The Attorney General, The Clubhouse, and Unconditional Acceptance

The Clubhouse model is a powerful demonstration of the fact that people with mental illness can and do lead normal, productive lives.


Two years ago, I volunteered at a conference put on by a national mental health organization. The speakers at this conference were distinguished, successful, and insightful – all the things I was not. They also all had powerful stories.

The keynote speaker at this conference was a former attorney general who struggled, for a long time, with alcoholism. What I took away from his story at the time was…nothing. His story was insightful, interesting, and hope inspiring, and yet I couldn’t see the obvious – that his story was like mine. I was under the influence, an addict, and unwell. Nothing resonated with me.

When the attorney general had finished speaking, I approached him. Every muddled instinct of mine told me not to. Regardless, I told him a bit about myself. His response took me by surprise:

“You need to be extra generous to yourself,” he told me.

I had no clue what he meant.

At the time, I was becoming a burden to those close to me. My supervisors at work were struggling to keep up with my frequent, long and babbling emails. I’m sure they were beginning to see me as an unhealthy influence on the rest of the staff. I had zero insight. I was delusional, manic, and addicted to prescription medications.

The staff were the only community I had. They were also the only people in my life who unconditionally accepted me, despite my long history of mental health challenges. So, I clung to them long after I had left the organization.

I would often think about what the attorney general had told me.

“You need to be extra generous to yourself.”

When insight returned, after many medication adjustments and prolonged withdrawals, I began visiting a local Clubhouse – a place where I could go to find supports, and participate in social gatherings and events. I’d been hesitant to visit until then. I was holier-than-thou towards others who live with mental health challenges. I thought I was different. I thought I was better than the rest.

My first dinner at the Clubhouse was nerve-wracking.  I was shaky, and anxious. Walking through the Clubhouse doors, I didn’t know what to expect.  To my surprise, I was greeted warmly. I ate with the members, chatted, and then left with a smile on my face. I didn’t feel judged. I felt accepted.

“You need to be extra generous to yourself.”

Community is incredibly important to me. They say a close-knit social circle is the biggest determinant of mental wellbeing.  I had no innermost circle, and as I result, I was miserable for a long time. I was in pain.

When community greets me, I try to pay it forward. I volunteer – educating people on mood disorders and addiction. I take part in, and contribute to support groups. I run a mental health blog. I try to visit the Clubhouse a couple of times a week, and I’m beginning to build a social network of people I can relate to.

Every recovery story is ongoing. I don’t believe in reaching point B, rather I believe recovery is all about the journey. When I stumble and fall, I get back up. When I take a step backward, I bounce back with two steps forward. I must remember that I’ve come a long way. I deserve a great deal of credit for coming this far.

As I think back on my experience with mental illness and addiction, I’m thankful for the communities that embraced me as a person and not a diagnosis. However, not all communities are willing to accept people who live with mental illness. Stigma is prevalent in today’s society.

This week is mental health week. And it is my hope that this week brings open forum discussions on the topic of mental health challenges. Because education is powerful, and has potential to eliminate stigma.Andrew

Things are different nowadays –

Nowadays, I’m a glass half-full kind of guy.

Nowadays, I’m kind to myself.


I’m extra generous to myself.




#MentalHealthWeek #EndStigma #Recovery #Education


Pink Shirt Day

February 28th is Pink Shirt Day.


But why?

Some readers may have heard of Pink Shirt Day, but do you how this day came to be?

In 2007 two friends, David Shepard and Travis Price from Nova Scotia, decided to take matters into their own hands after seeing a fellow male student bullied for wearing a pink shirt of the first day of school.

The two students bought 50 pink t-shirts and handed them out at their high school.

Before long, their anti-bullying actions gained attention by media, spreading the anti-bullying message across Canada and the globe. By 2012, the UN declared “Anti-Bullying Day” and today, is recognized in over 25 countries worldwide.

A lot has changed in the past decade when Anti-Bullying Day began.

Technologically speaking, bullying via social media is much easier. While remainanti-bullyinging anonymous, a bully can verbally attack, intermediate, threaten or worse. Commonly referred to as “trolling”, bullying is a daily reality for a lot of people.

In recent years, we’ve seen a lot more people speaking up about their lived experiences of bullying.


