Frequently Asked Questions

Mental Health FAQs

Q: What is mental health?

A: Mental health has to do with how you feel about yourself, how you feel about others, and how you are able to meet and handle the demands of life. It is not the absence of problems. Rather, it describes the ability to balance problems with appropriate coping skills. We know that the right amount of sleep and exercise, a proper diet, appropriate medical care, and caring relationships can go a long way toward improving both our physical and mental health.

Q: What causes mental illness?

A: There is some evidence that mental illness is caused by a combination of biological factors that create vulnerability. Genetics play a part, but people can develop a mental illness with no family history at all. We know that chemical changes occur that affect functioning of the brain (both dopamine and serotonin are involved). People who are vulnerable to mental illness may experience symptoms in response to stress, social change or drugs.

Q: Can mental illness be prevented?

A: Most mental illnesses are caused by a combination of factors and cannot be prevented.

Q: Is recovery possible?

A: Yes. Advancements in medication are continually improving the outlook for people with a mental illness. Along with psychological and social supports, a majority can live active and fulfilled lives.

Q: What treatment is available for mental illness?

A: Just as there are different types of medications for physical illness, different treatment options are available for individuals with mental illness. Treatment works differently for different people. It is important to find what works best for you or your child. Learning and educating yourself about the condition and the options available will empower you to make the best decisions. There are great programs available to aid in this education, such as the Bright Future Program.

Q: What do I need to know about medication?

A: All medications should be taken as directed. Most medications for mental illnesses do not work when taken irregularly, and extra doses can cause severe, sometimes dangerous side effects. Many psychiatric medications begin to have a beneficial effect only after they have been taken for several weeks.
The best source of information regarding medications is the physician prescribing them. He or she should be able to answer questions such as:

    • What is the medication supposed to do and when should it begin to take effect?
    • How is the medication taken and for how long?
    • What food, drinks, other medicines, and activities should be avoided while taking this medication?
    • What are the side effects and what should be done if they occur?
    • What do I do if a dose is missed?
    • Is there any written information available about this medication?
    • Are there other medications that might be appropriate? If so, why do you prefer the one you have chosen?
    • How do you monitor medications and what symptoms indicate that they should be raised, lowered, or changed?
Q: Is treatment covered under health plans?

A: In Canada we have a “social net” where each province provides coverage for people with mental illness. Health care costs are usually covered in hospitals that have a psychiatric component; however, there are also private hospitals and treatment centres.

In the United States, insurance policies vary greatly, but most private insurance and health maintenance organization (HMO) plans contain some mental health benefits. Unfortunately, many plans do not provide equal treatment for physical and mental illnesses. Contact your health insurance provider for details on your coverage for treatment of mental illnesses.

Q: How common is mental illness?

A: Mental illnesses are very common; in fact, they are more common than cancer, diabetes or heart disease. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, an estimated 23% of American adults (those ages 18 and older) or about 44 million people, and about 20% of American children suffer from a mental disorder during a given year.

Even though mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion, about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 Americans, who suffer from a serious mental illness (one that significantly interferes with functioning). It is estimated that mental illness affects 1 in 4 families in America.

Q: Where can I go for help?

A: With the high prevalence of mental illness, there are shortages of psychiatrists and community support groups. The best place to start is to go to your family doctor. Although a family doctor usually has little training in psychiatry, they may be familiar with certain medications or may be able to refer you to the mental health support offered in your community.

Q: What support groups are available?

A: Many people find peer support a helpful tool that can aid in their recovery. There are a variety of organizations that offer support groups for consumers, their family members, and friends. Some support groups are peer led while others may be led by a mental health professional.  Contact your health practitioners for local groups, or check out these national organizations:

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA): Founded in 1918, is one of the oldest voluntary organizations in Canada, providing direct service to more than 100,000.

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH): Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world’s leading research centres in the area of addiction and mental health.

Mood Disorders Society of Canada (MDSC): One of Canada’s best-connected mental health NGOs with a demonstrated track record for forging and maintaining meaningful and sustained partnerships with the public, private and non-profit sectors.

The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH): A volunteer run organization that provides mental health education to the public, working to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and provide insight into the services and support available to those living with mental illness.

Schizophrenia Society of Canada (SSC): A national organization working with 10 provincial societies to help individuals with schizophrenia and their families have a better quality of life while searching for a cure.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Transforming the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): America’s largest grassroots mental health organization with hundreds of state organizations and affiliates, all dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

Mental Health America (MHA): Founded in 1909, is America’s leading community-based non-profit dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives.

Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA): Founded in 1951, is the national voluntary professional association for Canada’s 4,700 psychiatrists.

American Psychiatric Association (APA): Founded in 1844, is the world’s largest psychiatric organization, representing growing membership of more than 36,000 psychiatrists.

Q: If a medication is prescribed to me and I begin to feel better after taking it is it okay to stop taking it?

