Guest Writer Barbara, Tips While Waiting for Housing

At the Mental Wellness Center, we understand that housing is important.  It is one of those things that, if you have it, you rarely think about it.  If you don’t, you’re almost always thinking about it.  Housing in Santa Barbara can be challenging because there is not enough housing and what there is typically goes to those who have the means to afford it.  

 However, people do get housed every day, and there are programs such as Section 8 and tax credit that help those who have fewer means.  Section 8 is governed by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered locally through housing authorities.  The vouchers are either project-based or portable (i.e., personal), and typically allow a person to pay 30 percent of his or her income for rent.  A tax credit program is predicated on where a person’s income falls in predetermined levels of “area median income” and if he or she meets other criteria (like a job in the downtown area) to pay reduced rent.

If you have housing, I urge you to care for it well.  Follow the rules even when moving out - this will help you to get housing in the future.  If you are waiting for housing, here are some tips:

·         Never give up and never take having to wait for an opening as a personal reflection - it’s usually just a matter of timing and luck.  You never know when things will change - only that, at some point, they will!

·         Apply for as many different options as you find personally acceptable.  For example, there are more opportunities outside of the downtown Santa Barbara area, and if you can use the bus or have a car, they might be worth considering.

·         Work on the skills that you will need to live in any neighborhood.  

o        These include taking care of your health and managing your physical and mental symptoms as much as possible.  For example, if anxiety challenges you, consider talking with your doctor about medication, finding a good therapist (possibly somebody who is versed in cognitive-behavioral therapy), and/or taking a symptom self-management course such as Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP).

o        Learn to budget your finances so that you can pay for what is your housing-related responsibility, which typically includes rent, repairs caused by other than normal wear and tear, and cleaning.  If financial management is a weakness, work with somebody to learn how to do it yourself or have somebody else become your payee and manage your money for you.  

o        Care for your belongings and maintain your personal space in a clean and safe manner.  Perfection is not required, but understand that you have a responsibility to a standard for yourself, for others in the complex, and to the landlord.  Also, if you obtain a Section 8 voucher, you will have to agree to periodic inspections.

o        Practice being civil.  You don’t have to be extra kind or go out of your way for others, but use your manners and try to recognize other people’s points of view.


The Mental Wellness Center has six (soon to be seven!) housing projects.  Two of them, the Garden Street Apartments (mainly for single adults) and the Eleanor Apartments (more for families) are open to applications.  However, be advised that the wait lists are long.  The other housing projects - three adult residential facilities and a home with room rentals - can only be accessed through referrals by Santa Barbara County’s Department of Behavioral Wellness staff.

Written by Barbara Schreibke

Quilts for a Cause

Jessica Steele, counselor for California 805, helping collect quilts for individuals who

lost their homes in the Thomas Fire and debris flow.

California 805 is a program being administered by the Mental Wellness Center of Santa

Barbra in collaboration with the county of Santa Barbra Department of Behavioral

Wellness and funded by FEMA to assist the Santa Barbara community in recovering

from the impacts of the Thomas Fire and 19 Debris Flow through community outreach.

Over 1000 quilts have been distributed since December 2017, and the honor of piecing

these quilts together goes to the Ventura Modern Quilters Guild. With contributions of

quilting pieces received from across the United States and 13 countries around the

world, the Quilters Guild has produced inspiring works of art that may comfort and serve

as a reminder to all that we will not forget those affected by tragedy.

The gift of a quilt is so much more than just receiving a blanket. One survivor had

described it, “Everytime I look at my quilt, the support and love of strangers is present

and strong, and every time I use it, I picture hugs from everyone who came together to

make it.”


Learn How You Can Contribute to our Holiday Celebration featuring Santa!

My name is Nick Papageorge and I am the Program Manager of The Fellowship Club.

It is once again time to begin preparing for our Annual Holiday Celebration and I invite you to participate! The past two years have been amazing successes and we plan on continuing the trend!

I have begun distributing the Santa Cards to our members and will have the first batch available by the end of the week! Secret Santa’s take one or more Wish Cards and purchase a gift of $20 or less based on the options. They drop off the gifts in holiday wrap along with the form so that staff can get the right gift to the right person. The last day to sign up this year to be a Secret Santa is November 15. 

Our Holiday Celebration is, for many, the only holiday party and gift exchange they experience every year. The Members typically ask for practical gifts which they will use on a daily basis. It is truly a joyous time for them. My staff and I really enjoy seeing the members open their gifts and the gratitude and joy that follows.  

Personally, I think of The Fellowship Club as a second family and I believe many of our members do as well. My staff and I are immersed in the members’ lives and vice-versa. We are all invested in each other while on this journey to recovery together. 

If you are able to help, please contact me so that I can get you a wish card for one or a group of members, we will all be very grateful!  


For any questions or to request Santa Cards, please contact Nick at 884-8440 x3351 or

Guest Writer Nick, Annual Holiday Celebration featuring Santa!

My name is Nick Papageorge and I am the Program Manager of The Fellowship Club.

It is once again time to begin preparing for our Annual Holiday Celebration and I invite you to participate! The past two years have been amazing successes and we plan on continuing the trend!

I have begun distributing the Santa Cards to our members and will have the first batch available by the end of the week! Secret Santa’s take one or more Wish Cards and purchase a gift of $20 or less based on the options. They drop off the gifts in holiday wrap along with the form so that staff can get the right gift to the right person. The last day to sign up this year to be a Secret Santa is November 15. 

