Ask Ainsley: I think I need help

Dear Ainsley,

I’ve been denying that I need help, but I don’t think I can anymore. Over the last few months, I just don’t get excited about the things I used to enjoy, I’m struggling to even get out of bed, and I feel numb, like I’m running on autopilot. But every time I consider seeking help, I put it off because it’s just another task, and there’s something in the back of my head telling me that I’m just being lazy and don’t really need it. What should I do?

Sincerely,

I Think I Need Help (ITINH)


 Dear ITINH,

Seeking help can seem like a Herculean task, especially when you’re lost in the throes of the issue. Here are a few approachable first steps you can take on the journey to recovery.

What should I do right now?

First, acknowledge that you need help. You can’t tackle a problem without first acknowledging its existence. It’s tempting to deny the issue, to minimize it, or to believe it will just get better by itself. You might tell yourself “I am overreacting, it is not actually a big deal, it will just go away.” If your low point is ongoing past a couple weeks, psychologists suggest that it likely will not fix itself. This isn’t a storm you can weather; it is a flooded basement that you need to roll up your sleeves and deal with.

Next, tell someone else. Opening up about sensitive issues is always difficult, especially if you come from a family, culture, or social context that particularly stigmatizes mental health issues. Once again, these barriers will make it tempting to brush off or minimize the issue, but don’t. There is no right person to tell first. Your parent or guardian, best friend, and roommate are all good options. 

Alternately, consider the Peer Support Centre (PSC), where a secretary can direct you to a 45-minute support session with a trained peer supporter free of charge. Many students who use the PSC are already seeing a mental health professional, but drop in for a non-judgemental ear or to feel listened to. 

Take baby steps. Although it may seem minor to work on your sleep schedule, not taking care of yourself will only exacerbate things. You cannot fix everything all at once, so try to fix something small. Eat something quick and filling, because it will fuel your body; go to sleep an hour earlier, because every minute counts; make your bed, because it will make your messy bedroom feel that much more liveable.

Finally, find professional help. The most straightforward way is to make an appointment with a mental health professional. You can call to make an appointment at (514) 398-6017, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, check out the McGill Student Wellness Hub website.

What should I do in the long term?

If you think that you need long-term care or prefer not to go through McGill services, book an appointment with a private therapist. McGill has 12 Local Wellness Advisors (LWAs), clinicians trained to connect students with the appropriate health resources, who can help you find off-campus care. You can also ask a friend for a recommendation or use an online directory, like that of the Ordre des Psychologues du Québec, to search for therapists in Montreal. Although the up-front cost of a session can be daunting, remember that SSMU-provided health insurance covers 80 per cent of psychologist visits, up to an annual limit of $1,000. Canadian students can find more information about coverage and how to submit a claim at studentcare.ca. International students can consult the International Student Services page on how to make a claim and can submit them on the Medavie Blue Cross website.

Will things ever get better?

As you search for help, manage your expectations to keep them realistic. You cannot turn your life around in one day, and that’s okay. Learning how to manage mental illness is slow, challenging work, but it is worth it. Even in seeking help, there will likely still be bad days when it feels nothing has changed or ever will, and that’s alright. Take a breath and do something nice for yourself—you have made it through every worst day of your life so far, and you can make it through this one too.

With love,

Ainsley 

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