On Wednesday, Oct. 3, Stevenson, Waplak & Associates (SWA) offered free mental health assessments as part of Mental Illness Awareness Week; SWA wanted to give people in the community a chance to get accurate information about questions they might have.
“One of our goals was just to get people talking,” said Jeff Waplak, clinical director for SWA. “We need to do what we can to reduce stigma and let people know that it’s OK to talk about our health, whether that’s physical or mental health.”
In developed countries like Canada, mental illnesses (major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder) account for four of the 10 leading causes of disability. However, many people who have a mental health issue are afraid of being judged or rejected, and avoid seeking help because of that fear.
“Google is often the first stop when people have questions about their health, but that information is often inaccurate and rarely personalized,” said Waplak.
“People are often aware that something is not quite right, but they don’t know whether it’s normal or if they should be concerned. These sessions provided an opportunity to ask questions of a professional in a confidential environment.”
About the Mental Health Assessments
A number of people took advantage of the assessments, looking for guidance in a number of areas. Noting that the sessions focused on anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, Waplak observed that people attended for a variety of reasons.
“These included concerns about depression and schizophrenia, treatment-planning questions for individuals with fetal alcohol effects, treatment for an eating disorder, and information about coordinating services with the local Children’s Aid Society,” he said.
The 30-minute sessions started with a standardized test. “We reviewed findings within the session, provided a copy of the results to be passed along to the family physician, and directed individuals to additional resources,” Waplak explained.
Ready to Act
While there is no single cause of mental health issues, they can be successfully treated. Most people who participated in the free assessments wanted not just the information, but to understand what to do next.
“They wanted to problem solve and track information about certain symptoms, like mood charts, as well as understand how to access local public and private services,” Waplak said. “Mostly, they appreciated the opportunity to get one-on-one advice about whether they should be concerned for themselves or a loved one.”
An Issue That Impacts Everyone
For the staff at SWA, the assessments were a great opportunity to connect with a diverse group of people – a reflection of the fact that mental health issues impact everyone.
“We connected with a cross-section of people to review important aspects of their lives and the lives of their loved ones,” said Waplak. Most of the people who attended a session were interested in getting more help, from SWA or other local resources.
If you are concerned for yourself or someone you love about a mental health issue, please contact us directly at 613-967-0545.