The Regional Municipality Of York

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Mental Health

Every year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness. By the time an individual reaches the age of 40, 1 in 2 will have experienced a mental illness. Mental illness can affect anyone of any age, education, income level, or culture.

What is the difference between mental health and mental illness?

Just like physical health, we all have mental health. In fact, having good coping and resiliency skills are protective factors for sustaining both good mental health and physical health.

Mental health and mental illness are separate but related concepts, they can both co-exist in people and communities. For example, people with mental illness can have good mental health that allows them to enjoy life and deal with challenges in a healthy way, similarly, people without a mental illness can experience poor mental health and have trouble coping.

Help to promote mental health by finding a shared language!

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Health Promotion Resource Centre explains the separate but interconnected concepts of mental health and mental illness, as well as what it means to promote mental health, in ourselves and in our communities. Learn more about the difference between mental health and mental illness here.

Help reduce stigma!

Did you know that stigma prevents 40% of those experiencing depression or anxiety from seeking treatment? Stigma is a set of negative, and often unfair, beliefs that a society or group of people have about something. The presence of stigma is especially harmful to children and youths’ mental health because it can act as a barrier to accessing needed services. It affects how individuals feel about themselves and how others see and feel about them. By decreasing stigma, people in need of support will be better able to access the mental health services they need to promote positive health and well-being.

Visit the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to learn more about what you can do to help reduce stigma.


911 is always the first number you should call during emergency situations.

If you need help or have questions:
Accessing Health Connection

Phone: 1-800-361-5653
TTY: 1-866-512-6228 (for the deaf or hard of hearing)
Email: AccessYork@york.ca


For 24 hour support from a registered nurse on medical symptoms, breastfeeding information and whether you should care for yourself or seek other medical or community services, please contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or TTY: 1-866-797-0007 (for the deaf or hard of hearing).

Mental Health and Wellness in Pregnancy and Parenthood

Pregnancy or having a baby is not always easy. The adjustment to parenthood can be challenging for many families. Visit Mental Health and Wellness in Pregnancy and Parenthood for information on and referral to the Transition to Parenting program and other supports.


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Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health

Developing Mental Health in Young Children

Early childhood experiences matter. Positive early childhood experiences have the  greatest impact on future learning, as well as lifelong physical and mental health. How can you support and encourage good mental health in young children?

  • Be warm, loving and responsive
    • Cuddle your child
    • Use a soft and calm voice
  • Respond to your child’s cues
    • Observe what helps your child feel better
    • Pick up your child when crying to show you care
    • Children enjoy your attention and cannot be spoiled
  • Talk, read and sing to your child
    • Children learn language long before they speak - children need to hear your voice to learn
    • Sing songs, read rhymes, play music and laugh together
    • Talk to your child when playing, bathing, diapering and feeding
    • Cuddle with a story to show how words and good feelings go together
  • Routines help children learn what to expect
    • Eat at the table and enjoy healthy meals together
    • Spend time with your child, play games
    • Encourage adequate sleep and rest
  • Promote safe play and exploration
    • Encourage regular physical activity
    • Put your child down to roll, crawl, walk and explore
    • Play face-to-face at your child’s level
    • Follow your child’s interests in play
    • Provide your full attention without distractions to enjoy play time with your child
    • Attend community programs for babies and children
    • For more information about physical literacy, physical activity guidelines and how to encourage active play which can improve self-esteem and social skills including conflict resolution, problem solving, sharing, visit the Physical Activity webpage
  • Encourage and support your child
    • Try to see things from your child’s point of view; talk about feelings with your child
    • Role model simple, kind words and a gentle voice
    • Use deep breathing to cope in stressful moments
    • Listen when your child talks and pause before responding
    • Encourage your child to try to do things for themselves, before helping them
    • Help your child explore their interests
  • Take care of yourself
    • Time for yourself helps you to have more energy and patience to be warm, loving and responsive
    • Reach out for support and include family and friends to build a relationship with your child
    • Do things you enjoy with your child
    • Model and practice relaxation and gratitude - learning breathing techniques can all help maintain good mental health.