Celebrities like Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato,  and Zayn Malik, just to name a few, have opened up about being bullied. Unique qualities that once made them feel insecure and different, were harnessed into a positive attitude and self-worth.

Of course, bullying isn’t something solely experienced by famous people, or young school children, resulting in years of individuals feeling alienated.

Unfortunately, the reality is that children, as well as adults experience bullying. Although adults are meant to be more understanding, empathetic and mature, the workplace can be a volatile environment.

From passive aggressive comments, patronizing attitudes, silencing concerns or ideas,  diminishing the value of someones work, to unfairly questioning someone’s abilities — one or all of these can lead to a hostile work environment.

Having worked in unhealthy work environments in the past, I can firmly state that a negative work environment affected my mental health. As a goal-oriented, ambitious worker, I started to doubt myself and question my worth. I began second-guessing my judgement, unable make logical decisions, slowly down my own productivity.

It is likely that everyone has experienced bullying in their lifetime. If not from being bullied, then as the bully. The good news is, you can make a public stand on February 28th against bullying by simply wearing pink!

Recognizing the seriousness of mental health at work, last year’s World Mental Health Day was themed appropriately, Mental health in the workplace.

“During our adult lives, a large proportion of our time is spent at work. Our experience in the workplace is one of the factors determining our overall well-being. Employers and managers who put in place workplace initiatives to promote mental health and to support employees who have mental disorders see gains not only in the health of their employees but also in their productivity at work. A negative working environment, on the other hand, may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity.”

World Health Organization


This upcoming Pink Shirt Day is your chance to become part of a growing international awareness campaign.  Wear pink and make a clear statement on Anti-Bullying Day February 28th!

be kind



Bullying at School Can Take the Sunshine Out of Life

No Bullies Wanted in the Workplace

When Sorry is Too Late

World Mental Health Day 2017

If you or someone you know would like to contribute to our upcoming anti-bullying newsletter theme, please email:

Waking Up Again

MDABC proudly publishes voluntary contributions to our blogs and newsletters on a regular basis. Through lived experience, MDABC is able to offer varied perspectives for our readership. If you or someone you know would like to contribute, email

The post-acute withdrawal stage of benzodiazepine and hypnotic abuse can last for years. I’ve been off these medications for 8 months… and I’m just beginning to wake up.


For the first time since my addiction began.

14 years ago.

What’s it like?

I can’t describe it any better than a re-awakening. This may sound overly-spiritual, but heck, I’m a bit of a spiritual guy. I’m also highly sensitive, so this process was bound to be difficult.


But amazing.

I went for a run, as part of my therapy, around the lake last night. The lights had been strung before the holidays, and there must’ve been thousands of glittering specks lining the walkways.

I’d seen them before. But this time the experience was entirely new to me. The lights were vibrant, exciting, and colorful. It’s a strange feeling… seeing something you’ve witnessed before, but for the first time. Kind of a paradox.

Waking up for the first time in 14 years has been overwhelming.

Every day I experience new emotions. Emotions I haven’t felt in years. I feel connections to others, when just a year ago, I felt distant, alienated, and angry at the world. Connections are a necessary part of living a healthy life, and are the biggest determinant of fulfillment and mental well-being. This is new to me.

My thoughts have become more insightful, more articulate, and comprehensible. I’m beginning to have a better grasp on who I am as a person, and where I’d like to go from here. I had no identity whatsoever. So, finding myself at the age of 31 is both an incredible, and frightening journey to embark on.

Addiction is an epidemic in Canada. We’re all familiar with the opioid crisis, particularly here in British Columbia. But, new controls are also being put on other substances. Certain medications, such as benzodiazepines, while potentially addictive, do have a place in the treatment of mental illness. However, more oversight and caution need to be exercised when prescribing these substances.

It’s been 14 years. A journey through ups, downs, and long and stretching plateaus. And everything in between.

I’m grateful to be in recovery. I really am. And despite being overwhelmed currently, this is a very special time in my life. I’m learning adulthood. I’m setting out into the world, with the skills and coping strategies I’ve gathered over the years, and I’m trying to find a place. I’m trying to find peace.

Mark Twain wrote:

“20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

This is how falling asleep in the dark and waking up in the blinding light is supposed to be.

