Getting pro help is hard

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Over the past few months, I’ve frequently gotten the impression that the mental health services in Winnipeg are set-up in ways to discourage people from using them.

Going to an open house at the Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba (ADAM) is as easy as showing up to one of two monthly sessions (which is a prerequisite for beginning the intake process), but they won’t hand out paper applications on the spot. In fact, they won’t even email it later. People have to call or email, wait for them to snail mail a paper copy, then fill out and send it back. At the open house I was at, the woman admitted this was because they couldn’t handle the rush of applicants after every event and needed them to be spaced a bit.

Compared to other services I’ve tried to access, this was actually pretty easy and straightforward. And it made me wonder if maybe they’re overwhelmed with applicants because they offer services at a variety of times that are affordable and their staff are quick to respond?

I’m expecting my snail-mailed application from ADAM in the next day or so and I plan to send it back immediately. But then I’m told they’ll call me to schedule an interview within three weeks of receiving it.

When I read that email, I felt like I lost the little hope I had in that moment. Three weeks may not seem like a long time to some, but for me it is. I think about the days I’ve worked from bed in the past three weeks. The nightmare-filled 10 hour sleeps I’ve woken exhausted from and all the meals I’ve missed because of the nausea. There were the nights I wanted to do something fun with my partner but I ended up crying on the couch instead. Can I really do another three weeks of this?

I should have started looking for help a while ago, but I thought I could take care of it. I’m now reaching a point where somedays I don’t have the energy to try anymore. I can’t see a future for myself. I feel stuck and I’m certain this is where I’ll be forever.

After getting the email, I used these feelings of helplessness to motivate more research. I registered for an open house for a mental health recovery program and signed-up for a mindfulness course, both with the Canadian Mental Health Association. I looked for alternate support groups which I could perhaps get into immediately or just drop in on.

I calmed myself down with promises that I can hold on, keep making small changes and try to stay positive until I get help, but the fact is that there shouldn’t be these barriers and hurdles. People who need help shouldn’t have to call and call and call therapy centres to try to get applications. Anxiety-suffers shouldn’t have to spend hours searching for programs and then sitting in open houses to see if the program is right for them, and then wait weeks to months to actually get into them.

I’m sure this post will get me the usual list of resources, but before you comment, think about how accessible they really are. When you call, does someone always pick up? When you stop by the office, is it guaranteed there will be someone there to help you out? Do they respond to emails? How long is the waitlist? Is it affordable? Like, actually affordable, not affordable to people making $20,000+ per year.

I don’t have a solution. Maybe we need to be more open about mental health issues so people reach out for help before they feel like they’re drowning. Maybe we should be putting less pressure on children to succeed and give them the tools they need to be present and happy. Maybe we just need more funding going towards mental health programs.

For my part, I’ll just keep publicly bitching until I feel well enough to actually think about what could have prevented me from getting here.

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