Thursday, November 25, 2010

Indigenous' Mental Health

“Mental illnesses are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood or behaviour associated with significant distress and impaired functioning (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2009).”
Indigenous people are more commonly known to us as Aboriginals. “Aboriginal Peoples include people of Indian, Inuit, and M├ętis ancestry, with diverse Indigenous languages, cultures, and traditions (Canadian Mental Health Association).”  According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Indigenous represent approximately three percent of Canada’s population.
My view upon Aboriginals has certainly changed throughout this course and its requirements. The article Aboriginal People/First Nations by the Canadian Mental Health Association, states that over half of Aboriginals are under twenty four years of age, and forty percent are under the age of sixteen. This could be due to the fact that Aboriginals have a shorter life expectancy, experience more violence, and experience more accidental deaths. Also, the Aboriginals have a higher infant mortality rate and have more chronic health conditions than other groups in Canada. The article also speaks about the fact that Aboriginals live in poorer health conditions and poverty, and are discriminated at by many.  
“Many mental health problems of Aboriginals arise from a long history of colonization, residential school trauma, discrimination and oppression, and losses of land, language, and livelihood (Canadian Mental Health Association).” We all watched how devastating the video on the residential schools were. Personally, I did not know much about the residential schools until I watched the video. It was devastating to know that children were taken from their homes and put into schools where they were physically, sexually, and emotionally abused. Along with the abuse, the Indigenous children were forced to stop speaking their language and were unable to participate in their own cultural traditions.
“Rates of mental health problems, such as suicide, depression, and substance abuse, are significantly higher in Aboriginal communities than in the general population (Canadian Mental Health Association).” I agree with the Canadian Mental Health Association that Aboriginals have higher rates of mental illnesses because of past events, like the residential schools, colonization, loss of land, etc. Also, many Aboriginals are discriminated at and this definitely contributes, along with their low levels of poverty, and poor health conditions (e.g. inadequate food).  
I think that Aboriginals with mental illnesses need to be treated, especially because many mental illnesses lead to alcoholism and suicide. While reading the article First Nations, Inuit and Aboriginal Health, I was shocked at the following statistics: “Suicide and self-inflicted injuries are the leading causes of death for First Nations youth and adults up to 44 years of age” and “First Nations youth commit suicide about five to six times more often than non-Aboriginal youth” (Health Canada, 2007).” According to the article, Aboriginal Mental Health: The statistical reality, alcohol is a major concern among the Aboriginal community.
It is quite clear than many Aboriginals in Canada have mental health illnesses. I completely understand why the numbers are so high amongst Indigenous people with mental illness. Their people have experienced a life in which many of us cannot compare to.  Although there are programs available to treat individuals, Aboriginals are not always given the equal chance to receive the treatment they deserve. In order to treat the Aboriginals with mental illnesses and to reduce the number of mental illnesses, those individuals need to engage in programs and health services designed to help the mentally ill. They also need to receive proper, certified counselling.  An example of a program that is available to people in Manitoba (including Aboriginals) with mental illnesses is the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority states: “Our community mental health program includes a range of community-based programs designed to help adults experiencing mental health problems. We provide assessment, crisis intervention, counselling, consultation, referral, case management, rehabilitation and education services in a variety of settings (Winnipeg Regional Health Authority).The only negative part to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is it is only available to people eighteen years and older.

However, Aboriginals (including children) have other opportunities where they could receive the help, support and treatment they desire. They could seek other programs and health services that are available throughout Canada, and they could see individual counsellors or psychologists to help cure their mental disorder or at least treat it. By using the mental health services and programs designed to help individuals with mental illnesses, it is one way to ensure the decrease of alcoholism and suicide. On the other hand, society needs to contribute as well. Many people need to be supported into getting help. If Aboriginals are discriminated at, they are less likely to go out and get the help they need. The discrimination needs to stop, and the support needs to begin. If counsellors, psychologists, and mental health services open up their doors to the Aboriginals with mental illnesses, the Aboriginals in need of help are more likely to use the resources out there.  It is time for the deserving to receive the adequate help they need.