Our Holiday Celebration is, for many, the only holiday party and gift exchange they experience every year. The Members typically ask for practical gifts which they will use on a daily basis. It is truly a joyous time for them. My staff and I really enjoy seeing the members open their gifts and the gratitude and joy that follows.  

Personally, I think of The Fellowship Club as a second family and I believe many of our members do as well. My staff and I are immersed in the members’ lives and vice-versa. We are all invested in each other while on this journey to recovery together. 

If you are able to help, please contact me so that I can get you a wish card for one or a group of members, we will all be very grateful!  


For any questions or to request Santa Cards, please contact Nick at 884-8440 x3351 or

Guest Writer Trevor, Why You Need to Examine Your Past to Understand Your Mental Health

This movie plot is so common that it’s almost cliché: The young bully with a troubled past creates adversity for the story’s hero.

This plot illustrates how someone’s past can impact their present. We see it in the bully and in the bullied. And if we look closely, we can also see it in ourselves.

Events from your past have contributed to the person you are today.

How the past molds your character

If you think about who you are today, can you really separate your past? Everything that has happened in your life up until now has helped shape who you are. This includes the good and the bad.

It’s possible to experience negative or even traumatic events without letting them control your life, but it’s not easy. And you may need help working through them.

The practice of letting go of hurt is much easier said than done, and it’s especially difficult for children. Children may be less likely to hold a grudge than adults, but that doesn’t mean they walk away unscathed. In fact, a traumatic childhood experience can send a child down a dark and dangerous path.

Children who experience traumatic events are more likely to experiment with teenage drug use and suffer from mental health disorders later in life.  

Trauma and depression

A 2013 University of Liverpool study found that traumatic life events are the single biggest cause of anxiety and depression. This means you’re more likely to experience depression or anxiety if you’ve experienced a traumatic event than if you have a family history of mental illness.

And if you experience a traumatic event and have a family history of mental illness, your risk of developing depression or anxiety may increase further.

What is a traumatic event?

It’s important to note that an event that’s traumatic for one person may not be so for another. For example, divorce may be traumatic for someone who never saw it as an option. For another person, divorce may seem commonplace.

There are other experiences that are likely to be traumatic for everyone. Rape or witnessing a murder are two extreme examples that are likely to impact anyone.

If you’ve experienced an event that has impacted your emotional wellbeing, don’t waste time worrying about whether it “should” or “shouldn’t” bother you. Instead, talk to a professional about how to work through your feelings.

How to examine your past

The best way to examine your past and its effect on your present is with a professional counselor. This is especially true if you’ve ever experienced a traumatic event, or if you suffer from addiction or depression.

If you don’t fall into any of the above categories, you may start exploring on your own. Begin with a walk down memory lane. Look at old photos and talk about things from your childhood. This may include old pets, relatives or friends that have had an impact on your life.

With memories fresh in your mind, think about the people who were most influential to you. Can you recall any negative events or conversations that may be haunting you to this day? If so, that may be something you need to work through.

You can also approach this from a different angle. Think about your biggest faults. Now, imagine where they could have begun. Was it a learned behavior from your parents? Is it some form of a coping mechanism? Or are you overcompensating for something? If you can find the root cause of these behaviors, you’ll find it easier to overcome them.

Regardless of what you’re experiencing today, it’s likely that your past plays some role. If you’re looking to improve your mental health, be prepared to talk about your past.

Authors Bio: Trevor McDonald is a freelance content writer who has a passion for writing and is currently writing for Sober Nation. He's written a variety of education, travel, health, and lifestyle articles for many different companies. In his free time, you can find him running with his dog, playing his guitar or on Twitter.

The Growing Epidemic of Loneliness

Let’s Talk Mental Health

A place for support, intelligence, resources and recovery


  “During my years caring for Patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness”


-Dr Vivek Murthy Former Surgeon General of the United States

How do you define Loneliness?  Look it up in the dictionary and see if you agree.  I find I don’t agree with Webster’s definition.

Would you be surprised to learn that most people who report feeling lonely are married or live with others and are not diagnosed with depression? According to a study conducted at the University of San Francisco in 2012 this is true.1   We know feelings of loneliness are subjective. There is a difference between feeling lonely, being alone and seeking solitude.

We feel lonely if our relationships do not provide emotional connection and meaning. Think about the gap that lies between what you desire and what you experience in your relationships with others.  I think that’s where you find loneliness.

 Desire                       Experience

Most of us have a basic need to know and be known and be part of a community.  When we are not connected to others and want to be we experience loneliness.

Think about these 5 Aspects of Loneliness.

  1. Family and relational ties

  2. Friendships

  3. Romantic Relationships

  4. Spiritual

  5. Self

Spiritual loneliness and “self” loneliness we can do something about.  We can work on our spirituality and work on self-acceptance for instance.  And what if those aspects of our life improved and our relationship with others improved as a result of that work?? AHA!  

The next time you experience painful feelings of loneliness, listen to them. Investigate them and express them.  Loneliness is valid; it’s okay to feel it we all do. And you can do something about it.

Your Friend,

Mari Logo.jpg






Certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse

How do I Persuade Someone to Get Treatment for Their Mental Illness or Substance Abuse?

This one of the most frequently asked questions I field as a Family Advocate.  How do I make my ill family member take medication?  How do I get my ill family member into detox and sober living?  From personal experience, I know that this question is asked in desperation.  I can remember seeing my own son lost in his head and he not even realizing anything was wrong.  Each day his condition would worsen.  Each day I lost him a bit more. Each day my own fear and anxiety increased.