This is recovery.

And I’m grateful.



A Dark December with SAD

The following piece, contributed voluntarily, shares with readers one individual’s lived experience with SAD and General Anxiety Disorder.




Ahhhh…it’s December – and when the first day of December comes I think that maybe this year it’ll be different and I’ll be all ready and feel motivated and organized but as the month wears on and the solstice is coming, my energy lessens.

I used to be so hard on myself and compare myself to all the other Moms and women who could do so much at this time of the year. I tried all kinds of things with a variety of results but here it is again, the Holiday Season is upon us and I’m stalled or have spurts of energy and if things are going a bit well, then I can get enthused and say yes to things, feeling truly that I can do it or be there and then for some of it I have to push myself through.

I loved Christmas as a kid. My Mom made it nice for all of us even though she had a real Grinch in my Father who was mean spirited. There were people around, it was fun. I liked the music, the lights, the tree, the visits, baking and being together with family. I went on to enjoy Christmas even when I met my husband’s family, fine people but a lot of alcohol abuse so these Christmas were tense and my partner grew to really hate Christmas or at least what Christmas represented in his family, a time of conflict.

Before having children, I worked in the hotel, restaurant, banquet business so often I worked  during the Christmas season, this was tiring but it was nice to help others have fun and so I had fun too and being around the friends I worked with. As more time went by and my husband and I had our first child, things changed a lot. We had this precious little being but I suffered with perinatal depression and anxiety and so began the conditional Christmases with feeling more demands and the duty to provide a memorable and magical Christmas for my child and family members.  As well my partners’ dislike of Christmas was harder to roll with for me now that we had our own child. It was hard on him to have his wife experiencing perinatal depression and anxiety and his well being decreased too.  It took some time to recover for me and anxiety and I went on to have two more children and experienced it yet again with our third child.

I’ve gotten better over the years, of necessity and am better at not setting myself up for the fall or the fail. I’ve had to have self compassion and I reason that even though so many people may look like they’re doing OK or even great, not everyone is and we never really know. I suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I have many coping skills and a lot of the time they serve me very well and I’m open to learning others.  I’ve had to accept that this is not an all jolly time for me though, and so when I have some moments of feeling happy then I really take the time to be mindful that is going on. It’s often the simple things that help me feel better.

This time of year brings memories, good, bad, ugly even from other years. The losses and traumas can be underlined and triggering. Sometimes I have to really excavate to find the good feelings and memories when the triggering begins or sneaks up and my mind can go to just what isn’t good now or in the past, even worrying about the future. I try to do some self-care during the season and to have a plan for following the big day  to recover and replenish. And….remembering, that’s it’s okay to have a “good enough” Christmas. I had a wise therapist who taught this to me many years ago and it has always been a comfort to come back to, like a touch stone to take heart from.


Some helpful sites:



MDABC would like to thank everyone who contributed to our blogs and newsletters throughout 2017. If you or anyone you know would like to contribute in 2018, contact:


“Happy” Holidays


Have you ever seen Christmas Vacation? Do you know every line, too?

Since I was a kid, watching that movie was as much of a holiday tradition as eating turkey or decorating our Christmas tree. The Griswold family (and extended family) made me laugh uncontrollably every year, even though I knew every line by heart.

So, how did somehow, somewhere along the way, that I become the living embodiment of Ellen Griswold?!

 *  *  *

Originally I thought my un-happy holiday spirit began in early adulthood, when I still lived in New Brunswick. Let me set the scene of my family’s holiday movie: The hustle and bustle of buying gifts, drinks, dinners, planning or organizing meals for a dozen people — while simultaneously trying to manage not getting ill in freezing (-25 Celsius) temperatures, driving on dangerous roads and parking in icy streets. Add in some awkward family encounters, passive-aggressive behavior, inappropriate jokes, at least one person offended and at least two people drinking too much. Sounds like the reason I’d dislike Christmas, right?


My family/geographical location did not trigger my dislike of the holidays as I’d originally thought. Fast forward to today where I’ve been living in Vancouver for over three years, currently in my 30’s and living a quiet, calm life. I don’t have gifts to buy, I steer free of shopping centers, take easily accessible public transit on non-icy roads (or an EVO when I’m feeling lazy), save a tonne of money by not spending lavishly family over the holidays. I’m not stressed out or overwhelmed! It’s actually the opposite of what the holidays were that I grew up with–  I’m living my West Coast, calmly, with warm weather. It’s holiday dream…right?