Ashley R.
 Public Health Agency of Canada. (2009, April 23). Mental Illness. Retrieved from

Canadian Mental Health Association. (n.d.). Aboriginal People/First Nations. Retrieved from 

Health Canada. (2007, July 19). Mental Health and Wellness. Retrieved from 

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. (n.d.). Community Mental Health Services. Retrieved from 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Older People With Mental Disabilties

“Since people are now living longer than they used to, they are more likely to survive to ages at which they can experience later life-cycle stages (Ward, 2006, 199).” However, with the increase of older people in Canada, comes the increase in the amount of mental disabilities among the elders. “There are an estimated 641,000 adults age 60 and older with intellectual (mental retardation) and other developmental disabilities (e.g. cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy)  (Heller, 2010) “According to Heller, their numbers will double to 1,242,794 for 2030 when all of the post World War II “baby boom” generations born between 1946-1964 will be in their sixties.

Since the number of older people in Canada is increasing dramatically, I believe that the government of Canada shall continue helping older people with mental disabilities and should expand their programs and resources to great extents. By doing this, all elders with mental disabilities would be at a greater advantage of the help they deserve. All older people with mental disabilities deserve adequate help and support. Due to their condition some elders need larger amounts of help and support. Whether the individual is classified as a frail older adult or, for example, an older person who suffers from depression, they all deserve the proper help for themselves. Frail older adults “have physical disabilities, are very ill, and may have cognitive or physiological disorders (Ateah, Kail & Cavanaugh, 2009, 609).” 

The “mission of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) is to provide exemplary, client-centred services and benefits that respond to the needs of Veterans, other clients, and their families, in recognition of their services to Canada  (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, 2007).” This program sounds very beneficial to older Canadians because it helps all veterans, including those with mental illnesses. Since the program is only available to veterans and their families, many older people with mental disabilities may be at a disadvantage; unless they find a program suitable for their needs. Upon my research, I found a fantastic program available to all members of society (including senior citizens) with a mental disability. “Winnipeg Regional Health Authority provides support to persons with severe and persistent mental health problems, as well as support and consultation to mental health residential care facilities. Services include assessment, crisis intervention; supportive counselling, basic needs support, service coordination, and intensive rehabilitation case management. A team of community mental health staff also provides community trauma debriefing following traumatic community events (Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, 2010).” These are just two examples of programs that help older people with mental disabilities. 

I believe that the government should act very liberal upon the situation of helping elders with mental disabilities. “Equality to reform liberal means equal opportunity (Mullaly, 2007, 92).” If the government followed the view of reform liberal’s, society would be a great place as all people with or without mental disabilities, old or not, would be at an equal chance to receive the proper care they need. In regards to the increase in older people, and the increase in mental disabilities in Canada amongst those older people, I believe the government needs to increase the resources they provide; to ensure senior citizens are receiving they help and support they need.

Ashley R.


Ward, M. (2006). The Family Dynamic A Canadian Perspective (4th ed.). Canada: Joanna Cotton. 

Heller, T. (n.d.). Older Adults With Developmental Disabilities and Their Aging Family Caregivers. Retblogrieved November 20, 2010, from Wellness & Prevention website: developmental-disabilities/older-adults-with-developmental-disabilities-and-their-aging-family-caregivers/

Ateah, C. A., Kail, R. V., & Cavanaugh, J. C. (2009). Human Development A Life-Span View (2nd ed.). 
     United States: Nelson Education Ltd. 

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. (n.d.).  * Advancing the Inclusion of People with 
     Disabilities 2007. Retrieved November 22, 2010, from Human Resources and Skills Development 
     Canada website: 

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. (n.d.). What Are Health and Social Services? Retrieved November 
     20, 2010, from 

Mullaly, B. (2007). The New Structural Social Work (3rd ed.). Canada: Oxford University Press. 

People with Mental and Physical Disabilities

Mental illnesses “can also be called psychiatric disorders (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2010).” “Mental illnesses are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behaviour associated with significant distress and impaired functioning (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2009).” “A physical disability is any condition that permanently prevents normal body movement and/or control (Parenting and Child Health, 2009).”
There are a variety of mental and physical disabilities, and we all can name at least a few for each. For mental disabilities, we know there are disorders like anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. As for physical disabilities, we know that one can be paralyzed, be in a wheelchair, have a spinal cord injury, or have arthritis. Mental illnesses and physical disabilities go hand in hand. “People living with a serious mental illness are at higher risk of experiencing a wide range of chronic physical conditions. Conversely, people living with chronic physical health conditions experience depression and anxiety at twice the rate of the general population (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2008).”
By reading the article, The Relationship between Mental Health, Mental Illness and Chronic Physical Conditions I have learned more about the link between physical and mental disabilities. The article summarizes that people living with a mental illness and a physical disability contribute to high economic costs as they have to miss out on a lot of work, and use large amounts of health services. People living with mental illnesses experience a variety of physical symptoms from the illness they have and from the treatments they must go through. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, mental illnesses can alter hormonal balances and sleep cycles. Many psychiatric medications have side-effects ranging from weight gain to irregular heart rhythms. Mental illnesses can cause poor physical health; they can affect social and cognitive behaviour, and decrease the body’s energy level. The article also states that some chronic physical disabilities can increase the body’s blood sugar levels and disrupt the circulation of blood; which can impact brain functioning. Therefore, it could lead to a mental illness. It is very likely for physical conditions, such as arthritis, obesity, and diabetes to lead to anxiety disorders and depression. While reading the article I also learned that people with serious mental illnesses often have increased blood pressure and high levels of stress hormones and adrenaline. These are known to increase one’s heart rate. Increased heart rate can lead to cardiovascular problems, causing heart attacks and/or strokes. Unfortunately, strokes can lead to one being paralyzed, which the person would then have a mental disability and a physical disability. 

