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Archive for category: Mental Health

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Coping with COVID — Finding the New Normal

In the following video, the team at FunctionAbility discusses the emotions of COVID and provides helpful strategies to help people cope through uncertain times.

For more helpful information check out our Coping with COVID video series on our YouTube channel.

About the Experts:

Brenda Power Ahmad, BSc(OT), BSc(Hons Psych), OT Reg.(Ont.), – Brenda obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in 1999 in Occupational Therapy from Dalhousie University and a Bachelor of Science (Honors) degree in Psychology in 1996 from Memorial University of Newfoundland. Brenda also completed post-secondary education in the fields of Criminology and Linguistics. Brenda has been practicing occupational therapy since 1999 in the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario. She has extensive experience working with people of all ages with a variety of developmental and physical disabilities and works mainly with clients who have complex orthopedic, psychological and brain injuries. Brenda is trained in administration of the AMPS and the PGAP program and is a Canadian Certified Canadian Life Care Planner. She has completed additional training in catastrophic assessment through the Canadian Society of Medical Evaluators and has successfully completed the C-CAT Certification exam. Brenda sits on the Board of Directors for the Hamilton Brain Injury Association. As Vice President of Clinical and Community Partnerships in one the largest rehabilitation firms in Ontario, Brenda is responsible for training and mentoring other therapists and also leads the Catastrophic Assessment (CAT) program at FunctionAbility. Brenda maintains an active social media presence and co-hosts an educational video series called OT-V which aims at educating the public about the various roles of her profession.

Lynne Harford, BA, MSW, RSW, D.VATI is a Registered Social Worker, Director of Pediatrics and a Clinical Supervisor with The Social Work Consulting Group. She obtained a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Glendon College-York University. Prior to her university studies, Lynne pursued a career in business and received a Marketing Administration Diploma from Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology. In 2013, Lynne achieved her designation of Art Therapist graduating with an advanced diploma in Art Therapy from the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute.

Emma Fogel, MSW, RSW is a Registered Social Worker with a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Toronto. Emma’s true passion is working with youth and families whereby she draws upon an eclectic framework to provide client-centered counseling support, which includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy and Play. Wendy Gage MSW, RSW is a registered social worker with a Master of Social Work Degree from the University of Toronto. She received her Honours Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the University of Western Ontario with a focus on child development. Wendy is a certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist (EFT) with advanced training in EFT for families, individuals and trauma. Wendy has training in child-led play therapy (Watch, Wait and Wonder) for children ages 6 months to 6 years. Wendy joined The Social Work Consulting Group with 18 years’ experience practicing clinical social work on the Neurology Program at The Hospital for Sick Children. At Sick Kids, she developed expertise in child and family adjustment to illness, loss and trauma. Wendy has participated in research, teaching and speaking events related to pain management for headaches, managing behavior in children with neurological conditions, and long-term family functioning and adjustment to children’s neurological conditions. She was invited to provide input to the provincial government on gaps in service to children with mental health conditions arising from neurological illness and injury.

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COPING WITH COVID– Staying Active

FunctionAbility’s Elly Baker and Lynne Harford discuss staying active while working from home and review some helpful exercises to help keep you moving.


About the Expert:

Elly Baker is the Director of Physiotherapy Services at FunctionAbility. Previously to this role, Elly spent many years in the role of Physiotherapy Practice Leader at Toronto Rehab, University Health Network, as well as a physiotherapist on the inpatient, Acquired Brain Injury program. She has extensive experience helping individuals living with mild to complex neurological and orthopedic injuries and has special interests in concussion management and higher-level balance re-training post-traumatic brain injury.

Lynne Harford, BA, MSW, RSW, D.VATI is a Registered Social Worker, Director of Pediatrics and a Clinical Supervisor with The Social Work Consulting Group. She obtained a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Glendon College-York University. Prior to her university studies, Lynne pursued a career in business and received a Marketing Administration Diploma from Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology. In 2013, Lynne achieved her designation of Art Therapist graduating with an advanced diploma in Art Therapy from the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute.

