Yesterday I attended an educational event that focused on Women’s mental health and wellness. This event was hosted by Markham Stouffville Hospital. I was immediately intrigued when I received the invitation as well as the list of guest speakers that were mentioned.
As we all know mental health needs have been on the increase every year affecting millions of Canadians of all ages and both sexes. I have been increasingly impressed with companies stepping up and sponsoring events or educating the public on mental health. One such company is Bell and the “Let’s Talk Campaign.” Openly talking about mental health issues is the cornerstone of this campaign. Today it was great to see another company join in on bringing mental health to the forefront: Shoppers Drug Mart was a sponsor of this event, an event about Women FOR Women!
The morning began with a seamless registration process followed by a yummy breakfast of fruit and yogurt. We were then shown into a large meeting room that was beautifully put together right down to gorgeous flowers on the table!
As I took my seat I immediately felt comfortable. There was nice calming music playing and a selection of positive quotes on power point being shown on a large screen at the front of the room. I looked around and took notice of booths on the perimeter of the room that had all sorts of community information. There were people at each booth ready to explain what they had to offer. I also took notice that there was much diversity in the room, women of different ages and races. This was wonderful to see, because the need for wellness and good mental health is important for everyone.
The Chief of Psychiatry was one of the first speakers and listed many relevant statistics about women and depression, among the many things he discussed was the ever-increasing needs of women with regards to mental health. At this time, it is the number one form of disability in Canada. I almost wished I had written these statistics down as they were astounding. Women face different burdens and pressures that are different then what Men face. Women deal with hormones that begin early in life and hit highs and lows throughout puberty, pregnancies and menopause. Sometimes, this ends up being too much and results in post partum depression, anxiety or depression or other types of mental illnesses. All the speakers were amazing, and about 75 women sat in rapt attention to everything that was being said. Did I learn new things? Oh yes, I did. I learned:
- That there is a connection to menopause, hormones, depression and anxiety.
- That one speaker who is a very confident teacher and is also a successful black belt in karate with numerous competitions under her belt; can also have down moments, moments of questioning herself, and moments of wanting to give up.
- I learned that a yoga teacher can have the best understanding of anxiety, panic disorder, PTSD and depression and still come out an amazing person, with a gift and passion to help others going through the same thing. Through diet, nutrition and yoga she helps with mental health issues. I had no idea that this type of yoga teacher existed!
- I learned how to breathe properly as taught to us by this lovely yoga teacher. At 50 years of age I had not been using my diaphragm properly for breathing and having learned this, I could immediately see what a positive difference it made! I was immediately relaxed.
- I learned that our brain is an organ and it is just as important as our heart. We need to take care of it. If we had a heart attack we wouldn’t go out and shovel snow. So why would we not take care of our brain the same way?
- I learned that women can get overwhelmed, pulled in different directions. Tending to the needs of others, meeting deadlines at work and easily forgetting about themselves. But we need to advocate for ourselves, keep our brains in tune with our bodies. Sense any symptoms of disharmony between the brain and the body and address them immediately.
I absolutely enjoyed every minute of this event, right down to the wonderful lunch that was provided for us. The day felt like it was just for us, for Women with needs and questions and a safe and wonderful forum for us to ask them and learn in.
Everyone in that room had a story, my hope is that after this event none of them will simply ignore their challenges and instead will actively seek out help. There is no need to struggle or suffer in silence. Mental illness needs to be talked about openly the way it was today. Moreover, it needs to be addressed. No one should feel ashamed to bring these challenges up to their doctors.
As if the day and breakfast and lunch wasn’t amazing enough, at the end of the event we were each presented with gift bags containing, magazines, candy, body wash etc. So incredibly thoughtful!
Thank you to the team that put this wonderful day together and planned every aspect of the event. Your efforts did not go unnoticed. Most of all thank you for giving women and their quest for continued wellness a voice today. A place to learn and be heard. I’m totally stoked for next year!