Wrong, again.

As it turns out, moving away from my family and cold weather did not warm my frosty Christmas spirit. In fact, this holiday season seems to be one of the most difficult yet. As someone who struggles to meet new people — introverted, with a slight social anxiety and never someone to have a large group of friends (not to mention I genuinely love being at home) — three years in this city has proven to be quite challenging emotionally. No longer are my limited but and very deep connections available during the holidays.

As a result, this year’s festive season highlights the issue of loneliness, which can easily lead to depression. Everywhere I look it seems like advertisements, movies, photos, music, social media, restaurants (and so much more) are telling me what to buy, wear, eat or drink in order to be happy. Like there’s some special consumerist “Happy” holiday recipe:

  • 6 Bottles of red wine (questionable substance use)
  • 3 Expensive holiday outfits (compounding debt further)
  • 12 Closest friends  (Acquaintances at best)
    • 17729346 Selfies (to post on social media; proving how happy you are)
  • 1 Christmas soundtrack (same songs grocery stores started playing in October)
  • 37 Small talk conversations (painfully awkward and un-illuminating)
  • Mix all together quickly for two weeks and VOILA!  Enjoy and “Happy” Holidays!

This reads more like a recipe for disaster to me!

*  *  *

In all seriousness though, this year is the first Christmas that I truly feel homesick. I now have a niece back home, my sister is having her first Christmas in her first house, my dad is selling the house I grew up in, and everything seems settled. The feeling of missing out on new traditions and saying goodbye to old ones is incredibly hard. Although I miss my family all year, the holidays just seem to intensify my emotions. It makes me sad to miss them, but that’s OK, I’m allowed to feel sad. Not only me, anyone to can feel something other than “happy” during the holidays — stress, depression, loneliness…anything!

But, if you feel like your struggling too much over the holiday season, and need to speak to someone, there are links at the bottom of this post. And if you’re in need of a warm meal or looking to help serve one, there are options for that too!



Today’s Stigma

Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day. MDABC has decided focus on stigma– something that several communities of people experience, including individuals who struggle with mental health.
If you would like to contribute to future writing assignments, please contact: 




Stigma is defined as a mark of shame. Years ago, those living with mental illness were publicly shamed, persecuted, and punished. Today, society no longer outwardly condemns mental illness, but the sad reality is, people who live with mental health challenges still associate their illnesses with sentiments of shame, embarrassment, and guilt.

Today, misinformed social circles tend to mock the experience of mental illness. To compound matters, the media often demonizes mental illness, and eagerly reports news of violent crimes committed by people living with mental health challenges.  What the media fails to report, however, is that comparably, those who live with mental illness are less likely to commit violent acts than the general population. In fact, those living with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence, than be violent offenders themselves.

People say stigma has changed, and that mental illness is no longer feared. But, society still recoils at the very mention of psychiatric wards, forensic hospitals, and streets beset with homelessness. The same underlying societal fears exist today, as they did years ago. Albeit, to a lesser degree.

Currently, there is little certainty around the causes of mental illness. The human brain is still a relatively unexplored frontier, and guesswork often mars the credibility of the field of psychiatry. Despite recent breakthroughs, modern medicine has yet to dispel the stigma associated with mental illness. We, as members of society, fear what we do not understand, and only when mental illness and addiction are better understood, will societal and cultural misinformation be overcome.

Stigma has been referred to as, a “social disease.”  Like any disease, stigma can be spread. Cultural mediums, such as film, music, literature, and art, can all propagate stigma. Today’s horror films, for example, often revolve around the theme of mental illness, and frequently, these artforms are inaccurate, exaggerated for effect, and fictionalized.

But, the spread of stigma can also be prevented. Knowledge is powerful, and mental health education has the potential to eliminate stigma.

Mental health issues have gained a lot of attention in recent years. Nowadays, we frequently hear of celebrities coming out of the mental health closet, and revealing their histories of mental illness and addiction. As public figures become increasingly outspoken about mental illness, those of us with lived experience may feel more empowered to make our voices heard. Ultimately, what it will take to finally eliminate stigma are our collective voice, and our willingness to stand up to those who seek to brand us with a mark of shame.