Lynne has had an extensive work history in both the private and public sectors. Prior to joining The Social Work Consulting Group in 2008, she was employed at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) where she spent five years providing clinical social work services to children and their families in the Trauma Program. Throughout her career, Lynne has been an active member in the larger community participating in various committees as well as presenting at a number of community-based, insurance and legal conferences. Other areas of specialization in which Lynne has focused and devoted her practice to include, acquired brain injury in children and youth, acute and chronic illness, domestic violence, separation/divorce and issues related to grief and loss. Lynne is both a therapist and advocate who is committed to enriching the lives of children and adults in the aftermath of physical and emotional trauma.

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COPING WITH COVID — Youth and Teen Mental Health

 

Social Work Consulting Group’s Emma Fogel MSW, RSW and Lynne Harford, MSW, RSW discuss strategies to help teens and youth cope with “the new normal” with COVID-19.

About the Expert:
Emma Fogel, MSW, RSW is a Registered Social Worker with a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Toronto.

In 2016, Emma joined The Social Work Consulting Group, a large community-based clinical social work practice within the Greater Toronto Area established in 2006. In 2017, Emma co-created MindCALM, a therapeutic counseling service within The Social Work Consulting Group, specifically designed to assist youth and their families through the provision of counseling/psychotherapy, psychoeducation and the implementation of effective strategies to promote emotional regulation, increase resilience, coping capacity and overall emotional well-being. The program aims to help improve children/adolescents’ experience of varying psychoemotional challenges such as stress, anxiety, sadness, and navigating social/family relationships.

MindCALM offers both in-home or in-clinic counseling to youth and families within the GTA in addition to offering a variety of educational training and presentations to schools and camps across Ontario.

MindCALM is proud to be a preferred vendor the Ontario Camp Association (OCA). Emma provides camps throughout the OCA with mental health training for both staff and campers to ensure happy and healthy summer experiences at camp.

Emma’s true passion is in working with youth and families whereby she draws upon an eclectic framework to provide client-centered counseling support, which includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, and Play.

Lynne Harford, BA, MSW, RSW, D.VATI is a Registered Social Worker, Director of Pediatrics and a Clinical Supervisor with The Social Work Consulting Group. She obtained a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Glendon College-York University. Prior to her university studies, Lynne pursued a career in business and received a Marketing Administration Diploma from Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology. In 2013, Lynne achieved her designation of Art Therapist graduating with an advanced diploma in Art Therapy from the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute.

Lynne has had an extensive work history in both the private and public sectors. Prior to joining The Social Work Consulting Group in 2008, she was employed at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) where she spent five years providing clinical social work services to children and their families in the Trauma Program. Throughout her career, Lynne has been an active member in the larger community participating in various committees as well as presenting at a number of community-based, insurance and legal conferences. Other areas of specialization in which Lynne has focused and devoted her practice to include, acquired brain injury in children and youth, acute and chronic illness, domestic violence, separation/divorce and issues related to grief and loss. Lynne is both a therapist and advocate who is committed to enriching the lives of children and adults in the aftermath of physical and emotional trauma.

Links to resources:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/talking-with-children.html

https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/helping-children-cope-with-stress-print.pdf?sfvrsn=f3a063ff_2

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COPING WITH COVID – Emotional Well-Being

COVID-19 has had a major impact on almost everyone. FunctionAbility, Solutions for Living and Social Work Consulting Group social work experts Wendy Gage, MSW, RSW, and Lynne Harford, MSW discuss practical strategies for coping with the new reality many of us face on a daily basis.

About the Experts:

Lynne Harford, BA, MSW, RSW, D.VATI is a Registered Social Worker, Director of Pediatrics and a Clinical Supervisor with The Social Work Consulting Group. She obtained a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Glendon College-York University. Prior to her university studies, Lynne pursued a career in business and received a Marketing Administration Diploma from Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology.  In 2013, Lynne achieved her designation of Art Therapist graduating with an advanced diploma in Art Therapy from the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute.