My role as a Family Advocate is to listen with compassion, help caregivers explore their options, and create a workable plan.  What does that look like?  It is as varied as the people I serve.  The following is part of my personal journey:

My son graduated from high school and his mental health, which was showing some strain, deteriorated at a rapid pace.  He spent most of his waking hours in our garage mixing music from vinyl records.  He seldom communicated verbally other than a grunt here and there, and he would shuffle from the garage (detached) into our home excessively – sometimes just to look at his image in the mirror.  We had him see a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with schizophrenia and prescribed medication.  Our son would not take the medication, but he did consent to seeing a therapist.

For months on end, I was his only human contact during the day while our younger son was at school and my husband was at work.  I would sit in the same room with him watching TV just so he could have human contact.  Occasionally, I would ask him where he saw himself in a year, or in five years, and explain that if he didn’t at least try medication, nothing would get better for him.  At the 18 month marker, our son decided to try medication.  He was not happy with how the medications made him feel, and he would not take them consistently.  I am not certain how he managed, but he got employment and kept that employment for over a year.  I had very little control over my son’s decision to take medication.  He has since told me that his existence was so dark, his options were to die or to try something new.  His therapist was worth his weight in gold because he was there to catch him when he was at his lowest.

We cannot force medication or sobriety on anyone.  We are not in control.  What we can do is collect information and resources and have them ready for when our family member decides to reach out for help.  My best advice is self-care.  Take time for yourself away from the caregiver role.  Each family’s experience is unique.  That is why it is necessary to sit down and explore options with each caregiver that walks into my office or calls my extension.  Staying safe and healthy is important.


Written by: Ramona Winner

Self Compassion, What it is, how it works, and why we should all implement it into our daily lives.

Self-compassion is a buzzword lately, and for good reason! It’s not only a woo-woo phrase used by people who drink green juice and use crystals; it’s also an incredible tool that we can all access anywhere, at any time, for free. Self-compassion has been proven (by science!) to have immeasurable benefits for all of us in many different realms of our lives. But, what are we talking about when we say “self-compassion?" What does it mean, how does it help, and how do we practice it? 

Self-compassion can be defined as extending compassion to ourselves not only during positive moments, but also (and perhaps more importantly) during moments of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. It means treating ourselves like we would treat a friend, offering ourselves kindness as we navigate Being Human (which, let’s face it, can be really tough sometimes), and giving ourselves permission to be imperfect and still deserving of our own compassion. 

Self-compassion has been shown in numerous research studies to be a huge source of support in coping with the stressors of everyday life, as well as managing symptoms of depression and anxiety. According to Kristin Neff, who I consider to be the Queen of Self-Compassion, “people who are compassionate to themselves are much less likely to be depressed, anxious, and stressed, and are much more likely to be happy, resilient, and optimistic about their future. In short, they have better mental health.” It has also been proven to support us in developing greater self-worth, improved body image, reduced distress, and increased motivation. Self-compassion helps us to more easily bounce back from more challenging moments, rather than dwelling in them with the automatic self-critical thoughts we’re often too familiar with. 

Self-compassion includes three main components according to Neff:

1.     Self-kindness: replacing self-criticism with a more kind, gentle inner voice 

2.     Common Humanity: recognizing that suffering and failure are human experiences that we all have, and knowing we aren’t alone

3.     Mindfulness: paying attention to our inner experiences in the present moment, without judgment. 

To utilize these components – to be kind, forgiving, and loving towards ourselves—is much easier in instances of pride, achievement, or success; it’s easier to do when we’re doing well and life is going our way. What about when we make a mistake, do something outside of our values, or screw up - the times we really need our own compassion? This is where self-compassion becomes a powerful resource – even more so than self-esteem. Neff shares that self-compassion is more important to cultivate than self-esteem because self-esteem tends to dwindle when we fail – when we need it most. Self-esteem is hinged on success, on outcomes, and on external “stuff”. On the other hand, self-compassion shows up during times of challenge and reminds us we are human, we are still enough, and we can transcend those darker moments with tenderness and grace. While self-esteem is reserved for the “good” moments in life, self-compassion is accessible and supportive during the tougher moments, as well. 

So, how do we practice self-compassion (emphasis on the word practice)? First, it requires mindfulness: pausing, being present with how we are feeling without judgment, and recognizing when we might need our own compassion. By practicing mindfulness, we give ourselves an opportunity to transcend the automatic negative thoughts that may come in a situation, and we empower ourselves to introduce more self-compassion into our lives. Once we are mindful of our moments of suffering, we can then implement self-compassion practices into our daily lives. 

Here are some concrete ways to practice self-compassion:

·       Ask yourself what you would say to a close friend in the situation

·       Give yourself permission to be imperfect and still be good enough.

·       Strive to cultivate acceptance of all of yourself – not just the joyful, positive parts.

·       Approach situations with curiosity, rather than judgment.

·       Develop a self-compassion mantra that involves the three components listed above.

·       Write yourself a letter from the perspective of someone who loves you.

·       Speak kindly to yourself during both “good” and “bad” moments.
Self-compassion isn’t about making our pain or suffering go away; it’s about learning to be with it, and with ourselves in it, more kindly and lovingly. I hope this summary of self-compassion sparks something within you, or inspires you to practice it as you encounter your own moments of struggle in life. Being human isn’t easy, and being our own worst critic is the last thing we need during moments of suffering. We all deserve our own kindness and compassion, and it’s a tool we can all add to our kit and carry with us as we navigate our daily lives.