York Region offers parents programs, services and information to help as their children grow and develop. For more information, visit york.ca/parenting

When to find help?

It is important to remember that all infants and children are different. If you have concerns about the mental health of your child(ren) support is available. Have a conversation about your concerns with a health care provider and take note of any changes in how your infant or young child is acting, feeling or thinking.

Where to find help?

If you have concerns about the mental health of your child(ren), support is available.
Mental Health Resources for infants and young children


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Mental Health for School Aged Children and Youth

Developing Mental Health in School Aged Children

It’s normal to experience feelings of stress regardless of age. Small amounts of stress can motivate us to achieve our goals, but excessive stress can have an overwhelming effect on our lives.

Signs of Stress:

  • Stomach ache or headaches
  • Lack of appetite or eating more than usual
  • Butterflies in stomach
  • Confusion or forgetfulness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Seeming confused or easily distracted
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nail biting
  • Short tempered, lashing out at others
  • Performing poorly or progressively worse in their school work
  • Other behavioural changes such as social-withdrawing, whining etc.

Note: Having some of these signs and symptoms some of the time is an ordinary part of a youth’s life. Keep an eye out for youth who appear to deviate from their usual self for longer time than you would reasonably expect. If you notice substantial changes in a youth’s usual behaviour or routines, seek help from a professional.

Causes of Stress:

  • Pressure to do well in school: assignments, due dates and exams
  • Peers: pressure to fit in and be socially successful, shifting friendship groups, bullying, pressure to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, to try drugs and alcohol, or join a gang
  • Parents: family problems, conflict with parents about rules, parents passing along their stress, marital conflict, divorce and separation, getting along with step-parents and siblings in blended families
  • Worrying about physical appearance
  • Work overload: busy schedules, taking on too many things at once, too many distractions
  • Earlier exposure to sexuality and sexualization (becoming aware of one’s sexuality): pressures, questions, self-image
  • Not having as much money or material possessions as other kids
  • Negative life events: a death in the family, an illness of a family member, the loss of a loved one
  • Social media: constantly seeing the best images from others’ lives can lead to comparing lifestyles and can ultimately lead to stress
  • Major life event: moving to a new city or area

Coping with Stress and Building Resilience

There are many ways to help cope with stress. Some strategies for building resilience to manage stress include proper nutrition, sufficient sleep and physical activity, setting an environment and scheduling time to relax. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to manage emotions and cope with stress. Deep breathing exercises can quickly change a stress response into a relaxation response. Visit the Kids Help Phone - Breathing Balloon to learn more.

Other healthy ways to cope with stress include:

  • Being physically active
  • Connecting with nature and get some fresh air - walk the dog or play some basketball
  • Eating well
  • Having someone you can talk to, whether that’s a family member, a teacher or a sympathetic and trustworthy friend
  • Getting adequate sleep - sleeping 9 to 10 hours per night
  • Practicing relaxation techniques
  • Listening to music / doing art/ engaging in a favourite hobby
  • Decreasing screen time
  • Taking hot showers
  • Keeping a journal and write your worries down so they aren’t top of mind throughout the day(sometimes helpful when you can’t sleep)
  • Using humour: watch stand-up comedy or a funny movie

School Service program has a variety of resources available to help you and your child(ren) cope with stress. To learn more visit york.ca/healthyschools

Where to find help:
Support and Resources For Mental Health in Elementary and Secondary School

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Mental Health in Adulthood

Build resiliency and positively influence your mental health by striking a balance. Competing life priorities can cause stress, so give your mind and body a break and time to re-energize. Setting boundaries, getting enough sleep and taking time for you can help to build resiliency and coping skills.

Make mindful health choices to improve your mental health and wellbeing. Our fact sheets below will give you some great ideas to help you get mindfully healthy.