Mental disabilities can be caused by physical disabilities, as physical disabilities can be caused by mental disabilities. The Canadian Mental Association provides shocking statistics: Canadians who report symptoms of depression also report experiencing three times as many chronic physical conditions as the general population and Canadians with chronic physical conditions have twice the likelihood of also experiencing a mood or anxiety disorder when compared to those without a chronic physical condition.  These statistics allow us to realize that there are many unfortunate people in our society that need help.

Although there are many great programs and health services available to those with disabilities, not all of the programs are available at all times. If there were more of a variety of programs, with extended hours, individuals with disabilities could receive the adequate help they need, and when they need it. Individuals with physical and mental disabilities need to be able to access health services and programs at any time and for as long as they need too. With access to more programs, and longer hours individuals with disabilities would be able to function better mentally and physically. They would also be happier and healthier. If people suffering from both mental and physical disabilities were getting the proper help they need, they would live longer, especially with friends, family, and society supporting them. People who suffer from both physical and mental disabilities are often at times discriminated at and not treated as equals in society. Also, I think it would be beneficial to those who are at a disadvantage in life if we viewed society as reform liberals do. “Equality to reform liberal means equal opportunity (Mullaly, 2007, 92).” If individuals with both physical and mental disabilities were treated as equals, and they received equal opportunity in receiving the help they need, and for example, when applying for jobs, then not only would individuals who have disabilities benefit, but society as a whole would too.

Ashley R.

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2010). Understanding Mental Illness. Retrieved November 23, 
     2010, from 
 Public Health Agency of Canada. (2009, April 23). Mental Illness. Retrieved November 23, 2010, from 
 Parenting and Child Health. (2009, May 15). Physical Disability. Retrieved November 23, 2010, from 
 Canadian Mental Health Association. (2008, December). The Relationship between Mental Health, Mental 
     Illness and Chronic Physical Conditions. Retrieved November 23, 2010, from 
 Mullaly, B. (2007). The New Structural Social Work (3rd ed.). Canada: Oxford University Press. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Aging and mental illness

          I had the opportunity of working at a personal care home for three years. I really enjoyed working with older adults and I definitely learnt a lot from them. I noticed through my working experiences that many residents at the home had a mental illness. Reading the article Growing Older: The Lived Experience of Older Persons with Serious Mental Illness gave me a better understanding of what aging individuals with a mental illness might be going through. The article emphasized the importance of understanding the experiences of aging people with an illness, since these individuals are living longer and informal supports, such as family, are decreasing. The need of formal mental health care system for services and support is therefore increasing. “Understanding the perspectives of persons who are growing older with serious mental illness may help to predict the requirements of mental health service delivery and inform future practice” (Tryssenaar, Chui, & Finch, 2003, p. 22). According to Ward, well-being and worry about possible illness becomes more important as people age, since people over the age of 75 are more likely than younger individuals to have a disability or chronic health problem.

          Studies done for the article by Tryssenaar, Chui, & Finch, reported that older persons with severe mental illness were generally more comfortable in their surroundings and more satisfied with their living conditions than younger persons, as aging seemed to ease social integration and decrease symptoms. Older persons demonstrated acceptance, adaptation, and a more positive outlook on life. The normal aging that occurs over the lifespan of the adult life seems to intervene the severity of serious mental illness. However, the article did not ignore the fact that aging with serious mental illness presents challenges. “Older individuals with serious mental illness appear to receive less help from both formal and informal systems and are less optimistic about the future than are younger ones” (Tryssenaar, Chui, & Finch, 2003, p. 23). According to the article, older persons are more likely than younger ones to predict that the outcome of their illness will not improve in the future. Aging was identified as having both positive and negative effects on individuals with serious mental illness, which may be affected by acceptance or lowered expectations of the present and future.