Further Resources:









Lisa Olivera, LMFT #106546

Instagram: @lisaoliveratherapy

Facebook: Lisa Olivera Therapy 


How to Explain Depression to Someone Who Doesn't Understand

For a person who does not have depression, understanding it will be a challenge - but thankfully, not impossible. When people opens up their  heart and mind to educating themselves about depression, it is a positive step forward into developing an acceptance of it in society. What’s more, their powerful action can encourage generations in the future to advocate for its importance. 

This is how to explain depression to someone who doesn’t understand: 

It’s a mental illness, not a mindset or choice

One common assumption associated with depression is the fact that it is a mindset that can be overcome with positive thoughts - but that couldn’t be any farther away from the truth; people cannot just “get over” their depression by changing their attitude. Depression is a legitimate mental illness that is caused by environmental factors, personal circumstances, or genetic and biological elements. For example, sometimes people will have depression because they had a traumatic experience in life, arecurrently in a situation that continually puts them in a  lousy headspace, or their brain chemistry is off-balance. In a nutshell, no one chooses to have depression.

Disassociating from reality is a common occurrence

Depression tends to make a person produce irrational thoughts about themselves, that consequently, causes disassociation from reality and the truth. For example, depression provokes feelings of worthlessness which can trigger suicidal idealization or even propel someone to attempt suicide. Additionally, individuals with depression naturally isolate themselves from relationships and interactions with other people because they may believe they are a burden due to their depression. In reality, they are worthy and are not a burden to the people they love. Their minds just make them believe otherwise.

“I am more aware of my feelings than you think”

Individuals with depression know that they need to be positive to have a good day, but deciding to maintain a positive attitude is much more complicated and difficult for them. It’s a thousand times harder since depression depletes motivation. The most heartbreaking thing for someone is being well-aware of depression, but not feeling any desire to participate in the activities that once made him/her happy or the fact that sometimes, he/she suddenly experiences depressive symptoms without an apparent reason.

Seeking help is not easy

Because mental illness has a prominent and negative stigma in society, it discourages individuals from seeking help. Admitting you have depression is one of the most frightening and intimidating things to do; and since this is the case for the majority of people with depression, many of them do not seek help in the first place. Furthermore, anybody would initially feel uncomfortable at the idea of talking to a therapist or taking medication since doing so might express they have “given up” or they need pills to upkeep their mood. Nothing is wrong with admitting you need help or have depression, and it certainly should not be looked down upon to take medication. But to this day, people are still afraid to associate themselves with any sort of mental illness because they do not want others to think poorly of them or be outcasted. 

The most common actions feel like the most incredible achievements

Getting out of bed, taking a shower, eating a meal, and even brushing one’s teeth are milestones for individuals with depression. What is easy and routine to another is the most challenging act of the day for some. Depression always drains a person’s emotional and mental energy, which can make any simple act feel like the tallest mountain to climb. 

Depression is difficult to explain to a person who has not experienced it. However, what matters most is that there are conversations about depression in the first place. Hopefully, one day, sadness and depression and other mental illnesses, for that matter, won’t feel like taboo topics. Instead, they will be crucial subjects to approach, and taking care of one’s mental health will always be just as important as maintaining physical well-being.

Trevor McDonald

You can find Trevor on LinkedIn or his website

Meet Bridge, the Artist Behind this Years Art Festival Logo

Bridget Hochman designed this year’s logo for the Mental Wellness Center’s annual Art Festival. The logo has summer vibes with beautiful florals. The strong and inspiring word HOPE is placed on a deep ocean blue background.

The art festival is a place where individuals living with mental illness can come and present their work for exhibit and for sale to the Santa Barbara community. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday and a wonderful opportunity to buy with a purpose. The festival is planned by Darcy Keep and hosted by the Mental Wellness Center.

Bridget has been drawing since a young child using whatever art supplies were available. “My first watercolor painting was of the gazebo at Alice Keck Park. I actually sat on a bench at the park and painted it outdoors, but now I prefer to work inside and use photos of my subject matter as a reference.” When asked what her style is she replied, “My style is a combination of watercolor and digital; I always scan my paintings into the computer and work on them with Photoshop.”

At the art festival you will find a variety of art from jewelry, drawings, greeting cards, greenery arrangements, sculptures and more! The day is full of smiles, inspiration, and a sense of accomplishment. For many of the artists creativity has been an instrumental outlet for their health. “I have always been very shy and creating art has given me a way to express myself. I chose watercolor because it is challenging and I love the transparent quality of the paint on the watercolor paper. Watercolor has also taught me patience because I must wait for the paint to completely dry before painting a new section,” expresses Bridget.

The art festival is a positive way for individuals with a mental illness to integrate with the Santa Barbara Community.

As Santa Barbara County is recovering from natural disasters this year’s natural disasters, hope is vitally important and a perfect theme for the festival.  Bridget says “I chose the word “HOPE” because I wanted people in our community to feel hopeful for the future after the Thomas Fire and mudslides in Montecito. I decided to make the letters big enough so that I could put an image inside each letter. For the first three images I chose plants native to this area: palm trees, a sunflower, and a bird of paradise. For the last image I chose white candles to remember those we have lost. The white candles can also symbolize healing and new beginnings. I chose to make the background different shades of blue, colors that reminded me of the ocean.”