How to Save a Life – Raising Awareness of Suicide


MDABC would like to thank this month’s blog contributor– a passionate writer and crusader of mental health awareness, Andrew. By volunteering to share his first-hand experience, Andrew is able to inspire readers and provide insight through his constructive, stigma-free words.

“I would’ve stayed up with you all night

had I known how to save a life.” — The Fray

Nearly 4,000 Canadians die each year by suicide, at an average of 10 suicides per day. For each death by suicide, there are as many as 100 suicide attempts. Today, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in Canada.

This has been a taboo subject, there’s no denying it. In fact, the very act of attempting suicide was once a crime in Canada. It wasn’t until the social change movement of the 60s and 70s that people began to adopt more sympathetic attitudes towards suicide, and understand its driving factors. In the

past decade especially, anti-stigma awareness campaigns have also contributed to public education and a move away from taboo and toward hope. Still, barriers persist.

It’s hard for society to wrap its head around the concept of suicide. Some social groups still view it as a sin – an act deserving of divine punishment. Other groups see suicide as an act of weakness, and selfishness. It is important to note that suicide is not an act attributable to personal faults.

Among the risk factors associated with suicide, are mental illness, and substance misuse disorders. And there is a great deal of stigma associated with mental health challenges.

The topic of stigma is important when discussing suicide because it’s self-stigma, or internalized shame that sometimes prevents people from reaching out for help. Education is an important tool to develop positive changes in attitudes towards suicide. Learn the warning signs associated with suicide, and what preventative measures to take if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts.

Here are some of the warning signs from

Talking about suicide – Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm.

Seeking out lethal means

Preoccupation with death

No hope for the future – Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped. Belief that things will never get better or change.

Self-loathing, self-hatred – Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden.

Getting affairs in order – Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.

Saying goodbye – Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.

Withdrawing from others

Self-destructive behavior – Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex.

Sudden sense of calm – A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to attempt suicide.


Suicide is preventable. If you are a co-worker, friend or family member noticing these signs in someone close to you, there are several ways YOU CAN HELP:

  • Try to get your loved one help. Call a crisis line or encourage the person to see a mental health professional.
  • Provide support if possible. Spend time with your loved one, doing healthy activities and check in on them regularly.
  • Remove potential means of suicide, and help develop a safety plan. This plan can include identifying any potential triggers that may worsen suicidal thoughts and behaviours, contact information for crisis help lines and professional supports, and a set of steps to take in case of an emergency.
  • Let the person know they are loved, valued, and cared about. Tell them you’re there for them.

Suicidal crises are almost always temporary, and suicidal thinking is usually associated with problems that can be treated by a mental health professional. But, it is important that anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts not keep them bottled in, because they may very well worsen. It’s OK to talk about suicide.

I’d like to end this article with a personal story, because I believe stories of lived experience can inspire hope in people who are struggling.

For a long time, I struggled with suicidal ideation. There’s even been an attempt in my past. Today, I live free of thoughts of suicide, and I’ve been receiving treatment for mental illness for several years now. And, I see that there is, and has always been, hope. But, I wish I’d reached out for help earlier, because I spent a lot of time in pain. It wasn’t long after reaching out for help, that my pain began to ease. I’ve learned along my journey to transform pain into gain: I’ve grown, strengthened, and learned. This has been a process, and although I still struggle from time to time, I’m so very grateful to be in recovery.


Suicide prevention and education services:

For youth in BC and Canada –

For British-Columbians (adults and youth):

For anyone reading online:

🎶 Arts, H’Arts and Awareness 🎶

Having recently merged with the Lookout Society, MDABC is proud to promote the 9th annual H’Arts for Homelessness fundraiser. The upcoming event celebrates diversity in the Arts with nine live artists, musicians, dancers, performers and more. The diversity of entertainment will take place at the beautiful Imperial venue on October 5th– making for a great evening for an even greater cause.

H'Arts for the Homeless

On the topic of diversity in the arts, this post is dedicated to art, artists and their capacity for self-exploration, community building and awareness building initiatives. As per the Canadian Art Therapy Association art and wellness go hand-in-hand, clinically known as Art Therapy and is defined below.