General signs of mental illness:

  • Losing interest in the things you like doing
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Avoiding other people/withdrawal from friends, family, and activities
  • Feeling very tired, have low energy or feel restless
  • Having difficulty making decisions and concentrating
  • Feeling worthless, helpless or hopeless
  • Sleeping more than usual or having trouble sleeping
  • Changes in mood or emotions - feeling more irritable, agitated, angry or sad more than usual
  • Substance misuse
  • Suicidal thinking/thinking of harming one's self or others.
  • Significant distress
  • Feeling as if nothing matters
  • Confusion
  • Not being able to complete standard tasks, such as getting to work or cooking a meal
  • Persistent thoughts or memories that reappear regularly
  • Hearing voices
  • Hallucinations or delusions

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these signs, it is important to speak to a health care provider about your concerns. There are services to help with treatment and recovery.

Substance use and mental health

Substance use and mental health concerns share a complex relationship. One may lead to the other, develop independently of one another, or can occur at the same time. Problematic substance use behaviours and addiction can also impact relationships with family members and friends, interfere with your ability to fulfill commitments and negatively affect your mental and physical health. Substance use can be a problem when it interferes with:

  • Your health
  • Your job
  • Your studies
  • Your relationships
  • Your financial stability
  • Your safety
  • The safety of others

Alcohol Use

It’s not always easy to tell when your alcohol intake has crossed the line from moderate or social drinking to problem drinking. Physical dependence on alcohol involves a developed tolerance to the effects of alcohol, in which more alcohol is needed to produce the desired effect. Physical dependence can result in withdrawal symptoms when regular use is suddenly stopped. For more information about alcohol, visit york.ca/substanceuse

Cannabis Use

Cannabis is not harmless and can affect your mental health. Anyone with a personal or family history of mental health problems are at greater risk of cannabis-related psychosis and mental health problems. Adolescents and young adults with a personal or family history of mental health problems are at an even greater risk. For more information about cannabis, visit york.ca/cannabisuse

Opioid Use

Opioid use disorder is linked with mental health concerns. People with an opioid use disorder who also have a mental health disorder should be offered treatment for both issues at the same time. For more information about opioids, go to york.ca/opioids

Where to find help

If you have concerns about your mental health or the mental health of a loved one, support is available.

Unsure whether your substance use (or someone else's) is causing problems? Talk it over with someone you trust. Contact Connex Ontario when you are ready to seek help near you.

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Fostering Mental Health in Older Adults

Developing mental health in older adults

Healthy aging is an ongoing process of making the most of opportunities to maintain and improve physical, social and mental health. Positive mental health can help older adults cope with difficult life situations, such as the loss of a partner, a friend, or having a chronic illness.

Approximately 17 to 30% of older adults experience mental illness in Ontario, which means over 280,000 older adults are living with a mental illness. Being an older adult can involve dealing with many life transitions and challenges such as retirement, changes in your health, loss of loved ones, and feeling isolated and lonely.

Ways to promote your mental health:

  • Spend time with family or friends - people who remain actively engaged in life and connected to those around them, are generally happier, in better physical and mental health, and more empowered to cope with life transitions.
  • Participate in activities you enjoy - one of the most important benefits of exercise is a greater sense of well-being. To ensure you are getting enough exercise, follow Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults.
    Regular physical activity can help you:
    • Maintain positive mental health
    • Increase muscle strength
    • Improve co-ordination
    • Prevent falls and maintain independence
    • Prevent and manage chronic diseases
    • Get outside to enjoy nature and green space

Some signs of mental illness include:

  • Difficulty making decisions or concentrating
  • Unexplained physical symptoms
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and activities
  • Changes in mood
  • Agitation
  • Changes in appetite or sleep
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Substance misuse
  • Suicidal thinking

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these signs, it is important to speak to your family doctor about your concerns. There are services to help with treatment and recovery.

When to get help

Depression is the most common mental health problem in older adults and is not a part of normal aging. Talk with your health care provider if you no longer enjoy doing things that you used to do or if you are feeling sad. For more information on healthy aging and fall prevention, visit york.ca/healthyaging

Where to find help

If you have concerns about your mental health or the mental health of a loved one, support is available.

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 Health Professionals can visit Mental Health and Wellbeing for more information regarding mental health promotion in our community including local programs, services and referral pathways.


 


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