When your mental health requires specialized treatment or intervention, it is important to seek support immediately. Everyone has experienced periods of un-wellness within their lives, and while there is stigma about accessing support there is no shame in seeking support for your mental health.
Anyone can access specialized mental health resources at anytime, but if you notice the following change in symptoms or your friends or loved one is experiencing these difficulties, seek support.
Indicators you may need support
- Substance use (alcohol or drugs) increases
- Changes in mood, i.e. feeling anxious, angry or depressed
- Thoughts of suicide
- Repeated conflict with others, the law or at work
- Extended periods of absence from work, feelings of work-related stress or burnout.
- Changes in behavior, i.e. spending too much money, missing appointments or meetings, gambling, extramarital affairs
- Inflicting abuse onto others, i.e. interpersonal partner violence, sexual abuse, physical violence, fire setting
- Recent motor vehicle accident or head injury
- Experiences of trauma or re-emergence of post traumatic stress symptoms, and more
Steps to engaging support
Talk to your physician or psychotherapist about your feelings, your change of behaviour and symptoms.
Keep a journal of your behavior patterns, your thoughts, your sleep cycle, your eating habits, and feelings. This helps to create a diary that your physician can review and assess.
Ask for help! Speak to a close friend or family member, or even a professional about your concerns and how you are feeling. If it is a family member or friend experiencing these difficulties, talk to your physician, a psychotherapist or Employee Assistance counselor, or contact a helpline for support.
A helpline is a free, confidential, and sometimes anonymous line where you can speak to a trained volunteer or counsellor for support. The Black Youth Helpline is specific for youth. Kujenga Wellness Project also has support resources. Contact us for more information.
Accessing specialized supports
After speaking with your physician, your physician may have recommendations as to your next steps. Sometimes your physician may recommend medications that assist to reduce symptoms and improve sleep. For example, anxiety or anti-depressant medications help to reduce symptoms related to anxiety and depression (i.e. missing work, low mood, fatigue, lethargy, excessive worrying, fears, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, and more). Sleep medications and/or cannabis may be recommended to assist with initiating a healthy sleep cycle, reducing anxiousness, and improving mood. Finally, pain medications may help to reduce physical pain associated with mental health difficulties.
If your symptoms do not improve after a few months or remain chronic, your physician will also recommend the following interventions:
- Referral for lab tests and ex-rays to rule out physical diseases
- Referral to a specialized medical doctor, i.e. psychiatrist who are skilled to assessing mental health diseases.
- Substance use or mental health center
Addressing suicidal thoughts and chronic mental health difficulties
If you are thinking of suicide, or have a plan to kill yourself— seek support. Go to your local emergency hospital department. You will be assessed by a psychiatrist, mental health nurse and a social worker. Depending on your symptoms, the psychiatrist may want you to stay at the hospital for 72 hours for an observation, or will release you with recommendations. This 72 hours in a hospital is legislated under the Mental Health Act
If you have a family member or friend who require immediate assistance, you can also obtain a Form 1 to encourage them to see a psychiatrist in a hospital. A resource guide called, When a Family Member is Unwilling to Seek Help is also available.
Services and medications provided in the hospital are free. Any prescriptions or cannabis is of extra cost.
Specialized mental health supports
Once stabilized (i.e. no longer a harm to yourself or others), your psychiatrist and/or physician will refer you to either an in-patient or outpatient mental health center which specialized in supports for people who are chronically unwell. These supports are helpful in providing a “multi-system” approach to wellness. These services may last for three to twelve months, or continue throughout your lifetime, depending on need. Mental health supports in outpatient or in-patient treatment centers are typically free if covered by the government. These supports typically have a wait list from 30 days to 18 months. There are also paid in-patient treatment centers available (with no wait list) across Ontario, and Canada. Subscribe to our blog for updates on centers across the province and country.
Currently, there is 1 Black-focused mental health treatment center operating out of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health called, Substance Abuse Program for African Canadian and Caribbean Youth. Other centers, such as Ontario Shores, and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health provide generalized services using a trauma-focused and/or equity-based cultural competence lens.
Community based mental health supports are also available. Visit our Resources Page for more information. Similarly, there are no costs to using community-based mental health supports.
What is a psychiatrist and a psychologist?
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who is specialized in understanding, diagnosing and treating mental health. They are regulated by the College of Physicians, and have completed additional course work and training in psychiatry. A psychiatrist uses the Diagnostic Statistical Manual as a guide for diagnosing mental health problems such as depression, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, anxiety and more. Use the link for more information.
In Ontario, a psychiatrist can diagnose mental health problems AND prescribe medications.
Also, in Ontario, a psychologist who is a member of a regulated college can diagnose mental health problems, and assess for other mental health, social and behavioral problems. Psychologists charge between $180- 280/per hour and can complete assessments for $2500 and up. A psychologist has a doctorate degree, but is not a medical doctor. Psychologists can also supervise a psychotherapist or psychological associate which can also reduce the hourly rate by $50-80/per session.
To obtain a psychiatrist, you need a referral from a medical doctor (i.e. your doctor, an emergency room doctor, or an emergency room psychiatrist). You do not need a referral for a psychologist. Visit our resources page for a list of Black psychologists.
What else can you do?
Prevention and Intervention are extremely important to managing your mental health. There are many ways you can manage your mental health, with specialized supports or without. Subscribe to our blog for updates on specialized supports.
For referrals or support, contact us at: