Challenges & Choices: Finding mental health services in Ontario
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Many people choose to use natural therapies to help them cope with a mental health problem. These therapies can be less intrusive than medical treatments. They tend to focus more on preventing illness, and promoting self-healing and healthy living. Natural practitioners generally focus more than medical practitioners on the client's overall well-being (mind, body and spirit). They also tend to spend more time with clients than medical practitioners.
These therapies are often used in addition to other more traditional approaches. However, some people find that treatments such as acupuncture, naturopathic remedies or meditation are enough to help them reduce stress and get through difficult times. Still other people may choose traditional healing practices used by the culture or group within which they have lived.
Many therapies involve working with the body to influence the mind. Many of these approaches to healing, such as biofeedback, acupuncture, reflexology, reiki and shiatsu, are drawn from ancient Eastern-based practices. They work to realign the body's energy; reduce stress, anxiety and physical pain; and increase feelings of relaxation.
Shiatsu is a Japanese massage treatment that involves applying physical pressure (through the thumbs, knees and elbows) along energy paths called meridians. Shiatsu treatments help balance or regulate the body's energy, which is influenced by stress, fatigue, muscle tension and other health problems.
Biofeedback is a technique in which people are taught to use signals from their own bodies to give them feedback about their health.
Acupuncture uses similar principles of healing as shiatsu. But instead of applying manual pressure, the practitioner inserts needles into specific points on the skin to regulate the body's flow of energy.
These practices are not covered by OHIP, and are generally not covered by extended health care plans. An exception is Swedish massage. This may be covered by an extended health care plan for up to a certain amount each year if done by a registered massage therapist. Shiatsu is occasionally covered by extended health care benefits.
To get a referral to a Swedish massage therapist in your area, contact the Ontario Massage Therapist Association at (416) 979-2010 in Toronto, or call toll-free at 1-800-668-2022. To find an acupuncturist, contact the Ontario Association of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine at (416) 944-2265 in Toronto. To find a shiatsu therapist, call the Shiatsu Therapy Association of Ontario at (416) 923-7826 in Toronto or toll-free at 1-877-923-7826. For information about biofeedback, view the Web site for the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback in the United States at www.aapb.org
Creative activities, such as art, music, writing, photography, drama, drawing and play, give people a way to explore their feelings and thoughts. These activities also allow people to express themselves in an artistic manner. Creative therapies help clients express and unravel their inner conflicts. They are often available in hospitals, treatment facilities, private practices and in community programs and art therapy schools.
Having a balanced diet is a good way to take care of yourself. It is also key to maintaining your mental health. You may choose to supplement your diet with vitamins and minerals or herbal remedies.
Like traditional medications, "natural" therapies can also have side-effects. Herbal therapies may interact with prescription drugs and affect other health conditions. If you use these kinds of remedies, make sure to tell your doctor.
Clinical dietitians will work with you to identify nutritional problems. They will also assess and monitor changes to your diet. Registered dietitians are health professionals with a university degree in food and nutrition. They have at least one year's practical experience.
Naturopathic doctors are health care professionals trained to use natural methods to promote healing. The therapies they may use include homeopathy, clinical nutrition, traditional Chinese medicine, and botanical or herbal medicine. They have at least three years of premedical training and four years at an accredited college. Most extended health care insurance plans cover naturopathy up to a certain amount each year.
To get a referral to a nutritional professional, call Dietitians of Canada at (416) 596-0857 in Toronto, or view their Web site at www.dietitians.ca
. The College of Dietitians of Ontario can be reached at (416) 598-1725 in Toronto or toll-free at 1-800-668-4990. Or view their Web site at www.cdo.on.ca
To get a referral to a naturopathic doctor, call the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors' referral line at (416) 233-2001 ext. 24 in Toronto or toll-free at 1-877-628-7284. Or view their Web site at www.oand.org
There is growing evidence connecting religion and spirituality to overall health and well-being. This includes prevention and recovery from various mental health problems.
Praying and regularly going to religious or worship services may reduce stress, help promote calm and help people to be more outwardly focused. As a result, people can recover faster, have less serious side-effects, be hospitalized less and feel less anxious and depressed.
There are many other forms of religious and spiritual practice. People can benefit from practices such as Aboriginal healing circles, sweat lodges and ceremonies, Shamanistic rituals, Zen meditation and Hindu-based yoga and breathing exercises
Spirituality can also be expressed through art, nature, music and writing.
You can find out about yoga classes by looking up "yoga" in the Yellow Pages of your phone book. Or call a local health club or community centre to see if they offer classes. Meditation is sometimes offered through a yoga or a spiritual centre, and generally costs about the same as yoga, or less. Once you've learned these techniques, you can do them at home.
Challenge: Natural therapies generally aren't covered by health insurance plans and can be very expensive.
Suggestions: There are many ways you can help your body heal naturally without spending lots of money. Here are some ideas:
- Take a bath with Epsom salts to relax.
- Learn how to massage your own hands and feet, or--better yet--get your partner or a friend to give you a massage.
- Drink herbal tea.
- Go for a bike ride or take a long walk. Endurance exercises can help release endorphins in the brain that reduce depression and lift your spirits.
- Lift weights or stretch.
- Get a yoga tape so that you can do yoga at home.