Lynne has had an extensive work history in both the private and public sectors. Prior to joining The Social Work Consulting Group in 2008, she was employed at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) where she spent five years providing clinical social work services to children and their families in the Trauma Program. Throughout her career, Lynne has been an active member in the larger community participating in various committees as well as presenting at a number of community-based, insurance and legal conferences. Other areas of specialization in which Lynne has focused and devoted her practice to include, acquired brain injury in children and youth, acute and chronic illness, domestic violence, separation/divorce and issues related to grief and loss. Lynne is both a therapist and advocate who is committed to enriching the lives of children and adults in the aftermath of physical and emotional trauma.

Link to Canada’s economic plan: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html

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Self-Esteem Boosting Tips

We all seem to have a tendency to look in the mirror and focus on the negative; however, it is known that the power of positivity can help boost self-esteem.  The following article from Today’s Parent discusses the importance of building self-esteem in children from a young age and tips on how to boost their confidence so they can happily look themselves in the mirror every day.

Today’s Parent:  How To Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem

These tips aren’t just great for boosting self-esteem in kids, but can work for adults too!

 

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How Emotionally Intelligent Are You?

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

I have four daughters – three in high school and one in University.  That is a lot of estrogen in our house.  Yet it is an interesting time for our family – as our girls are navigating the perils of adolescence, I too am finding myself in a stage I am calling “adultescence” whereby my thoughts, feelings, and emotions are changing as theirs are.  This creates an interesting ebb and flow of all of us learning together what it all means as a teen girl to “grow up” and as an adult to start “letting go”.

I had one of those adultescent “aha” moments the other day with one of my teen daughters.  She is very socially driven and relationships are very important to her.  Over the last few months, as school has resumed, she has been struggling with some of her friendships.  One girl just suddenly stopped responding to messages, one takes pleasure in forwarding hurtful messages, and another treats my daughter as the weekend “last resort”.  In talking to my daughter about these events, my “aha” moment came when I realized that my daughter, already, is highly emotionally intelligent.  She has the ability to put herself in the position of others and regulates her own behavior (so far) on how she would feel as the recipient.  This is a gift for her but puts her at a relationship disadvantage as many of her peers are not there yet.   She “feels” in a relationship like she is 25, but is trying to rationalize the emotional behavior of kids 16 and 17.

According to psychology today, Emotional Intelligence includes three skills:

1. Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others;

2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving;

3. The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.

Emotional intelligence then includes:  self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.  It can affect: personal relationships, workplace (or school) performance, physical and mental health, and how you deal with situations such as loss or disability.

The good news is that experts believe that emotional intelligence can be learned, even in adults.  How do you know if you are emotionally intelligent?  Perhaps reflect on your relationships – are you able to sustain positive and loving bonds with others?  Can you empathize and relate to people during their struggles, and do they know that you “get it” and are emotionally available to them?  Do you regulate your own behavior based on how others might feel if you act a certain way, or say certain things?  Before sending that text, email or calling someone in anger do you consider how you want them to “feel” following your interaction?  Do you take pleasure in being right even if that makes others feel bad?  If you want to test your level of emotional intelligence, or raise your emotional IQ, take a quiz to see where you’re at:  Emotional Intelligence Quotient Quiz.

Do you think you need to improve in this area?  Some suggestions include:

·    practice mindfulness – in social situations, at work, at home with family relationships.

·    Stay in touch with your feelings through journaling or meditation “check-ins”.

·    Connect your feelings to the situation and try to separate the person from their behavior.

·    Check your thoughts – how you think can become how you feel, and the good news is you can change how you think!

·    Communicate with others and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable to those close to you to help sort through feelings, thoughts and emotions.

·    And if you can, don’t take the comments of others personally.  Their thoughts about you do not need to become the thoughts you have about yourself.

 

Originally posted November 2016

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Tips to Survive the Winter Blues and Put a Stop to SAD

Julie Entwistle, C.Dir. (c), MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

Research suggests that up to 15% of people in Ontario experience the “winter blues”. These leave you feeling tired, groggy, and maybe even sad or irritable.  While this causes discomfort, it is not incapacitating.  However, a more serious form of the winter blues, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), can be.  While occurring less frequently at 2-3% of the population, the symptoms can prevent individuals from leading a normal life.  If you feel this is you, talk to your doctor and have your symptoms investigated.

