Vermilion’s Mental Health Conference had speakers share experiences to help.
Today Bell Canada is encouraging people to start conversations about mental health and wellness and will donate more towards initiatives across the country as part of their annual ‘Bell Let’s Talk Day.’ They raised $7.7 million for mental health initiatives last year alone, and $108 million since it began in 2010.
Bell says when it comes to mental health, now more than ever, every action counts – whether you take the time to listen to a loved one or encourage a friend to ask for help.
Once again throughout the day, they will contribute 5 cents for applicable texts, calls, tweets or TikTok videos using #BellLetsTalk, as well as social media video views that use their Facebook frame or Snapchat filter.
With those proceeds, the foundation hopes to raise awareness, reducing the stigma surrounding mental health. Then they plan on continuing to go directly to schools and clubs highlighting issues related to mental health and encouraging people to openly discuss their concerns.
Last week, the Vermilion & District Chamber of Commerce hosted their 5th Annual Mental Health & Wellness Conference virtually. This gave local attendees the opportunity to hear about real-life experiences first hand from speakers about creating mental wellness in their personal and family lives as well as in agriculture and business.
Inspiration From Others Who Have Walked That Path
Bell Let’s Talk ambassador and pro-golfer, Andrew Jensen, was one of their speakers. Because he was willing to share his story throughout his career, he has now become an inspiration to many.
As a youth, he experienced suicidal thoughts, even attempting it at 16-years-old. At one point he thought medication would fix it all, so things got worse before they got better. A lot of his struggle was in finding his worth, he said, but over the years through therapy twice a week and a lot of work and additional support from friends, he began moving in the right direction.
Years later with added pressure of feeling like he had to succeed at playing good golf, he said he fell back into a dark place where he considered jumping off a building and tried to overdose. Luckily, he had already learned to ask for help, and went back on medication again and began to really learn about his illness.
“It doesn’t end – it’s a process,” said Jensen.
Now he feels fortunate to travel the country and said what connects him to other Canadians is pain.
“I had someone tell me once that I didn’t want to die, I just wanted to stop hurting,” said Jensen.
He also realized in later years he was going to have to let his wife in even though he had a habit of keeping people at a distance and didn’t feel like he was good enough to be loved by her.
Now married, he said he does still deal with anxiety, but he stopped believing the stigma and doesn’t find depression any more shameful or embarrassing than a physical scar. He said surgery after a broken arm ended his golf career, but he still plays because he enjoys it as well as speaking engagements that connect with others.
He is pleased he reached out to his family because many of them also suffer, but now they are able to talk about it. He said he is not proud that he tried to take his life, but proud of his illness and that he gets to share it with people.
“This year people have lost so much – embrace who you are and what you’ve been through. Have people you can talk with. They won’t have the answers for everything, but they can walk with you and agree that your experience is tough,” said Jensen.
Now he is happy that his experience has come full circle and he’s had the opportunity to go back and speak at his own high school. During a Q and A portion, he said he makes a habit of prioritizing sleep, and monitoring his food and alcohol intake.
“I practice mindfulness which has helped immensely, I practice meditation which identifies that my negative thoughts are just thoughts – they don’t have to be dwelt on or be determined to be truth. You are in charge of this illness, so by shifting your mind to think that, then you can your work your patience, etc.,” said Jensen.
Finding Emotional Regulation
Psychologist, Dr. Jody Carrington, was also a speaker at the virtual Mental Health & Wellness Conference and provided helpful suggestions of things people can make a point doing each day to make an improvement in how they are feeling or how others are feeling.
“The heart of all mental health struggles is emotional regulation,” said Carrington.
“If you don’t have the capacity to stay calm in times of distress, it will be difficult.”
She said babies don’t come home from the hospital with those skills – that mammals are born with a fight, flight, or freeze response. When dis-regulated, all people can access are those emergency reactions, which is necessary in the height of trauma, but if people are dis-regulated all the time they will struggle, but when regulated they will do well.
She noted how big of a role acknowledgment plays to boost our mood or someone else’s. In her book, ‘Kids these Days,’ she talks about people just wanting to know they matter.
As you carry on with your day, she suggests taking the time to look people in the eyes, wave at them, and even say their name if you know it. You don’t always have to have the answer, she said just listening can sometimes be all a person needs.
“Now with a global pandemic, people are experiencing fear, uncertainty, and no end in sight. What causes emotional dis-regulation?” said Carrington. “Uncertainty, fear, and no end in sight — so everybody is empty and tired.”
She expects to see collective burnout and said when people feel empty, they can’t serve well or lead well so they will not their best as a business person.
Because humans are wired for connection, she said they will feel good when they can serve others.
“You get tired when people stop acknowledging. Acknowledgment is one of your bigger superpowers–acknowledge the pain,” said Carrington.
“When you are okay, the people you lead, teach or serve will be so much better.”
She reminded attendees what happens when someone takes the time out of their day to give them a compliment. When someone is acknowledged — they will rise, but she said people need to be emotionally regulated in order to be able to give it away.
“The more we give it away, the more we will get it back. When you acknowledge others, they will rise. The best way is just to take notice when someone does something fantastic,” said Carrington.
She suggested reconnecting with your goals, whether that is eating healthy, exercising, or drinking more water, she said its not an end game–that you’ll get there and then you’ll fall off, but then you’ll get there again.
“Think big, start small–it could be one bottle of water, one 10 minute walk, one social interaction at the park, one Zoom with friends. Some days you will be killin’ it, and then other days you won’t. However, when you breathe deeply, you will drop your shoulders, your forehead will relax, and you will drop the tongue from the roof of your mouth.”
Give yourself some grace, do the best you can with what you’ve got, and let that be enough, she said.
Additionally, she pointed out how important rest is, and said joy one of the most vulnerable emotions on the planet – and joy is a choice. She said nobody is happy all the time, but people can find a way to create joyful moments by belly laughing, dancing in the kitchen, etc.
She said it is never too late to learn emotional regulation and suggested surrounding yourself with inspirational people by listening to a podcast, reading a book, etc.
“We have so much power just by showing up,” said Carrington.
“You can lead from the bench, you don’t have to be the CEO – lead from wherever you are at. You have everything you need to lift the lives of others simply by acknowledging them.”