How to Assess Yourself and Know When You Need Support

In the recent weeks in the U.S. it seems we are reminded of this statement over and over again, “You Matter.” It’s unfortunate that it comes as a result of several tragedies. Mental illness doesn’t often show up on the outside, like a wound on your body. Rather it’s an, at times, extremely challenging inner struggle that we have to find coping strategies to work through. My hope is that the publicity around this statement: “You Matter,” begins to make a difference in the way that we begin talking about our inner struggles and mental health. We shouldn’t need deep sad circumstances to remind us that we all matter. It's important to understand where we are, how we are feeling and when it may be time to seek help from others.

Begin with our own self-awareness; regular check-ins need to be a part of everyone's life. If we don’t have a baseline understanding of who we are, we will not know what to compare it to when something feels “off” within us. So check in. Have an understanding of who you are, where you are, and where you’re going. Have knowledge of what brings you joy and what gets under your skin. Take good care of your body, exercise, drink water, eat colorful food and get good sleep. Recognize when you might need more of something and when you need to hold off.

There are times when we may need more than self-awareness and support. When we feel we may need the help of a professional. This can be in a form of a local support group, doctor or therapist. Recognizing when the issue we are facing may be more than we, and our supports, can handle can be, an overwhelming and very vulnerable process. Even the thoughts and feelings that ensue when you realize that you may need help can be heavy. Once you overcome some of the fear and take action, and see a professional, you will feel better!

For some, there is a question of: “how will I know when I may need the help of a professional?” The feeling of being stuck is often a time we seek professional help. Stuck in a feeling that avenues you have tried thus far have not worked. There are some people that have a feeling of being lost and unsure of the direction they want to take or help they need.

Take care of yourself, find value in who you are and what you bring to this world. My hope for you is that you see all of the amazing qualities you DO have and the wonderful path you on are. And please don’t forget...YOU MATTER!

Danielle Riele, MA

The Dance of Pursuit

The definition of pursue is to follow someone or something in order to catch them.  In my relationships I may play the role of the pursuer or the one being pursued.  These roles change as do the players. 

 Example one:  Throughout my 39 years of marriage (yup, 39 years!), there have been times when I have focused, like a laser, my amorous attentions on my husband.  This has happened when I have perceived we were floating apart (distancing). My courtship may include preparing special meals for him, making myself more available for walks, or simply sending him short texts, just letting him know he is in my thoughts.  All these actions to move towards him are usually well received, and don’t cause him to move away.  What may occur in a relationship is that one of the partners may get burned out constantly being the pursuer.  When this happens, the other partner may panic and become the pursuer (change in roles).  Hopefully, there is something left of the relationship to salvage. This could happen in friendships.

 Example two:  When my youngest son was 15 years old and we were in the midst of supporting our older son through difficulties with his mental health, my youngest son began running away.  He was searching for normalcy outside our household.  He would run away, my husband and I would track him down, and we would bring him back. This happened several times.  We were the pursuers and he was being pursued.  What we recognized was that while we were chasing him, he was running – moving away from us.  We were advised to let him go.  I gave him information on homeless resources in our community, I even helped him explore the process of emancipation at age 16.  I helped him pack a duffle bag.  We hugged him and let him go.  I am happy to report that he returned to us three weeks later (one of the longest three weeks of our lives) and never ran away again. 

 Much later, I acquired knowledge concerning the dance of pursuit and distancing.  When we move towards someone with purpose, we pursue.  That person may not welcome our pursuit and will turn away and flee in the opposite direction.  To continue pursuit just increases the distance between the two people.  If you stop pursuing, it gives the person a chance to stop, turn around, and interact. I also learned that in some situations, being the pursuer gives you power while being the pursued takes power away.  I can see this fitting my situation with my son. While I was pursuing my son, my power was giving me the sense of control.  My son experienced a sense of lack of control; he felt trapped.

This lesson has helped me in all my relationships and I hope you find it useful in yours.  If you want to read more about pursuit and distancing in relationships, see the blog published by The Gottman Institute titled: A research-based approach to relationships


How to Help Your Teen Manage Their School-Related Stress


How to Help Your Teen Manage Their School-Related Stress

The most challenging obstacle for teens is school-related stress. They have to balance a social life, stay on top of their academics, and take care of themselves - all at the same time! Without a doubt, this will be incredibly overwhelming for them. As parents, we can support them by giving them the tools and strategies to efficiently manage their stress.


This is how to help your teens manage their school-related stress:


Assist them with time-management their tasks

Efficiently time-management is a necessary skill all teens must implement into their schedules. Since there are so many responsibilities and obligations on a teen’s to do list, learning how to prioritize their most important task and complete assignments within an allocated amount of time increases their productivity. Otherwise, a lack of time-management in one’s day will put a teen in a constant state of stress and anxiety.


Remind them to commit to daily self-care

During the school year, academics are at the forefront of a teen’s mind and everything else, including self-care, will most likely be put on the back burner. Remind your teen that despite having school work as their main priority, their self-care should never be neglected. They should deliberately take action every day to cultivate their emotional, mental, and physical well-being. The most basic methods of self-care include eating three solid meals a day, showering, maintaining personal hygiene and grooming habits, and getting an adequate amount of sleep every night.

