Mental Health Information

What do you think of when you hear that someone is experiencing a mental illness? Some people feel concern, fear, or confusion. Some even avoid those who experience mental illnesses. But mental illnesses are just like any other illness; everyone deserves care, help, and support.

Mental illnesses are health problems that affect the way we think about ourselves, relate to others, and interact with the world around us. They affect our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Mental illnesses can disrupt a person’s life or create challenges, but with the right supports, a person can get back on a path to recovery and wellness. It’s important to understand that there are many different types of mental illness that affect people in different ways. Here is some information on mental illness and ways to help:

  • Aging and Alzheimer′s Disease

    Many of us look forward to our retirement and see our later years as a chance to reflect and enjoy the lives we built for ourselves. But for hundreds of thousands of Canadians, this time of reflection becomes a time of loss and confusion. Memories disappear—eventually, people living with Alzheimer’s disease may not be able to remember their own names. Some memory loss is a normal part of aging, but when memory loss and confusion impact your day-to-day life, it might be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

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  • Anger

    We all feel angry sometimes. Most of the time, we can deal with feelings of anger or irritability quickly. We may resolve the situation or look at the problem from a different perspective. However, anger can cause problems in our lives and the lives of those around us. Learn more about recognizing problem anger and taking action.

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  • Anxiety Disorders

    Your heart is racing; it’s pounding so hard you feel like it is coming out of your chest. Your mouth has gone dry but at the same time, sweat has broken out all over your body. Dizziness and nausea are threatening to overwhelm you and you can’t catch your breath. Do you have an anxiety disorder?

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  • Attention Deficit - Adult

    Everyone feels distracted and restless at times. For the most of us, the feelings pass and we can easily get back to work. Some people struggle with these problems for many years. Some don’t realize they have an illness until their child has similar problems and is diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Others don’t even realize that they have an illness—they assume their illness is “just who they are.”

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  • Attention Deficit - Children & Youth

    There are times when children just can’t seem to concentrate. This isn’t a huge problem for most kids—they can regain their focus and get back on task fairly easily. But it’s a serious problem for others. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a real illness that makes it difficult for children to sit still, concentrate and complete their work correctly and on time. Of course, it’s normal for children to want to run around or play loudly on occasion, and no one would expect a young child to sit quietly for a long time. But with ADHD, these behaviours happen often for a long time and in different environments (for example, at home and at school), and interfere a lot with the child’s life.

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  • Children & Youth

    Kids and teens are constantly changing. They grow up quickly and before you know it, your giggly, energetic toddler is a teenager who sleeps until noon. As we grow, it’s normal to change as we learn new things and our bodies transform into our adult selves. But with all these changes going on, how can we tell which changes are normal? At what point should we start worrying that our child’s tantrums or teenager’s mood swings are more than just “growing pains?” It can be hard to tell. The truth is, for many kids, these sudden changes aren’t just a part of growing up—they’re symptoms of a mental illness.

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  • Children & Depression

    While we may think of low mood or other challenges as adult problems, they can affect people at any age. Children and teens can experience mental illnesses like depression. Sometimes it can be difficult for adults to understand how difficult children’s problems can be because we look at their problems through adult eyes. But the pressures of growing up can be very hard for some children. It’s important that we remind ourselves that while their problems may seem unimportant to us, they can feel overwhelming to young people. There are ups and downs in everyone’s life. We all become unhappy when we experience problems and set-backs. These unhappy feelings are usually temporary. For some people, though, sad feelings last a long time and are quite severe. It’s important to take depression in young people seriously.

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  • Children & Difficult Behaviour

    Every child misbehaves from time to time. This is always distressing to us as parents because we would all like to be perfect parents of perfect children! There are many reasons for a child’s misbehaviour, and many ways for parents to help the child improve.

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  • Children & Self-Esteem

    Self-esteem is the value we place on ourselves. It is the feeling we have about all the things we see ourselves to be. It is the knowledge that we are lovable, we are capable, and we are unique. Both adults and children benefit from good relationships, experiences and positive thinking. Many of the steps necessary for building a child’s self-esteem will also help you in developing and maintaining your own. As a parent, you have the greatest influence in shaping your children’s sense of self-worth; you are their first and most important teacher. Their self-esteem is further influenced as they develop relationships with other family members, school teachers, friends and other adults.

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  • Children & Their Fears

    Almost all children can be frightened by the sound of thunder or scared in a dark room. With a little patience and understanding, you can usually help your children overcome these and other common childhood fears. However, as a parent, you are keenly aware that there are real dangers that threaten your children. While you are working to help your children get rid of some kinds of fear, you are also teaching certain other kinds of fear for their own protection.

