The Value of Connection : A Mental Health Perspective 

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By Catherine St. Denis

Building a social network helps aid in the improvement of the lives of people with mental illnesses. After years of working with people with mood disorders, we at the Mood Disorders Association of BC believe that not only do social networks improve the lives of people with mood disorders, sometimes social networks can save lives.

Staff at the MDABC frequently hear, “The support group saved my life” and, “I don’t know what I’d do without the support of this program”. We take these little nuggets and store them away knowing that opportunities for social networking and support are crucial to an improvement, or lack of decline in mental health; this is what we hear and see around us all the time. These messages come from people in our peer support groups, our Cognitive Behavioural Therapy classes and in our workshops.

There are many reasons that connecting with others in meaningful ways is helpful. Connection with others reduces the isolation people with mood disorders often feel. Connection with others helps us learn about our illness through the informal or formal learning one gets from talking to others. When we connect with others with similar concerns we know we are not alone in our feelings and behaviours; others have also struggled with our issues. When we connect with supportive loved ones we can feel their caring and compassion and can realize that no matter how we feel on the inside, no matter how great our symptoms are, there are people who really care for and love us. When we are in the throes of active symptoms of our illness it is very challenging at times to feel and believe that we are loved and cared about so this connection can be a perfect reminder.

There are other ways of connecting even if one does not have a circle of family and friends. The MDABC offers peer support groups, classes and workshops so that people can make these important connections. There are members of some groups who have become friends and who have formed close, mutually beneficial relationships that have enhanced their lives. Connection does not have to mean personal relationships either. When we volunteer or enter or re-enter the workforce we have opportunities to connect with others and there are hundreds of organizations that look for volunteers throughout the year, for either short or long term positions.

When we attend lectures, discussion groups, or entertainment events we can connect with others for brief periods, this can make the difference between a bad day and a good one. Of course just being around others is not enough if we keep to ourselves and don’t make efforts to talk, make eye contact or add to a discussion, this is the part of connection that takes some effort. If we want to have friends, colleagues, supportive family members and other relationships, no matter how brief, we must take our fears and discomfort in hand and experiment. We won’t connect with everyone all the time but the more one makes efforts to connect the more chance of it happening.

For more information about the programs and services the MDABC has to help you connect please visit our website at www.mdabc.net.

For more information about opportunities to volunteer with other organizations please visit Go Volunteer at http://govolunteer.ca/.

Meet Lisa Kleiman – One of MDABC’s Wonderful Volunteers

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How did you come to be a volunteer at the MDABC?

I was facilitating a group at the MDABC office when two members of the staff announced that they were putting together an Information Bureau. It is for volunteers who go and set up a booth of information and education about mental illness and let the community know about all the work that the Mood Disorders Association of BC is doing.

What kind of volunteer work have you done at MDABC?

I have been facilitating support groups since 2012. I am one of the facilitators of the Jewish Support group.

What do you find most rewarding about doing this work?

I love facilitating; being a member of a support group is a big part of my wellness. I have met the most incredible people. To be able to facilitate a group makes me feel so privileged. I also love going to events around the city as part of the Information Bureau because it is so much fun. You get to talk to people that may be asking questions about mental illness for the first time. Just to listen to them and tell them that there are lots of resources in the community is an amazing feeling. I feel so proud to tell them about the Mood Disorders Association as finding MDABC changed my life.

What kind of programs would you like to see offered in the future?

I would love to see a support group for high school students offered in the future. MDA has a support group for young adults 19 years old to 30. I would like to see one for young people under 19 years old. When we go into the schools to bring information, I would love to say that there is a support group for them.

What are three things that you do to feel happy and well?

I love having coffee with friends, relaxing and watching Netflix.  I also love to walk with my music blaring to shake off the day and to look after myself.

MDABC Self-Care and Self-Compassion Workshop is Now Open for Registration

Self-care isn’t selfish!

Have you given much thought to the role that self-care and self-compassion plays in your overall health and wellbeing? Join Caer Weber,  a self-care and self-compassion advocate, educator, and blogger for a workshop that explores how this practice can bring you increased feelings of wellness, a calmer mind and body, and a more positive self-concept.

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Meet Nan Dickie-One of MDABC’s Wonderful Volunteers

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How did you come to be a volunteer at the MDABC?

In 1994 I started writing short stories, articles and essays for the MDA newsletter that came out every two months. I continued writing for the newsletter for six years.

In 2010, I became an MDA group facilitator in Salmon Arm. I am continuing with this volunteer work.

What kind of volunteer work have you done at MDABC?