Open the floor for discussion over their concerns

Sometimes, all teens need when they’re stressed is for someone to lend an open ear so they can voice their concerns and feelings. As a parent, we can act as that supportive person that can validate them. To do that, we need to offer them the chance to speak freely and vent about whatever is on their mind. During this time, we don’t necessarily need to give our teen advice or an opinion. The majority of the time, a teenagers just want to be heard and understood. You can also direct your teens to other modes of communication, such as pointing out their friends can also act as emotional support and professional help is always available if they need it as well.

Encourage them to dedicate time to their passions

What activity makes your teen feel fulfilled and happy? Encourage them to invest time into their hobbies and passions in conjunction with studying and completing school work. Sometimes, for teens, one of the best ways to cope with stress is by winding down in solitude, retreating into a relaxing mental space, and directing their focus to an activity that temporarily distracts them from their stress. Plus, their hobbies and passions can act as incentives after they finish their homework.

Emphasize that they should avoid harmful coping mechanisms

Some coping methods have the ability to be harmful without teens even realizing it, such as abusing substances like drugs and alcohol. What may appear to be a temporary escape that numbs their stress or takes their mind off things can have long-term consequences on their health. Teen addiction is one of the most prominent concerns in the U.S.! Take a moment to educate them on what harmful coping mechanisms are and the ramifications of engaging in them. However, end with directing them towards healthy coping strategies that will only be helpful rather than harmful to them.

In reality, teens endure a lot of stress and feel pressured to have everything together! As parents, we should be their main support system - because as long as teens get the support they need and learn to cope with their stress in a healthy matter, they will only continuously move forward, thrive in their academic career, and maintain their emotional and physical well-being.

Trevor McDonald


Negativity Intolerant

Let’s Talk Mental Health

A place for support, intelligence, resources and recovery

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The Happiness in your life depends on the quality of your thoughts

Sometimes we all need an attitude makeover.  If you believe like I do your thoughts are incredibly powerful then you may want to try some things to improve the quality of your thoughts.

It’s not easy to think positive, life is challenging at times especially while dealing with mental health issues.  Just like learning a new language or taking up the piano, it takes practice to train your thoughts.  I’m going to share some “positive interrupts” for you to use while you work on thought training.

Some people are lactose intolerant, think of yourself as negativity intolerant.  Negative thoughts are going to cause problems.  When you have thoughts you want to change interrupt them with some of the suggestions below.

★     Even bad days have happy moments.  Look for them.


★     View your tormentors as your mentors.  Everyone has a lesson to teach us.


★     Angry thoughts make a mind messy.


★     Accept what was and what is and you’ll free up positive energy for what will be.


★     Peace and happiness are found now, we cannot have a better yesterday and tomorrow can wait.


★     Worry distracts and it attracts things you don’t want.  Let go of all worry.


★     Exercise your heart by being kind to others.


★     Instead of “what was I thinking” ask “what was I learning”? No beat ups!


★     What you think about is what you attract, think about progress, peace, joy and happiness.

You have the power to improve your level of happiness and it begins with your thoughts.

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Certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse

How to Deflect Negative Comments


We have all experienced a time when we are interacting with someone and they begin telling us how terrible we are, or they beginning slinging vile words at us.  Whatever the reason, the result is draining on the recipient of this negative delivery. 

I learned this tip from a retired therapist and have shared it with family members in my support groups.  It is the “magic dome.”  When insults are being hurled at me, I try to remember to pull up the magic dome and stop those words from penetrating my space of well-being.  The dome allows me to take time to reflect on what is being hurled at me and assess if there is any validity in what is being said.  If I find there is no validity, then the insult hits the surface of the dome and falls straight to the ground.  If there is some validity, I need to own up to the fact and deal with it at an appropriate time.

For example:  Someone is telling me that I am selfish because I won’t give them $100.00.  I pull up my dome, reflect, find that I don’t have enough money in my account to spare $100.00, and I let this comment slide to the ground.  My next move might be to try to distance myself so that no further negative comments are delivered, or move the conversation to something neutral. 

The real work is in distancing myself emotionally from the anger that is being directed to me by the other person.  I can act like a sponge soaking up other people’s emotions, or I can work at not absorbing these negative emotions.  Distancing is like building a muscle.  The more you exercise, the bigger the muscle.

What is the result when I forget to pull up my dome?  I usually end up with an emotional hangover that can leave me bogged down and tired.  How many of you have experienced emotional hangovers?  It takes days for me to recover from those toxic words.

The beauty of the magic dome is that, it won’t cost you a dime.  Create your own dome.  Make it a superhero shield.


Written by Ramona Winner

Gray Can Be Okay, Danielle Riele


Gray Can Be Okay

Life is full of adjustments. Many of us are often going through several at once. Some adjustments are life changing: getting married or moving for a new job. Other adjustments can be minor: a schedule change or no longer helping a loved one in some way. Whether big or small, life adjustments bring on a lot. Most of us tend to focus on the change itself and forget about all the adjustments that come as a result of that big change. Something as small as finding your new route to work or where to get your groceries can add up. The “gray” in between is hard and I hope you can see that it can be beautiful as well. 

The gray area often marks a time in our life that begins with an ending of some kind: relationship, job, move. This time also marks that we are not at the new beginning quite yet: single, in training for the new job, etc. Since we are in transition, we are often more open. There are many opportunities during this time to learn about ourselves, try something new, meet new people, or just allow ourselves to push through our own discomfort in a new way. 

