYMH sector. As a result of the pandemic, we are seeing the needs increasing while at the same time organizations across the province are struggling with significant Health Human Resource issues. Recruiting and retaining qualified staff has been a longstanding issue in the sector but has recently risen to a point of crisis. This increased need coupled with a lack of clinical staff is resulting in increased wait times for services. The system is seeking new and innovative ways to deliver care that will enable greater throughput and reduced wait-times but more will need to be done.
I’m very proud to be launching WEConnectKids. It’s something that our CYMH partners have been working towards for several years. The first step was getting the technology in place to support the referrals. Once we did that, we had to make sure we had the pathways, protocols and partnerships in place to make it work. I’m very grateful to our partners at Children First, Maryvale, Family Respite and weCHC Youth Addictions Program for sticking with the vision and continuing to work together to make this a reality for our community.
May 2, 2022 | Mental Health
For the last 71 years, the month of May brings the tradition to rally an important continuous conversation around our country as we recognize CMHA’s Annual Mental Health Week. This year, through May 2 to 8th, CMHA has chosen to focus on the emotion of Empathy for the week - helping us to understand how to be there for one another and connect to the emotion that underpins an experience.
In this month’s blog, HDGH Clinical Psychologist Dr. Bethany King takes a deeper dive into Empathy, what it is, what it is not and the simple things we can all do to become more empathic in our lives. Enjoy!
There are many definitions of empathy including:
And, importantly, empathy is different from sympathy. This video clip by Dr. Brené Brown helps to show the difference between them: Empathy vs Sympathy
The following tips can help you to be more empathic in your everyday life.
It is important when you are talking to people to be really present in the conversation. Don’t be distracted by your phone, or thinking about what you will be doing later, or what your next comment is in the conversation. Be focused on what the person is saying. Look them in the eye when they are talking. Nod your head or use other gestures to indicate your understanding. Repeat what they have said in your own words to ensure you have understood.
When was the last time you had a conversation with someone and were truly curious about them? Being interested in people helps to build connections with others.
Only a small percentage of a message is conveyed through words, most is about tone of voice, body language and facial expression. You can craft a kind and understanding thing to say, but if you don’t radiate warmth and acceptance, your words are meaningless. If you project judgement or disapproval when someone is allowing themselves to be vulnerable, it is unlikely you will get the chance for that meaningful level of conversation again.
Even if you disagree with the content or opinion of what someone is saying, their feelings are still their own and they have a right to feel how they are feeling.
It can sometimes help to imagine what another person's experience might be like, especially if it is different from your own.
Dr. Bethany King, C.Psych. is a Clinical Psychologist who has worked at the Regional Children’s Centre and Toldo Neurobehavioural Institute (TNI) for almost 25 years. She loves to travel. She loves the water and is an avid scuba diver. She is a reader of all things science fiction.
Apr 1, 2022 | Mental Health, Leadership, Research and Innovation, Community and Partnerships, Patient Stories, Faces of HDGH, Road to Recovery – Restorative Rehabilitative Care, Palliative Care, Spirituality, Heritage
Welcome Readers. Our HDGH Team has always loved sharing stories with our community. Our Blog is just one of the many creative ways to do that with you. It has become a popular corner of our website where everyone is welcome to not only learn ABOUT our hospital, but also FROM the talented healthcare experts and professional voices we are proud to call our HDGH People. Our blog will be home to sharing expertise through varying healthcare-related topics from interviews, experience, patient stories, daily topics on how to stay healthy, and more.
You may have also noticed a new name to the HDGH Blog. “Maison Dieu Health” is a nod to our HDGH Heritage, honouring our French-Canadian five founding sisters of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph’s (RHSJ) who with love, perseverance, faith and persistence travelled from Montreal over 135 years ago to establish Windsor’s first hospital – Hôtel-Dieu of St. Joseph.
You can think of Maison Dieu Health as your refuge for wellness-related resources, all accessible “under one roof” through the many voices of our HDGH staff and community.
With that, welcome to Maison Dieu Health.
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