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  • Youth & Psychosis

    Something is wrong with your child. You can’t put your finger on it, but they are acting strangely. Withdrawn and sullen, they won’t get out of bed. They mope around all day refusing even to take a shower or get dressed; this is really odd considering they used to be so picky about the way they looked. Sometimes they lash out for no apparent reason, other times they walk around showing no emotion. Your gut is telling you that things are not right but your head refuses to believe this is anything but typical teenage behaviour. Should you be concerned? Perhaps. Persistent, ongoing changes in your child’s behaviour, personality or day to day functioning may be an indication of psychosis.

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  • Youth & Self-Injury

    Young people learn to cope with emotions in different ways. Some teens are troubled by frequent intense and painful emotions. While some are able to deal with these feelings, others react differently to their problems because they have not been taught ways to handle their emotions effectively. They are unable to find the words and the buildup of feelings makes it difficult for them to think clearly. Some teens release this bottleneck by cutting or burning or otherwise hurting themselves. Self-injury provides immediate relief, but this is a short-term solution with serious consequences.

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  • Youth & Suicide

    Adolescence is a time of dramatic change. The journey from child to adult can be complex and challenging. Young people often feel tremendous pressure to succeed at school, at home and in social groups. At the same time, they may lack the life experience that lets them know that difficult situations will not last forever. Mental health problems commonly associated with adults, such as depression, also affect young people. Any one of these factors, or a combination, may become such a source of pain that they seek relief in suicide.

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  • Depression & Bipolar Disorder

    We all experience changes in our mood. Sometimes we feel energetic, full of ideas, or irritable, and other times we feel sad or down. But these moods usually don’t last long, and we can go about our daily lives. Depression and bipolar disorder are two mental illnesses that change the way people feel and make it hard for them to go about their daily routine.

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  • Eating Disorders

    Every day, we are surrounded by different messages from different sources that impact the way we feel about the way we look. For some, poor body image is a sign of a serious problem: an eating disorder. Eating disorders are not just about food. They are often a way to cope with difficult problems or regain a sense of control. They are complicated illnesses that affect a person’s sense of identity, worth, and self-esteem.

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  • Grief

    Loss is one of life’s most stressful events. It takes time to heal, and everyone responds differently. We may need help to cope with the changes in our lives. Grief is part of being human, but that doesn’t mean we have to go through the journey alone.

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  • Mental Illness in the Workplace

    Work is important to our well-being. In addition to the income it brings, it can be a big part of our identity, how we understand our skills, and a way to contribute to something bigger. However, a mental illness can have a big impact on the way we work.

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  • Mood Disorders

    Moods are our emotions. They affect us every day. Sometimes we’re sad, other times we’re happy. We might even be sad and happy in the same day. But sometimes people’s mood can get “stuck” on sad. Or the moods might change a lot or become extreme. When this happens, it affects our lives. And it might be caused by a group of mental illnesses called mood disorders.

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  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

    Many of us have small habits that make us feel better, but we can also live without them. For example, we might think of something as ‘lucky’ or have a routine that feels comforting. But for people who experience Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), these behaviours are much more intense and disruptive and are fuelled by unwanted thoughts that don’t go away. OCD is not always easy to understand, but it’s a real illness that causes difficulties in a person’s life.

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  • Phobias & Panic Disorders

    Everyone feels scared at times. But sometimes, fear can come up in a situation that isn’t expected. This fear stops us from going about our usual routines or working towards our goals. Phobias and panic disorder are two examples of mental illnesses that can lead to these problems.

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  • Post-Partum Depression

    Bringing a new baby into the family can be challenging at the best of times, both physically and emotionally. It is natural for new parents to experience mood swings, feeling joyful one minute and depressed the next. These feelings are sometimes known as the ‘baby blues,’ and often go away soon after birth. However, some parents may experience a deep and ongoing depression that lasts much longer. This is called postpartum depression.

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  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

    Difficult situations are part of life. We all must cope with tough circumstances, such as bereavement or conflict in our personal and professional relationships, and learn to move on. But sometimes people experience an event which is so unexpected and so shattering that it continues to have a serious effect on them, long after any physical danger involved has passed. Individuals with this kind of experience may suffer flashbacks and nightmares, in which they relive the situation that caused them intense fear and horror. They may become emotionally numb. When this condition persists for over a month, it is diagnosed as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

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  • Psychosis

    “It was like I was having a million thoughts all at once and yet I was so disorganized, nothing was getting done. I was frightened and anxious because I felt someone was trying to harm me. Increasingly, I spent most of my time alone in my room doing nothing. I didn’t want to be bothered with friends or family. The television started having special messages meant only for me and I was hearing voices commenting on what I was doing. Looking back, I realize things just weren’t making sense anymore. At the time though, it seemed normal and I didn’t mention what was happening with me to anyone. Since getting treatment, I understand that I was experiencing a health problem called psychosis.”