          Individuals interviewed in the article seemed to have a greater awareness of the benefits of medication and accessible supportive resources. Lack of adequate age-appropriate programs and a desire to be heard and understood were expressed by individuals. Frequent structured programs and activities gave individuals a sense of purpose, accomplishment, and value, which were identified in maintaining their mental health and involvement in their communities. “Participants reported frustration with the delivery of health care services and the lack of involvement of persons with serious mental illness by the health care system. This apparent exclusion highlighted the fact that their opinions often were not validated and contributed to their overall feelings of isolation” (Tryssenaar, Chui, & Finch, 2003, p. 29). Desire to be heard and understood was expressed. However, many other participants reported positive experiences with existing programs and supports.

          Participants in the interviews often reported past challenging circumstances and difficulty developing or continuing relationships. Among women, physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse seemed to be a common part of their family environment and health care system. One individual shared: “If I had been brought up in a better situation where there wasn't the verbal abuse, and there wasn't alcoholism...I might have had a better chance. Not that I'm blaming anybody. It's just...I can see where the problems began...or where they were rooted” (Tryssenaar, Chui, & Finch, 2003, p. 27). I believe this demonstrates that many mental illnesses in older persons, such as depression and anxiety, have been affected by their past, and many haven't received the adequate support to overcome these traumas.

          Social stigma, according to the article, seemed a common factor for those affected by mental illness. Many expressed that they felt people were more accepting of people with physical disabilities over those with mental disabilities. Stigma often resulted in loneliness and isolation. As well, poverty, limited housing options, and discrimination were voiced concerns by individuals with mental illness. One expressed: “I think the government should experience what it's like to live on whatever money you're getting...then they'll be able to better understand our way (Tryssenaar, Chui, & Finch, 2003, p. 28). According to Mullaly, older Canadians are among subordinate groups experiencing oppression and violence. “For these people, poverty, loneliness, and a sense of uselessness contribute to Alzheimer's and related dementias, very high suicide rates, and abuse of prescription drugs” (p. 275).

          I believe a lot more priority needs to be put towards our aging population. I learnt that government intervention is necessary to provide the necessary support, programs, living necessities, and education towards older persons. I also believe that each one of us can make a difference in the lives of of those aging with an illness. I've seen many times at the personal care home where I worked, that simply a small visit or a smile could brighten an older person's day. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those who made this world a better place for us.

Tryssenaar, J., Chui, A., & Finch, L. (2003). Growing Older: The Lived Experience of Older Persons with Serious Mental Illness. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health. Volume 22, Number 1, p. 21-33. Ontario, Canada: Canadian Periodical for Community Studies, Inc.

Ward, M. (2006). Grey Power and the Sunset Years. The Family Dynamic: A Canadian Perspective (fourth ed.). Thomson, Canada: Thomas Nelson

Mullaly, B. (2007). The New Structural Social Work (third ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Sarah H

Immigration and Mental Health

                 Immigration to Canada is considered to be a dream-come-true for many people. Canada has a reputation as a free, multi-cultural, peaceful country in which all types of people have access to building a successful, healthy life. Many different people immigrate and seek refuge in Canada from all over the world and undoubtedly many of them are shocked by the new struggles that they face in this “ideal” country. Mental health issues are prevalent for many Canadian newcomers for many different reasons, and unfortunately, treatment is not always readily available to these groups.
                First of all, it is apparent that culture shock, racism, classism, religious persecution, fear and general oppression can create psychological stress, which often leads to the development of mental health issues. Although Canada is reputable for being an accepting nation, many communities are plagued with racial tension and discrimination exists in all levels of society. Mullaly writes that “almost all oppressed groups suffer systemic violence simply because they are members of a subordinate group (2007, p. 168).” When people are often subjected to subtle and blatant forms of violence, they will feel the effects psychologically and even physically. Also, many people arrive in Canada with mental health issues due to the dangerous or unequal conditions that they faced in their homelands.
Additionally, people who are experiencing these issues often have a hard time acquiring the means for support and treatment for many different reasons. Over the last three decades, the number of immigrants arriving in Canada has increased which puts a “greater emphasis on health care providers and the health care system to provide culturally appropriate and equitable care (Donnely, 2010, abstract).” Often immigrants access a mental health system which is culturally biased and will often fail to understand or address the social, economic and historical issues that these people face (Donnely, 2010).  Frequently, even issues such as language barriers and lack of access to social assistance can create situations in which a person in need of help cannot access it.
“Social and psychological resources (sense of coherence, coping strategies and social support) have been found to be determining factors in an individual's adjustment to a new society (Ruhi, 2010).” When these resources are lacking, the ability to become comfortable and successful in a new country is hindered. While these resources may have been readily available in their homelands, they are often unavailable or unattainable in a new Western home. Until Canada is able to present a culturally appropriate and universally accessible mental (and physical) health care system, the newcomers to this country will continue to feel the psychological stress of their past and, conceivably, their present and future.