I have been associated with the MDA since the early 90s when I lived in Vancouver. My first involvement was writing 1,000 word stories and articles for the newsletter which was published 6 times a year, and mailed out to members. (Email didn’t yet exist.) When I dropped the envelope containing an article in the box for the first time, I had the horrible feeling of having “exposed” myself. Quickly I knew it was for the greater good and I committed myself to writing stories and articles for each newsletter from then on.

After about five years of writing these articles (which now totaled 30), many people said, “You should make this into a book.” Easy to say, a huge challenge to do! However, I did it. In 2001, my book A Map for the Journey: Living Meaningfully with Recurring Depression was published. It contains over 40 articles and stories relevant to all of us and our supporters. The MDA held a book launch for me, and arranged a radio interview. I have written several articles for the MDA since that time.

I moved to Salmon Arm in 2007. In late 2011, as I was healing from a year-long episode of clinical depression, Garry Hall and I decided to start a depression, bi-polar and anxiety support group in this community. This group has been flourishing since then. Garry retired from being a facilitator about a year ago.

What do you find most rewarding about doing this work?

Writing for the MDA, starting 20 years ago, was a gigantic step for me to take. By writing about my (and our) conditions, I learned so much more about how we live with these disorders when we are ill and when we are well, how much courage we require to navigate our episodes. I received countless insights through writing that inspired me to write more and more. I also recognized how difficult stigma is for us, and how challenging it is for friends and loved ones to support us in a loving and wise manner.

Being a facilitator has been – and continues to be – very rewarding. I have  met over 50 individuals who share our disorders at our bi-weekly meetings. I love inviting brave new participants to the group, and helping them to feel comfortable in this new setting. I am moved by the stories (experiences, challenges, pain and joy) of all the participants, and their resilience in healing.

Our motto is, “We’d rather share with strangers who understand, than with friends who don’t.” We have all become special friends with each other, a special extended “family.”

The greatest reward of being a facilitator is how my life has been deepened and enhanced by the enthusiastic participation of a broad spectrum of courageous individuals.

What kind of programs would you like to see offered in the future?

The MDA provides a wide range of excellent programs and services to people living in the Lower Mainland that are not available to those of us in the interior of BC. I’m unsure of what programs would be valuable administered from afar. We do find the web-site informative and inspiring.

What are three things that you do to feel happy and well?

Each of us can have a large tool kit of things that can help us a great deal to attain and maintain good mental health when we are in remission. Many of these tools are invaluable when we are ill. My tool kit contains many “items” that yours does too: good eating and sleeping habits, support from family, friends and my support group, a good relationship with my doctor and psychiatrist, and so on. In addition to these (and other) things that keep me as mentally healthy as possible, I keep my body fit with road cycling, cross-country skiing and swimming. These activities are also conducive to mental calmness – and that great plus – a rush of endorphins! Spiritual life is very important to me and sustains me critically through my tough episodes and nurtures me when I am well.

Deep and Personal with Tom Dutta, Chair of the MDABC Board of Directors

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Hi my name is Tom Dutta.  Would it be ok with you if I went deep and personal for a bit?

I’ve been associated with MDABC for over 7 years and want you to know that I’m just an average guy who has a passion to “Make the world a better place through mental health wellness”.

I’d love it if everyone on the planet knew my true story so I’m sharing it through this blog, on my www.mdabc.net video (the “about” page) and everywhere I go.  When I was young I experienced mental health issues all around me.  My mom struggled with depression and anxiety and I grew up with a military father who struggled with alcohol addiction.  My younger brother was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome in his teen years and I remember my uncle’s son was found hanging in a barn in the Fraser Valley.  When I met my wife of 20 years now, Anna, I found more incredible stories of suicide and depression in her extended and immediate family and today in my professional career I see and meet people all the time who have a story about mental health wellness.

At an early age I found success in the corporate world.  My dad was a teacher and blue collar worker and mom was a nurturer and protector….as an immigrant to Canada at age 3 I only knew how to work hard and help other people.  Life was a puzzle for me and I usually put others needs ahead of my own so I built a career starting as a bank teller and worked to live and support my family.  Thirty years later as I look back my career went from teller to CEO but there was always this dark side of me.  Anna used to tell me how wonderful I was and remark on my successes but I couldn’t see or feel it myself.  Continue reading “Deep and Personal with Tom Dutta, Chair of the MDABC Board of Directors”

An invitation to join “Peace is Every Step- a Walking Meditation Group” at the MDABC

October is a month which offers an abundance of beautiful trees changing color to gaze upon, crisp, fresh air to breathe in, and piles of leaves and acorns to crunch beneath your feet. Could there really be any better time to join a mindful walking group?

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New Self-Help Action Group is Open for Registration

The MDABC is pleased to be offering a new self-help action group which uses the quality of life tool developed by Crest BD at UBC.
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