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  • Schizophrenia

    Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness. One of the biggest myths around the illness is that it isn’t treatable. With the right supports, people can work or volunteer, be active in their own care, and contribute to their communities. The exact course and impact of schizophrenia is unique for each person. Some people only experience one episode in their lifetime while others experience many episodes. Some people experience periods of wellness between episodes while others may experience episodes that last a long time. Some people experience a psychotic episode without warning while others experience many early warning signs. No matter how someone experiences schizophrenia, researchers agree that early treatment can help reduce the impact of episodes in the future.

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  • Seasonal Affective Disorder

    Weather often affects people’s moods. Sunlight breaking through clouds can lift our spirits, while a dull, rainy day may make us feel a little gloomy. While noticeable, these shifts in mood generally do not affect our ability to cope with daily life. Some people, however, are vulnerable to a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. For them, the shortening days of late autumn are the beginning of a type of clinical depression that can last until spring. This condition is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

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  • Self-Harm

    People go to great lengths to protect themselves from pain and injury. But some people hurt themselves on purpose to help deal with bad feelings or thoughts. This is called self-harm. People who self-harm don’t do it to end their life – instead, self-harm may be the best way they know to survive.

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  • Stress

    We all talk about stress, but we’re not always clear about what it is. Stress comes from both the good and the bad things that happen to us. If we didn’t feel any stress, we wouldn’t be alive! Stress may feel overwhelming at times, but there are many strategies to help you take control. When stress is unhelpful, people may feel overwhelmed or feel like they can’t possibly fix the problem. In these cases, some people avoid dealing with the original problem altogether, which may make the problem—and stress— worse. It can be very hard to concentrate, make decisions, and feel confident when a person experiences a lot of stress. Many people experience physical sensations like sweating, a racing heart, or tense muscles. Over time, stress can also have a big impact on physical health. Sleep difficulties and headaches are common problems related to stress. People are also more likely to get sick when they’re experiencing a lot of stress.

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  • Suicide

    Experts in the field suggest that a suicidal person is feeling so much pain that they can see no other option. They feel that they are a burden to others, and in desperation see death as a way to escape their overwhelming pain and anguish. The suicidal state of mind has been described as constricted, filled with a sense of self-hatred, rejection, and hopelessness.

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  • Getting Help

    Some people worry about asking for help because there can be stigma around mental health problems. They may believe that asking for help means admitting that something is wrong. Some people worry about how others might see them. Asking for help means that you want to make changes or take steps towards your new health goals. We should celebrate the courage it takes to speak up and make changes. Getting help is part of recovery.

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  • Mental Health for Life

    Mental health is key to our well-being. We can’t be truly healthy without it. It involves how we feel, think, act, and interact with the world around us. Mental health is about realizing our potential, coping with the normal stresses of life, and making a contribution to our community. It may be more helpful to think of good mental health as thriving. Good mental health isn’t about avoiding problems or trying to achieve a ‘perfect’ life. It’s about living well and feeling capable despite challenges.

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  • Myths About Mental Illness

    Mental illnesses affect everyone in some way. We all likely know someone who has experienced a mental illness at some point. Yet there are still many hurtful attitudes around mental illnesses that fuel stigma and discrimination and make it harder to reach out for help. It’s time to look at the facts.

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  • Preventing Suicide

    Suicide. We would rather not talk about it. We hope it will never happen to anyone we know. But suicide is a reality, and it is more common than you might think. The possibility that suicide could claim the life of someone you love cannot be ignored. By paying attention to warning signs and talking about the “unthinkable,” you may be able to prevent a death.

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  • Supporting a Friend or Family Member

    When someone you love has been diagnosed with a mental illness, you feel a mixture of emotions. Concern, compassion, disbelief, anger, relief, anxiety, grief, love, guilt … any and all of these emotions are understandable and normal. Mental illnesses are caused by many different factors that work together, such as genetics, biology, environment, and life experiences. Loved ones can play a big part in helping a person recover, work towards their goals, and stay well.

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  • What is Stigma?

    Self, societal, and structural stigma combine to form a powerful triad of negativity toward mental health consumers, which delays or altogether obstructs access to mental health services.

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Reach out for help

Contact the Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Region for more information at (403) 297-1700 or email: info@cmha.calgary.ab.ca.