While the winter months can be long, dark, and cold, ultimately how we adapt to the seasonal change is up to us.  If moving or going south is not an option, consider some of the tips in our infographic below to make the winter bearable, or dare I say, even enjoyable?

 

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Change is Constant – Why Resist It?

Julie Entwistle, C.Dir. (c), MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

A few years ago I volunteered at a chronic pain program by assisting with an after-program book study.  This involved a group of program graduates getting together weekly to read and discuss the book A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle.  I was amazed at the transformations in attitude, beliefs, and thoughts that came from people reading and discussing this very impactful novel.  In fact, some of the benefits we witnessed, and the things people discussed were revolutionary, and I would even argue evolutionary.

Recently I picked up this book again.  Despite some heavy content, some of the examples are life-changing and the messaging vital.  In one section of the book, Eckhart talks about the need to “evolve or die”.  How true.  In fact, this is always our choice when faced with any change, uncertainty, or interruption in how we manage.  People seem to so strongly fight change, but change is both constant and inevitable.  Why resist? 

I have witnessed hundreds of people in my career that were faced with this same challenge – evolve or die.  The ones that were able to overcome adversity, who could find, cherish and expand on ability, who were open to suggestions, coaching, and change, faired far better than those that resisted, clung to the past, and refused to adapt.  I remember one client, many years after her accident, talking to me about her chronic pain, depression, and physical appearance.  She said, “I used to be a gymnast”.  My response was, “So was I – 30 years ago”.  She laughed.  Identifying that she continued to live in the very distant past helped me (and her) to understand where she was getting stuck, and explained why she was not progressing in the rehabilitation process.  Once she could accept her new “normal”, she started to make significant progress in resuming things she used to enjoy, while also finding new meaningful and productive activities she never imagined trying. 

Here is an example that relates strongly to my role as an OT who works with people who are suddenly and significantly injured in an auto accident (page 57):

“whenever tragic loss occurs, you either resist or you yield.  Some people become bitter or deeply resentful; others become compassionate, wise and loving.  Yielding means inner acceptance of what is.  You are open to life.  Resistance is an inner contraction, a hardening of the shell of the ego.  You are closed.  Whatever action you take in a state of inner resistance (which we could also call negativity) will create more outer resistance, and the universe will not be on your side; life will not be helpful.  If the shutters are closed, the sunlight cannot come in”. 

So, given the choice between evolve or die, let’s not only choose “evolve” but let’s also make an effort to live that way.  Evolution is difficult – it requires an open mind, hard work, and a positive and accepting attitude.  It often needs people to accept new opinions, ideas and even help.  This is not our nature, but if we can wrap our head around the fact that we are “evolving”, it makes challenges seem surmountable.  It can let the light in.

 

Previously posted September 2013

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Keeping Up Appearances: Social Media and Self-Esteem

Guest Blogger:  Susan Wang, Occupational Therapist

In the current age of media, the internet and social media sites (especially Instagram) contribute heavily towards bombarding young girls with images and videos of models. Approx. 90% of adolescents use social media daily, frequently for more than 2 hours a day.  Girls are more exposed in higher rates to media than boys which make females much more vulnerable to the negative impacts of media than boys. With the rise of social media use for marketing and advertising, content creators and models can interact heavily with their viewers through comments and live videos. They create heavily curated profiles and document intimate moments of their lives that thousands (sometimes millions) of individuals follow and keep up with. This, in addition to the popularity of Instagram use by celebrities, can create the illusion of forming authentic relationships with their audience. The interactive nature of social networking also provides opportunities for girls to compare their appearance with their peers. For example, taking selfies may cause women to scrutinize their own image from an observer’s perspective, which is then further reinforced by instant feedback on their appearance through the form of comments and ‘likes.’

