One of the biggest battles in the mental health community supersedes the need to end stigma, settling on the area of recovery. Endless resources are poured into raising awareness, and while it is of great importance, access to services are even more important.
Canada has an incredibly long way to go when it comes to appropriate medical access for people with mental illnesses, eating disorders, depression, and so on. Counsellors and therapists properly trained in these areas can be hard to find and psychiatrists tend to have large waiting lists, with far too few doctors available to meet the demands.
Oftentimes, even with the right medication, the services provided are not enough to actually assist with regaining control of ones’ life in the midst of mental health struggles.
While there are plenty of non-government or medical resources out there, the vast majority of them also focus more on awareness than on actual assistance with recovery.
Perhaps part of the issue in this area is that many people still disagree on what recovery means. For some, the word itself is off-putting, suggesting there should be a way to magically make all of their struggles go away. Recovery, for most however, is about learning how to live a successful life in spite of their issues. It is learning how to regain control from the things that threaten to take away control.
Lots of websites and online resources will provide articles and tips on how to learn these things, but what they often lack is consistency and community. When dealing with any kind of mental health struggle, it is difficult to try to do it when you feel alone and that no one else understands. It can feel as if it is you against the world, leaving hope to fade further and further away.
Recovery is one of those complicated things because it looks drastically different for everyone.
It varies depending on the mental health issue and the way it affects a person to begin with. For some, recovery is simply about being able to get out of bed every day, to not self-harm, or to avoid slipping into destructive habits. For others, it becomes about learning how to reconcile their mental illness with the rest of their self in a way that allows them to move forward in their lives.
Creating a place where people feel safe enough to be raw and real about where they’re at and learn from one another on ways to pull yourself back up during recovery is important. It’s especially needed because a big part of the recovery process is being able to celebrate each win, not just with yourself, but with others who understand their value.
In my life, the online world has often provided that. Nearly two years ago, I had the opportunity to become involved in an online publication aimed solely at support in recovery. It changed a lot for me. Doors opened to connect me with people who had faced the same, or similar, things I was going through, and managed to find a way to navigate through the tumultuous waters.
Some were things I had never thought of, providing methods and tips to figure out a way to work through specific situations. Others shone new light on tactics I had tried in the past, but perhaps hadn’t been successful in because of the way I had gone about them.
Perhaps the most impactful thing is the sense of community it created, the vast understanding I am not alone in these battles I face regularly.
In turn, I started developing the ability to share the things that had worked for me in my recovery, realizing there was a chance it may help someone else.
There is something to be said for the existence of a resource like that online, but I still believe having a genuine place where people can physically meet in their own communities would be even more powerful – a place where others can understand that for some, simply making it out to such a group would be a huge victory and that could be celebrated with them.
Sharing in our battles, our recovery, our victories and our losses enables us to inspire, encourage, and grow with one another. It cultivates an atmosphere free of judgment where we can learn to be ourselves and how we fit in, regardless of what our issues are.
What would be most ideal is having organizations who are educated in these areas creating this kind of space. There, they would be able to provide access to resources and information, while ensuring it remains a safe and positive environment.
The more involved I have become in mental health, the more I have come to recognize that while access to care in a timely manner is of the utmost importance, having the kinds of resources to work towards and through recovery are what could help push people forward into living more fulfilling lives.
Recovery resources would help pull people away from facing their mental health struggles alone and provide them with a community to encourage and strengthen them.
We are fortunate to have at least one resource dedicated to cultivating that kind of community, created for our youth by Dufferin Child and Family Services. Shed the Light is a group created several years ago that has seen great success in its impact in the local high schools.
Now, we just need to work on creating these resources for adults and hopefully see greater resources in general come to the area.