A: It is not uncommon for people to stop taking their medication when they feel their symptoms have become controlled. Others may choose to stop their medication because of side effects. A person may not realize that most side effects can be effectively managed. While it may seem reasonable to stop taking the medication, the problem is that at least 50% of the time the symptoms come back. If you or your child are taking medication, it is very important that you work together with your doctor before making decisions about any changes in your treatment.

Another problem with stopping medication, especially if you stop it abruptly, is that you may develop withdrawal symptoms that can be very unpleasant. If you and your doctor feel a trial off your medicine is a good idea, it is necessary to slowly decrease the dosage of medications so that these symptoms don’t occur.

It is important that your doctor and pharmacist work together to make sure your medications are working safely and effectively. You should talk with them about how you are doing and whenever there are side effects that might make you want to stop your treatment.

Q: What should I do if I know someone who appears to have all of the symptoms of a serious mental disorder?

A: Although this website cannot substitute for professional advice, we encourage those with symptoms to talk to their friends and family members. If you know someone who is having problems, don’t just think that they will snap out of it. Let them know that you care about them, and there are ways this can be treated. Notify a family member, a mental health professional, or a counselor if you think a friend has symptoms. The more your friends realize how many people care about them, the more likely it will be that treatment will be sought.

Q: What are the “warning signs” of mental illness?

A: Substance abuse, “growing pains” or menopause may mask signs of mental illness. Individuals abusing drugs or alcohol may be seeking ways to cope or self-medicate mental illness. Repeated visits to a doctor with complaints of flu-like symptoms or colds may also be symptomatic of an underlying mental illness. Often the warning signs are ignored because of the stigma that persists – that the sadness is a sign of weakness and they should just “snap out of it.” Confronting mental illness can be an overwhelming experience. Knowing the warning signs is very important.

Ten Warning Signs:

  1. Marked personality change.
  2. Inability to cope with problems and daily activities.
  3. Strange or grandiose ideas.
  4. Excessive fears, worries and anxieties.
  5. Prolonged depression, apathy, sadness or irritability.
  6. Feelings of extreme highs and lows.
  7. Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits.
  8. Excessive anger, hostility or violent behavior.
  9. Abuse of alcohol or drugs.
  10. Thinking or talking about suicide.

Parents of children/adolescents should also watch for these signs and symptoms:

  1. Defiance of authority, truancy, theft and/or vandalism
  2. Intense fear of weight gain
  3. Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death
  4. Frequent outbursts of anger or temper tantrums
  5. Persistent disobedience or aggression
  6. Change in school performance and/or poor grades despite strong efforts
  7. Hyperactivity
  8. Persistent nightmare
  9. Isolating themselves, losing friendships, and becoming a loner

Mental Wellness Today FAQs:

Q: Why has SZ Magazine moved to digital only?

A: The decision was made to make SZ magazine digital only due to general trends in the publishing industry pointing to the rise in digital publications and the corresponding fall in print publications.  The new digital issues allow our subscribers to take SZ Magazine with them on their mobile devices, and removes the need to pay extra shipping fees.

Q: How do I order a subscription for the new digital version of SZ Magazine?

A: Digital subscriptions and single issues are available through our online store, just like they were when the magazine offered print versions.  Subscribers now have the option of ordering a printable or non-printable version of the digital magazine.

Q: What is the difference between a printable and non-printable version of SZ Magazine?

A: You will now notice 2 options for SZ Magazine subscriptions: printable and non-printable.  The non-printable version allows subscribers to download the magazine to any device for reading, but print features are disabled.  The printable version of the magazine allows users the ability to read a digital version on any device, but also allows subscribers to print copies of the full magazine, or even just certain articles.

Q: How will I receive my copy of a digital magazine?

A: Upon purchase of a magazine subscription, your email address will be added to the mailing list for the magazine version that was purchased.  Each time a new issue is released each subscriber will be notified by email with instructions for downloading their copy.  We value your privacy and would never spam you or give your information to a third party.

If instead, you have purchased a single digital back-issue of one of our magazines, you will be provided with a link to download your issue immediately after checkout.

Q: Where is Bill MacPhee's blog?

A: All of Bill MacPhee’s existing videos remain available on his YouTube channel.  Bill now has his own online presence at billmacphee.ca so he will better be able to serve those looking for recovery advice.  This website is home to all of Bill’s blog posts beginning in January, 2015.  We have provided a live feed from his blog on our website here, but to ensure you remain up-to-date on everything Bill is doing, we would highly recommend visiting his website directly.

Q: Are there shipping costs associated with my order?

A: For physical items that require shipping, the cost is $2 to any Canadian address, and $3 to any address in the United States.  If you require shipping outside of these 2 countries, please call us for a quote at 1.866.672.3038.

Q: What options do i have to pay for my order?

A: We accept PayPal for all online orders.  PayPal offers free accounts where participants are able to securely make payments online from their credit or debit cards.  If you don’t already have an account with them, click here to register.

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