How taking the Canadian Red Cross Psychological First Aid course helped me

Jamie recently shared a post on her social media about taking our psychological first aid course and how much it helped her, especially with her own mental health. We asked her if she would share her story with us (and you) to hopefully help others, and here is what she wrote:
The Canadian Mental Health Association predicts that 1 in 5 Canadians will experience some kind of mental health episode or be diagnosed with a mental health illness. Nearly half of all Canadians will have, or have had, some kind of mental health illness by the time they reach 40. I turned 30 in December 2019 and I already knew I was part of the statistics since a young age, but I grew up in a small town during a time where mental health wasn’t anything people spoke about. When I first spoke to someone about it I was told “depression isn’t real” and with that I decided to deal with it on my own. I remained pretty uneducated about mental health for the rest of my life except the basics.

Jamie pictured standing in a fieldEventually I was diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety around 25-26 years old and moved to the GTA to try to get some help, but the system is overloaded and many people fall through the cracks. Things take months to go anywhere and I really just thought I was dealing with just depression up until this point. I had not realized how much more there was going on in my brain than just that. I knew I was an introverted, socially awkward person and I attributed all of that to being depressed and anxious. I wasn’t homeless, I had a job, I had friends, I graduated university, and I strove to be as normal as possible because it was better than the alternative which was basically me just crying. Things are worse for other people than just me. I have this under control. As long as I kept telling myself that I really didn’t see an issue.

In October 2018, I was promoted at my job. By that summer, I was having heart palpitations that felt like mini heart attacks. Before going into work, I would always have a full-blown panic attack. That started getting worse. Every day, it felt like my heart was on a rollercoaster, dropping into the pit of my stomach. I would start to perspire and shake uncontrollably; I would then get tunnel vision followed by light-headedness which eventually caused nausea. I don’t know how long that went on for. I was laid off in February 2020 until the end of March 2020 and I realized how much better things had gotten for me. At the end of March, they brought me back and within a week those same overwhelming feelings returned. I knew something more was going on.

By the end of my first week back, I quit and got another job where the feelings were still following me. I decided to go on medical leave and while on medical leave I took some time away from social media. A friend of mine from the United States had mentioned he was going to be doing “Psychological First Aid” with the American Red Cross and I jokingly told him “sounds like something I need”. Within two hours, I knew this was something I could find value so I paid the $30 and signed myself up for both courses. I had both sections completed within a couple of days and it helped me realize that I was experiencing far more than just anxiety. I was experiencing a “burnout”. The burnout was only a symptom of everything else that was going on inside of my brain.

I was getting angry about things I normally wouldn’t get angry about, I was reckless with my actions, and I was becoming more and more withdrawn. I was getting into arguments almost daily. I would sleep, but I would wake up tired. I would have headaches all the time. I let myself go unattended for so long because, by comparison, I was doing pretty good in life. After completing the “Psychological First Aid” course, I went to a walk-in and was placed on medication.

It hasn’t been a full month yet though and, while I still don’t feel 100% okay, I at least know that it is okay to not feel okay; at least heading in the right direction thanks to the Canadian Red Cross.

Now my goal is to educate others and encourage them to take courses like this to help them understand themselves. If you are lucky enough to live without a mental illness then it is a great course to help you understand what is going on and recognize the sign of mental distress in others.
Thank you, Jamie, for sharing your inspiring story with us!

If you want to learn more about mental health, please find a psychological first aid course near you.


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