Mental Health Week, designated by the Canadian Mental Health Association in May, has taken on an even greater significance this year given the current pandemic situation we are all living through. While the Cummings Centre notes the importance of our physical health, it also recognizes the need to use extra care when it comes to looking after our mental health.
“We are all affected differently by stress and its impact on our overall health is felt along a continuum,” said Victoria McNeil, Cummings Centre Program Supervisor. “The spectrum of our mental health shifts and slides each day – some days we feel ourselves, and other days we are not sure what we feel. For our health and well-being, it is important to be aware of our mental and emotional health and to respond proactively.”
Now more than ever, knowing what resources are available and how to access them in ways that support our mental health has become essential as we cope with this unprecedented situation. The Cummings Centre’s Community Mental Health Program has been serving clients for over 15 years, providing individual support and empowerment for older adults who live with mental health illness through a variety of groups and activities. Although the pandemic has impacted mental health programs, staff continues to maintain contact with clients, offering social support in a time of social distancing.
Support to clients has taken place through personal outreach. “Since the mental health team at Cummings has been working from home, we have been reaching out to clients on a regular basis,” said Rosanna Magnone, Cummings Centre Mental Health Program Coordinator. “A variety of issues have come up which staff work on to help get resolved. We know our clients well and they are appreciative of the support they are getting.”
Elaine is a client in the Cummings Mental Health Program. “Ever since I came to Cummings, I feel that I have a lot of support and help from everybody,” she said. “I appreciate the help from everyone, including my case manager, the social work students and the rest of the staff. I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for the Cummings Centre and the people I met there.”
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, research has shown that social isolation and loneliness are difficult for everyone’s mental health. By drawing attention to these concerns, the aim is to highlight behaviours and attitudes that foster well-being, support good mental health and create a culture of understanding and acceptance.
“Things like writing a journal, trying a new recipe, joining an online social club, making a gratitude list or even having a movie marathon are great ideas to maintain mental wellness,” said Magnone. “There is also a ‘Self-Help Resiliency Plan’ which is an exercise anyone can do. All you need is to list your top three self-care strategies. Beside each one, write down when will you do each one and how. By doing this, you are setting goals for yourself while focusing on self-care strategies.”
The Cummings Centre empowers and enhances the quality of life of adults age 50 and over by providing dynamic and innovative programs, social services and volunteer opportunities in a vibrant, respectful, inclusive and compassionate environment.
The Community Mental Health Day Program at Cummings Centre is funded in part by the Rona & Irving Levitt Family Foundation and by the Echo Foundation. The Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors Foundation continues to reach out to its donors to support the community’s most vulnerable seniors. The Foundation is tremendously grateful to those who have already generously donated.