“Art therapy combines the creative process and psychotherapy, facilitating self-exploration and understanding. Using imagery, colour and shape as part of this creative therapeutic process, thoughts and feelings can be expressed that would otherwise be difficult to articulate.”

Art and Self: For some, verbal self-expression can be a real challenge. The combination of finding the right words to articulate emotions in addition to finding the right person to listen, could be perceived as unattainable for some. Art as a creative outlet has the capacity to remove those verbal obstacles and forge new opportunities for wellness.

As per the CMHA’s piece on Mental Health for Life, “Spiritual well-being means getting to know ourselves, discovering our values, and learning to be at peace with who we are. It also involves finding and connecting to something bigger than ourselves and living with purpose. Spirituality can give us meaning and solace, help us overcome challenges, and help us build connections with others.”

Art and Other Artists: Above and beyond self-exploration, sharing your art with artists can also prove beneficial to mental wellness. Through workshops and classes—such as those provided by Vancouver Recovery Through Art Society (VRTAS)—one can extend beyond the individual into a supportive and encouraging environment. This broader community creates a safe space for dialogue and appreciation of artworks.

The Art Studios is a safe, respectful and acceptinVRTASg community where people with major mental illnesses and addiction engage with rehabilitation staff to recover and grow through art. The Studios offers free classes and workshops on painting, ceramics, printmaking and more. Currently 278 active clients, who have been referred by their medical professionals, enjoy the structure, warmth and hope for the future that The Art Studios provides. Close to 4000 clients have been helped since its beginning in 1994. Well-known Canadian artist Gathie Falk has nothing but praise for VRTAS stating that:

“The Art Studios has helped many people with mental health illness and addictions to learn art skills, become more confident and develop new roles as artists, assistants, instructors, mentors, etc. I am very happy to endorse VRTAS (Vancouver Through Art Society) and The Art Studios it supports.”

Art, H’Arts and Awareness: Broadening an audience beyond yourself and fellow artists is an excellent way to promote awareness and reduce stigma surrounding mental health. Often inspired by personal experiences, artists are capable of providing deep insight into their backgrounds and as a result, raise awareness among individuals and communities.

This year’s H’Arts for the Homeless fundraiser on October 5th is an excellent example of using art to promote awareness. With nine live artists whose pieces will be auctioned to raise money for Lookout Society Foundation, this year’s theme is centered around the current opioid crisis and focusses on supporting and helping individuals in need.

In addition to painting, other art forms include musical performances, culinary delights, dancers and more. Together the performers, in conjunction with Lookout Society, aim to encourage meaningful dialogue, void of stigma and stereotypes, to raise money for a very worthy cause.

If you would like to join MDABC, Lookout Society and an incredible list of performers, purchase your tickets here and we’ll see you the evening of October 5th at the Imperial.

new logo vertical 2017_youtube4

For additional resources click the links below:

What is Self-Efficacy and How Can It Improve Our Quality of Life?

confident women 2

Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to successfully manage or cope in a particular situation. When we have a low sense of our own self-efficacy, we may feel a lack of self-confidence and control which can lead to distressing feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.

Since Psychologist Albert Bandura published his 1977 research paper, “Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change,” the subject has become one of the most studied topics in psychology. Self-efficacy is an important topic among psychologists and researchers because it can have a profound impact on everything from our psychological states to our behavior and our motivation.

When we want to reach a goal that we have set for ourselves, self-efficacy is essential toself-concept help us move forward towards a positive outcome. This is why people with mood disorders might remind themselves that they have gotten through a depressive episode before and that they have the ability to get through it again. This kind of hope and optimism can help us to see ourselves as capable human beings with the skills to work through tough times.

If we don’t have strong self-efficacy, what can we do? How can we get more of it? Thankfully, there are strategies that we can use to change our efficacy beliefs. The originator of the theory, Albert Bandura describes four sources of efficacy beliefs:

  1. Mastery Experiences

The most powerful source of self-efficacy is having a direct experience of mastering a task or an environment. Having success reaching a goal through effort and perseverance will help us to build our self-efficacy and our belief in ourselves. If we are feeling unsure, we can start with mastering a relatively easy task and then increase the difficulty and complexity as we begin to feel more competent.