Donnely, J. M. (2010). A Postcolonial Feminist Perspective Inquiry into Immigrant Women’s Mental Health Care Experiences. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 440-449.
Mullaly, B. (2007). The New Structural Social Work (third ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
Ruhi, T. J. (2010). Predictors of psychological well-being of Pakistani immigrants in Toronto, Canada.  International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 452-464.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mental Disability and Social Democracy: The obvious solution

Mental illness is undeniably a serious social issue in Canada. Unfortunately, the equality of opportunity offered in our country does not assist or allow those suffering from issues such as depression, addiction, diagnosed “personality disorders,” etc. to compete with the rest of the “able-minded,” productive population. In fact, the vast inequalities that exist amongst the Canadian population can be said to be (or at least contribute to) the actual cause of many of the mental disabilities mentioned above. A social democracy would aim to change this problem.
A social democratic society would focus on reducing all inequalities in society and eliminating poverty would be a main focus. It is common knowledge that all too often poverty and mental illness go hand in hand. “Poverty prevents people from achieving the prerequisites for health, such as shelter, food, warmth and the ability to participate in society (Dennis Raphael, 2001, p. 1703).” As well as experiencing “anxiety and stress associated with uncertainty,” people who live in poverty “lack control over life circumstances… and are distressed over their lack of material resources (Dennis Raphael, 2001, p. 1703).” While these circumstances can often be met with resilience, many people can deal with only so much physical and emotional stress before they begin to feel the effects on their psychological state of mind. In addition to this situation, many people who are impoverished and are experiencing a mental illness do not have access to the resources they need or the opportunities for self-care that the well-off population often has.
As well as focussing on material inequalities, a social democracy would seek to eliminate all forms of discrimination and social inequalities based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs etc. These forms of discrimination also affect the rates of mental illness in society. For example, “inner city children and families commonly experience chronic trauma and stress (Welsh, 2003, p. 267),” and while poverty is one reason, the general oppression faced by these marginalized groups substantially adds to the stress that poverty creates. When people are constantly discriminated against, “rage can be internalized and manifested as depression or self-destructive drug or alcohol abuse (Welsh, 2003, p. 266).” Again, these minority populations will not have the same access to the helping resources that the rest of the society has.
While social welfare directed towards helping those with mental disabilities in a liberal society is a good thing, mental illness will be merely be treated but not prevented. This creates the constant need for professional and economic resources to be poured into this area. In reality, due to a lack of social funding and limited access many people will be left with no treatment options at all. Because many social problems arise out of the fact that the current system is neglecting human needs (Mullaly, 2007), these psychological issues that people are struggling with will exist as long as the current system is in place.
There is a great amount of scholarly literature which stresses the fact that an increase in resource equality would lead to a decrease of many incidences of mental illness. Wilkinson and Pickett write that “…unequal societies are bad for almost everyone within them- the well off as well as the poor (Wilkinson, 2009, abstract)” and argue that “almost every modern social and environmental problem…. is more likely to occur in a less equal society (Wilkinson, 2009, abstract)”.  If we are able to examine and alleviate social problems where they start, the entire society will benefit. When people’s needs for basic resources and safety and security are met, the fear, paranoia and desperation which are often equated with mental illness will decline. This will likely decrease poverty, crime and many medical and social welfare expenses, allowing the country as a whole to benefit from extra resources and increased safety.


Dennis Raphael, P. (2001, September). Increasing poverty threatens the health of all Canadians. Canadian Family Physician, 47, 1703-1706.
Mullaly, B. (2007). The New Structural Social Work (third ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
Welsh, F. (2003). Normal Family Processes (3rd ed.). New York: The Guilford Press.
Wilkinson, R. D. (2009). The spirit level: why more equal societies almost always do better. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Crystal M.