Social media presents unique pressures on body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. It is a highly visual environment in which appearance ideals and the pursuit of thinness are promoted. Indeed, the interactive nature of social media appears to contribute to increases in disordered eating. As social media marketing and advertising continues to grow, competition amongst content creators and “influencers” also rises. There is a need to create a persona and create images/videos that stand out amongst the thousands of other marketers competing for the same sponsorships. This results in models utilizing photo editing apps to alter their images. With the rise of “FaceTune” and other photo editing apps, it is increasingly easier for individuals to alter their images, without needing to consult professionals or develop skills in photo editing. This has resulted in girls comparing themselves to unrealistic beauty standards.

In addition, celebrities such as Kim Kardashian have normalized the usage of surgical enhancements. Lip injections, breast augmentations, “fillers”, and other cosmetic surgery has been on the rise in recent years.  Cosmetic doctors have reported an increase in teens seeking lip injections, citing photos of Kylie Jenner as an inspiration. Studies have shown that women who rated their self-esteem, life-satisfaction, and attractiveness as low, were more likely to undergo cosmetic surgery.  This study also indicated that women with high social media exposure were more likely to undergo plastic surgery.  There is also an increase in the number of teenagers seeking plastic surgery. In 2017, approximately 220,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients aged 13-19 and social media plays a large part in this trend.  The average Millenial takes over 25,000 selfies in their lifetime, which is one of the major reasons for the self-esteem issues in this age group. In a recent American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery survey, more than 40% of surgeons said looking better in selfies on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook was an incentive for patients of all ages getting surgery. This is magnified for teens, who use social media more often.

Instagram vs. Reality

There are existing efforts to combat the rise in unrealistic beauty standards by raising awareness about the increasing use of photo editing apps. One such example is a community on the forum “Reddit” that posts side-by-side comparisons of edited images posted by models and celebrities and non-edited photos or videos depicting what they actually look like. While some of the posts contain borderline offensive/body-shaming comments, the concept can be helpful, especially for young girls, in highlighting the efforts and altering (posing, editing) that goes into celebrities’ images.

Some additional helpful resources we came across include:

References:

Brown, A., Furnham, A., Glanville, L., & Swami, V. (2007). Factors that affect the likelihood of undergoing cosmetic surgery. Aesthet Surg J, 27 (5). 501-508.

Paul, K. (2018, October 10). Do Instagram and Snapchat distort how teenagers see themselves? MarketWatch. Retrieved from
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-unsettling-relationship-between-selfie-filters-and-plasticsurgery-2018-08-02

Paul, K. (2018, September 30). More than 200,000 teens had plastic surgery last year, and social media had a lot to do with it. MarketWatch. Retrieved from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/should-you-let-your-teenager-get-plastic-surgery-2018-08-29

Fardouly, J., Diedrichs, P. C., Vartanian, L. R., & Halliwell, E. (2015). The mediating role of appearance comparisons in the relationship between media usage and self-objectification in young women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39, 447–457.

Oberst, U., Wegmann, E., Stoft, B., Brand, M., & Chamarro, A. (2017). Negative consequences from heavy social networking in adolescents: The mediating role of fear of missing out. Journal of Adolescence, 55, 51-60.

Costa, L. D. C. F., de Vasconcelos, F. D. A. G., & Peres, K. G. (2010). Influence of biological, social and psychological factors on abnormal eating attitudes among female university students in Brazil.

Journal of Facial Plastic Surgery (2014). Selfie trend increases demand for facial plastic surgery. Retrieved from https://www.aafprs.org/media/press_release/20140311.html

Salmela-Aro, K,, Upadyaya, K., Hakkarainen, K,, & Lonka, K. (2016). The Dark Side of Internet Use: Two Longitudinal Studies of Excessive Internet Use, Depressive Symptoms, School Burnout and Engagement Among Finnish Early and Late Adolescents. Journal of Youth and
Adolescence, 46 (2). DO – 10.1007/s10964-016-0494-2

de Vries, D. A., & Peter, J. (2013). Women on display: The effect of portraying the self online on women’s self-objectification. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 1483e1489. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.01.015 .

Spettigue, W., & Henderson, K.A. (2004). Eating disorders and the role of the media. The Canadian Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Review, 13 (1), 16-19.