As people, we often feel most comfortable in routine. So how do we work through our discomfort when we are out of a particular routine? Most of us use our phone immediately to give us a map of directions to the destination we are going, but what if we tried to find that place without a map? Allowing ourselves to go with what feels right takes us to new places, gets us to our destination, and gives us the capability to enjoy the view along the way. So take some deep breaths, remind yourself that you’re in the gray learning phase, and do your best to embrace the change. 

Think about when you ride a roller coaster…you have a very different experience if your arms are up and rolling with the coaster verses clenching on every turn. Your life is filled with tons of “happy accidents” that usually come to light when we allow our arms to be up while rolling with the coaster of life. Think about the parts of your life that were unplanned. If you would have stuck to your original plan, would you have had the same outcome? 


A part of my life journey was growing up with the notion that I was meant to practice law. I allowed myself to take a psychology class my first semester of college and fell in love. Currently, I’m in private practice and have been working as a therapist for eight years! This would not have happened if I would have stuck to my original plan. Allowing myself to open up to new opportunities allowed me to realize my love for helping others. 

My encouragement to you is to see some of your “gray” areas of life and to embrace them as best you can. What can you learn about this time or maybe even appreciate? Try something new or take some deep breaths and put yourself out there in a new way. Your new beginning is around the corner and your added growth will make beautiful icing for that cake of life!

Danielle Riele, MA
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist # 84600
Follow me on Instagram: @danielleLMFT

Finding Connection Through Tea With Strangers?


    Sometimes, when riding the métro to work in the morning, I stare at everyone around me and feel dispirited. I see a sea of bent heads and moving thumbs, the pads of which thump away autonomously on handheld screens. I feel as though we are all existing separately, connected only to our immediate reality by the physicality of our bodies. The vacancy in people’s eyes ties knots in my stomach. I feel alone.

    I grew up in the beautiful tangles of the franco-anglo culture of Montréal. My parents are both immigrants, one from a small town in northern England and the other from Hong Kong. My childhood was happy. I played pretend with my younger sister and our friends in our large suburban backyard for hours on end, making castles out of snow banks; and dreams out of thin air. In high school I developed a tight group of friends and had excellent grades, which led me to have high expectations of self. I filled my time with extra-curriculars of all kinds: dance shows, musicals, rugby and student council. Things were just dandy until they weren’t.

    In University I began to struggle. After being herded like an unsuspecting sheep through the traditional education system, I was becoming painfully aware that it would soon become necessary to make real, tangible decisions about the shape of my future. The immensity of this realization coupled with a staunch desire to succeed and the competitive environment of McGill University kept me awake at night and soon began to keep me in bed throughout the day.

    Depression made me feel like I was sinking in mud. I’d try to lift one foot out, but the other would sink deeper. As someone who always aspired to have it all together , I did not feel comfortable sharing what I was going through with anyone. Shame wrapped its calloused hands around my mouth and kept me silent. It felt that admitting I wasn’t doing well would indicate that I had lost, even though I had no idea what I was trying to win.

    When I did eventually talk about it, it was in a therapist’s office. It took a considerable amount of spilling out the inner recesses of my mind to a professional stranger before I found my footing again. Therapy taught me how to redirect my negative thinking patterns and behaviors. Speaking to a stranger taught me how important the value of human connection is.

    One evening, I stumbled upon an open invitation to collaborate on an initiative that would offer an alternative way to speak to someone: in person, in a cafe, with an empathetic stranger. Sarah, a fellow McGill psychology student, and I connected immediately and she shared her story with me. After spending several days at sea after the ship she was on sank, Sarah struggled with PTSD for years until therapy helped her findways to cope. She continued seeing her therapist even after her symptoms had subsided because she appreciated having an unbiased listener to speak with. We agreed that while therapy is incredibly valuable, it isn’t always what people need. Sometimes people just need someone to listen to them.

    The two of us founded Vent Over Tea , an in-person “listening service” in Montréal that allows people to schedule free Vent Sessions with one of our trained volunteers in a local café. Since its inauguration three years ago, we have had an overwhelming number of people confirm what we suspected: People need to feel heard. People need to connect. The systems that are currently in place don’t afford environments or spaces that readily allow for these types of connection that I truly believe every person craves. What we’ve also realized is that people sometimes need structure in which to make these connections. Vent Over Tea is offering one iteration of this structure in Montréal (we are excited to be launching soon in Sarah’s hometown of Calgary in June!), and we know there are many other ways to open space in similar and effective ways.

    In a recent and invigorating development, we have begun hosting monthly community events in an effort to provide the space and the structure for people to connect as a group in authentic and meaningful ways. We offer people the chance to have a mini vent session with one of our volunteers while also holding space for friends, strangers and neighbors to share coffee, tea and conversation. It has been beautiful to see people sharing and supporting, being vulnerable and holding space for others’ vulnerability.

    Giving people the framework in which to be vulnerable is a powerful tool. I am astounded by the love that comes from our one-on-one vent sessions and the group meetups - not romantic love; but a genuine caring love that is shared amongst all who attend. In these moments, I feel far from alone - as though we are all connected in this shared experience of being human and all that it encompasses: the good, the bad, and every shade in between.

Chloe Chow

Co-Founder of Vent Over Tea

The Benjamin Franklin Effect

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“The best way to get rid of an adversary is to make him your friend”


A smart man indeed was Benjamin Franklin, his accomplishments are many. Of course he was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. And he was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. Just to name a few of them.

Now Ben was not the kind of guy to sit down and be quiet so that everyone would like him. No! He had opinions, ideas and he took actions that created many difficult relationships.  Being the bright man that he was he knew how to turn an enemy into a friend.