  1. Vicarious Experiences

The second source of self-efficacy comes from our observation of people similar to ourselves succeeding while using perseverance and effort to overcome obstacles. Seeing that other people learn and grow can strengthen our beliefs that we too can master the activities needed for success. One great way to increase our vicarious experiences is to read biographies of people who we admire in order to greater understand the paths they took to became “masters” in their field.

  1. Verbal Persuasion

The people who have influenced our development such as our parents, teachers, siblings or coaches may have either strengthened or weakened our belief that we have what it takes to succeed. Having people who persuade us that that we can master the skills needed for life makes it more likely that we will put it the effort and sustain it when we have set-backs.

If we weren’t lucky enough to have people encouraging us to keep trying as we grew up, we can make it a priority as adults to surround ourselves with people who are supportive and who let us know that they believe in our abilities.

  1. Emotional & Physiological States

Our self-efficacy is also impacted by the emotional or physiological state in which we find ourselves. Depression, for example, will decrease our confidence. When we are feeling tired, sad or anxious, we may perceive our self-efficacy as weak. When we are well-rested and happy, we may perceive our self-efficacy as strong. Reflecting on our emotional state before we start a new task will help us to understand that we may be underestimating our abilities. Learning to self-regulate our emotional states and practicing self-compassion can also help us to have more realistic appraisals of our abilities.

Psychologist James Maddux has suggested a fifth route to self-efficacy through “imaginal experiences”, the art of visualizing ourselves behaving effectively or successfully in a given situation. If we can visualize ourselves completing a task successfully or handling a difficult interaction competently, we can increase our optimism about our potential for success.

How do you feel about your level of self-efficacy? Although it is not something that most of think about regularly, we can see that having a belief in our ability to cope and even thrive in life can be a welcome boost to our self-concept and quality of life. Building self-efficacy cannot be done in a day, but each day we can take steps to learn new skills, handle disappointments, and deal with whatever life throws at us.

By Polly Guetta



What does recovery mean to you?


I was recently speaking with some people who work in the mental health field just as I do, and someone asked me the question, “what does recovery mean to you?” My first thought was that mental health recovery will look different for everyone because no two people will follow the same path while they work towards positive mental health. I stumbled through an answer touching on my own experiences of depressed mood and anxiety.  I can say that I have recovered from depression and anxiety because I now feel that I have enough self-awareness and self-compassion to recognize when I am struggling, and because the coping skills and support network that I have developed over the years allow me to feel confident that I can face my concerns head-on. That doesn’t mean that I am not susceptible to future periods of depression and anxiety, and so, I have accepted that I will always have to be vigilant and proactive when it comes to my mental health.

The question about recovery got me thinking, and I started wondering about how other people and agencies define recovery. The Mental Health Commission of Canada answers the “what is recovery?” question like this:

” The concept of “recovery” in mental health refers to living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life, even when a person may be experiencing ongoing symptoms of a mental health problem or illness. Recovery journeys build on individual, family, cultural, and community strengths and can be supported by many types of services, supports, and treatments. 

Recovery principles, including hope, dignity, self-determination, and responsibility, can be adapted to the realities of different life stages, and to the full range of mental health problems and illnesses. Recovery is not only possible, it should be expected.”

Because mental illnesses vary greatly in severity, duration, and presentation, recovery cannot be narrowly defined as the absence of any symptoms of the illness. While someone who has experienced an episode of depression may go on to never experience the symptoms of clinical depression again, someone with a diagnosis of schizophrenia (for example) will most likely live with some symptoms of the illness throughout their life. However, if we look at the way recovery is defined in the quote above, the person living with an illness can still recover because they can become empowered to live a satisfying life. Therefore, a person who is living with a mental illness can also be a person with good mental health.

The recovery model of mental health service recognizes the importance of looking at mental health holistically while supporting people with mental illness to create their own recovery plans, set their own goals, build on their strengths, and engage with the communities in which they live.

Perhaps recovery is best thought of as a process or even a practice. It is a journey rather than a destination. To everyone who is living with ongoing mental health concerns and who is practicing recovery, I hope that you will find the path towards wellness that is just right for you.

By Polly Guetta