Mental Health Week, FASD and COVID-19

Mental Health and FASD

As we know, over 90% of individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder will also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. This article has general mental health information and FASD specific resources.

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The first week of October is Mental Illness Awareness Week in The USA

Various countries highlight mental health awareness at different times of the year. This post highlights various campaigns over the last couple years. Most of the information and resources can be used when needed and are not time sensitive. For information visit: NAMI

October 10 is World Mental Health Day

The World Health Organization put out a resource: Doing What Matters in Times of Stress: An Illustrated Guide. It is a stress management guide for coping with adversity. The guide aims to equip people with practical skills to help cope with stress. A few minutes each day are enough to practice the self-help techniques. The guide can be used alone or with the accompanying audio exercises.

Informed by evidence and extensive field testing, the guide is for anyone who experiences stress, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.

At 132 pages it could seem daunting, but it is not text heavy and relies on a combination of graphics and words. It contains sections and tools on: Grounding, Unhooking, Acting on Your Values, Being Kind, Making Room. It is available in different languages. Click link above or here to access.

The 2022 campaign theme is: Make mental health & well-being for all a global priority. For information on the various campaigns over the years visit: World Mental Health Day

CMHA Mental Health Week

In Canada Mental Health Week is recognized the first week of May.

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The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has hosted Mental Health Week every year since 1951. In 2020, (when this post was first written) things looked a little different. We were confined to our individual living spaces, in a time of collective uncertainty and physical distancing.

We learned that we need each other now more than ever. It is precisely the time, during and in recovery from the pandemic, to lean on each other. Even if we can’t be close physically with one another, we need to stay close emotionally.

  • The theme in 2020 was ‘social connection’ and its importance for mental health. It calls for us to #GetReal about how we really feel.
  • Canadians ask one another how we are but it is common not to provide – or expect – a truthful answer. Many of us say we’re fine, even when we don’t mean it. ‘Fine’ keeps us at arm’s length from real social connections with others. Every time we just go through the motions, we miss a chance to connect with others in a meaningful way.
  • Each year, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness or mental health issue, but 5 in 5 Canadians has mental health—we all need social connection.

An epidemic of loneliness

  • Even before COVID-19, loneliness and social isolation were already a major concern.
  • People with weak or few social connections are at increased risk for anxiety, depression, anti-social and suicidal behaviours.
  • lack of strong relationships affects the risk of mortality in a comparable way to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.
  • A 2017 Vancouver Foundation survey found nearly a third of people aged 18-24 said they felt lonely.
  • Research shows that loneliness is more keenly felt by people who belong to a visible minority, who are Indigenous, who have mobility challenges or identify as LGBTQ.

The importance of social connection

  • Social inclusion and social integration have been identified by the W.H.O. and the U.N. as important protective factors for good mental health.
  • By providing emotional support, companionship and opportunities for meaningful social engagement, social networks have an influence on self-esteem, coping effectiveness, depression, distress and sense of well-being.
  • Social networks and social ties have a beneficial effect on mental health, including stress reactions, psychological well-being and symptoms of psychological distress including depression and anxiety.
  • Studies show that having social connections and being civically engaged are associated with positive mental and physical health and well-being.
  • Research has shown that even having one good friend can save children from being lonely.

Social connection in a time of social distancing

  • Everyone needs emotional support, but it’s even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Some experts have argued that social distancing should actually be called physical distancing, because we actually need each other socially.
  • The pandemic has brought us together in unexpected ways. Canada has been at the forefront of a campaign for caremongering, which has seen members of the community helping one another.
  • Phone calls, video calls and other digital technologies offer excellent opportunities for connecting face-to-face.
  • Socially connected communities simply respond better to crisis and disaster, and rebound better afterwards

Visit CMHA Mental Health Week for more information and tools. 

Click Get Ready to Get Real for tools from the 2022 campaign.

Mental Health and FASD

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You can also check out:

Day 61 of 99 Days to FASDay: FASD and Mental Health

For caregivers of individuals with FASD: Eileen Devine created a One Page Self Care Template. She states:

I understand intimately what it is like to attempt to work and home school a child who struggles with self-regulation, self-initiation, and learning on a good day. I know how much more intense this experience is when you have a child who struggles with challenging behavioral symptoms that are often more challenging with this level of upheaval.

I know what you mean when you say this is beyond hard, suffocating, and is testing you like you’ve never been tested before. I so get it. And also, here we are. This is our current reality and within that new reality there ARE things we can do to remain resilient despite these huge challenges. I am not talking about time-intensive self-care activities that none of us can manage with everything else that’s on our plate. I am talking about basic, core components to staying well and not simply surviving our day-to-day.

Not sure where to start in creating a plan for yourself focused on these core elements? I’ve got you covered.  I created a weekly self-care template for you to use each week, to help you focus on those things that ARE In your control, things that really matter.

The FASD Success Show has a podcast with Michael Harris, a psychologist and caregiver of an individual with FASD. In this episode he will help you understand anxiety, how to actually name it and get it under control.

Additional Resources

While mental health is much more than anxiety, since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of information shared to help people with general well-being and anxiety. There are thousands of online resources, programs, books and videos. It would be impossible to share them all. And since we are not mental health professionals, it is important for you to do your due diligence and research any resources you use to ensure they are from a reputable source. Here are a few we have found helpful for general coping during the pandemic and after.

12 Creative Ways to Support Your Health and Well-being is a great article from Blurb Books.

Blessing Manifesting has a 31 Days of Mental Wellness Challenge

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My Anxiety Plan is an anxiety management program based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) an evidence-based psychological treatment that was developed through decades of scientific research and has been shown to be one of the most effective treatments for anxiety. Although CBT is generally not successful for many people with FASD, you can adapt parts of it and use what does work.

MAP is a resource for parents and caregivers to “coach” anxious children or teens using practical strategies and tools to manage anxiety. MAP includes 6 units with 46 lessons.

jack.org has a hub of resources to help you take care of yourself and look out for the people you love during this challenging time.

COVID-19 Guided Self Help Booklet Series from the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability, The University of Glasgow, with assistance from colleagues at Lancaster University, the University of Oxford and the University of Warwick, have published a series of guided self-help booklets developed to support people with mild to moderate learning/intellectual disabilities during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The booklets can be used with the support of family members, friends, volunteers and carers and are also suitable for social work and health professionals. The booklets are intended to give people with learning/intellectual disabilities an opportunity to talk through their feelings with people providing support to them. There is a guide accompanying each booklet, explaining how the content can be delivered.

Books and Guides available: Introduction, Coping with Feeling Down, Getting a Good Night’s Sleep, Being Active and Staying Well, Solving Problems, Coping with Anxiety.

Tolerance for a Uncertainty is A COVID-19 Workbook by Dr. Sachiko Nagasawa. Available for anyone to help cope with the stress and anxiety associated with COVID-19.

The Wellness Society has 22 Healing Trauma Quotes + Free Mindful Colouring Sheets.

 

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IMPORTANT: If you are struggling with mental health, please reach out to a trusted family member, friend, neighbour or contact your health care provider, a local mental health organization or crisis line to find resources near you.

 

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