Have you ever heard of the Benjamin Franklin Effect?

Overcoming emotional distance in relationships and hurt when things fall out is very very difficult for most of us. It’s easier to avoid and withdraw from people we don’t like and who don’t like us. But that leads to emotional baggage for most of us. What if Benjamin Franklin could teach us how to heal a difficult relationship?

The method is a counterintuitive way to improve relationships with people in your life with whom you may not get along. Think about someone in your life who you don't get on with. A co-worker, a family member, a neighbor or an ex. Establish that you would like to heal the relationship and be cleared of past. Now work out a favor that you would like from this person that would cost them nothing. It could be advice, practical help, a bit of their time, whatever. Approach this person with your request in a positive and honest spirit with the sincere intent of healing the past. 

When we ask someone to do us a favor, we are signaling that we consider them to have something we don't, whether more intelligence, more knowledge, more skills, or whatever. This is another way of showing admiration and respect, something the other person may not have perceived from us before. The thought is this immediately raises their opinion of us and perhaps make them more willing to forgive the past, both because they enjoy the admiration and have genuinely started to perceive our sincere intent to make amends.

You could find the Benjamin Franklin Effect when done in the spirit of true and sincere admiration could open the door to improved and healthier relationships with others and clear up emotional junk you’ve been carrying around from the past. 

Are you willing to try it?  


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Certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse

Your thoughts; are they a record of the past..


Let’s Talk Mental Health

A place for support, intelligence, resources and recovery





Your thoughts; are they a record of the past….

or a road map to the future?


What do you believe is possible? Can you trust your thoughts, beliefs and your actions are the things that make up your circumstances? As human beings we have the ability of insight to see where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re are headed. This sounds easy but it is a lot of work to observe ourselves in this way.

And yet we humans possess incredible power to change our futures. To do this we must first observe our thought patterns and understand our thoughts manifest in our lives.

For instance, let’s say you think you’re too out of shape to even begin to eat healthy and become more active. You will find plenty of evidence in your current thought patterns to support this “truth”. 

You have a choice in your thoughts and you can choose to think different way about yourself. In this example you could begin to think about your body moving and enjoying healthy food choices.

Starting right where you are at, you could begin to think about how you want to feel and who you want to be. And to be that person what qualities would need to possess?

  • Honesty

  • Determination

  • Commitment

  • Willingness

  • Discipline

Now look for evidence that supports that you already are those things.  You posses the attributes needed to become the person you want to be. The idea is to continue to collect evidence to support your vision of the future rather than evidence that keeps you stuck in the past.

I’m living proof of this universal truth. Our beliefs can change our health, our relationships and our lives!



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Certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse


Perspective, You Are Everything


Perspective…You. Are. Everything!


    Our perception is our reality. Therefore, the differences in how each person may view something can be vastly different. This can be challenging and beneficial depending on how much we work with it. Our perspective individually can also be vastly different depending on the day and how we feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. I find that taking a step back, taking a couple of deep breaths, and attempting to view from multiple perspectives can be not only helpful, but often a game changer!

    We have far more power than we often realize. Think about what you may do when a loved one is suffering in some way. We usually will immediately come to their aid, whether physically or in some other capacity. Then we will offer some sort of condolences: “Its going to be okay”, “This will pass”, “Everything happens for a reason”, “It will get better”.  The list can go on and on, really. The point being that we are so kind, helpful, and good at attempting to help that person change their perspective of the current hardship. A big question here is: why is it so hard to do this for ourselves?

    In my practice I ask this question a lot. I will often encourage my clients in hardship to ask themselves what they would tell a friend in the same situation. This is often a tool I encourage them to exercise regularly in their lives outside of our sessions. If the person genuinely tries it, most clients report that it helps a great deal! Changing our perspective can make something challenging not nearly as powerful as it could be.

    Let's sit with an example…Let's say you have been planning a big event that you are very excited about. You have put a lot of time and effort into this event and have been really looking forward to it. It's an outdoor event and everyone you love will be there to join in on the celebration. You want it to be amazing! On the day of the event a sudden, unforeseen storm rolls in creating a very wet, rainy day. In this moment you can easily lose yourself to this forecast and feel that your DAY IS RUINED!! Or, you can take a step back, take a couple of deep breaths [insert ask yourself what you would tell a friend here], and decide how you can continue. This celebration can be magical even with some rain. The hope is that you find that strength that's within you, harness that energy to come up with a plan B, and enjoy your event among the changes.

    Think about the confidence you may gain by shifting your perspective in that example. Coming up with that plan B and enjoying your magical event would provide a mound of confidence! Anyone that would provide any compliment would only add to the greatness you're feeling. Now, if you were able to follow a plan B, but still felt the day was ruined and could not get past it, the compliments wouldn’t matter and no matter how magical, the day would not be the same. YOUR perspective is everything. It feels lovely to have support and empathy from others, but if they do not subscribe to your perspective as their own in some capacity it doesn’t shift the experience nearly as much. The owning of our perspective or the shift in it is where the strength and power often lie.

    We all have this beautiful strength and capability within us. If we can do it for the ones we love and care about, why not apply some of that love, caring, and fresh perspective for ourselves? I encourage you to try this for yourself. Take a step back from the experience and take a couple of deep breaths and see what comes up. What can you do? What IS working? What growth do you still see in yourself even among the hardship? Take the strength that is already there to propel you forward!



Danielle Riele, MA

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist # 84600