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5 Ways to Support Your Workplace Mental Health Solutions

Creating a robust wellness strategy for your organization takes more than one solution. Here’s a guide to offering a cohesive, multi-faceted plan to help your employees get—and stay—healthy.  

Seventy percent of Canadian employees are concerned about the psychological health and safety of their workplace, and 14% don’t think theirs is healthy or safe at all, according to a report by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. 

And anxiety around both pandemic lockdowns and back-to-the-office initiatives has only made matters worse. Despite some progress, a SunLife survey found that one in 10 working Canadians have left or have considered leaving their job due to a lack of employer mental health support. 

In addition, when their conditions are left untreated, mental health and addiction are costing your company money in absenteeism, reduced productivity, employee turnover, and disability leave. In Canada, $51 billion is lost due to untreated employee mental health and addiction every year (according to CAMH). And in 2021, nearly half of all long-term disability claims of young employees are a result of mental health, according to a report from RBC.  

All these figures suggest that mental health and addiction need to be addressed by employers. There are solutions that can help support employees and demonstrate that their wellness is important to you. From in-person education sessions to online apps, here are four ways you can get started. 

1. MENTAL WELLNESS EDUCATION SESSIONS 

Your organization may already host educational sessions, such as lunch-and-learns, to keep your employees up to date with industry trends or even offer wellness guidance like yoga and healthy eating tips. You can use the same tactics to help them navigate mental health and addiction as well.  

Where do you begin? Start by reaching out to mental health and addiction facilities in your community. They may be able to provide materials or even have guest speakers who can host an informative session on seeking help. 

How you decide to host them is up to you and your organization. Choose the duration and frequency of your events (one hour each month for example). You can also host in-person events (ensuring you adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols in your organization) or use an online video platform.  

You can cater the topics to your unique industry or workforce. Try creating an anonymous survey asking employees what challenges they face and topics that would be most helpful to them. Topics could include: 

2. WELLNESS PORTALS 

What is a wellness portal exactly? It’s a simple, confidential way for employees to access their benefit plans, treatment options and other materials that can help them navigate mental health and addiction.  

Why is it important to have a wellness portal? 

Your employees may not feel comfortable asking those in management or HR for help. This gives them a confidential way to access the information they need. It also demonstrates that the organization takes mental health and addiction seriously.   

How you build yours can depend on your organization’s unique needs. Your wellness portal can include: 

Creating a wellness portal and then wiping your hands isn’t enough though. Ensure your employees know it exists (a consistent communication strategy is important!) and keep it up-to-date and refreshed with new content often. 

3. DIGITAL WELLNESS APPS 

There’s an app for that, as the new adage goes. And now a host of new apps offer mental health and addiction recovery services. On the plus side, they offer a customized, convenient, and gamified way to monitor and treat patients. 

While leaving mental health solely to an app isn’t advisable, they can be beneficial for those who only need minor digital support for their symptoms. Apps can also be a helpful way to supplement more intensive treatment, keep progress on track, and provide connectivity in a crisis.  Be cautious: providing access to an app and hoping it will provide recovery for all of your employees would be a mistake.  

Some important features of a mental health app include: 

4. INDIVIDUAL COUNSELLING AND/OR COACHING 

For employees with perhaps more severe symptoms of mental health disorders or addiction, they may need more one-on-one assistance. Others may simply thrive with this sort of personal care, versus an app and other online services.  In these instances, individual counselling and coaching may help. More and more employers are providing free access to counselling as part of supportive benefits coverage. 

What is the difference between offering counselling and coaching? Here’s how it breaks down. 

Coaches:  

Counsellors: 

5. INTENSIVE TREATMENT OPTIONS 

While some employees with mild symptoms may benefit from individual coaching or counselling, there are many others with worsening conditions that are impacting their performance at work and at home. They may need more support to see progress.  

That’s where Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) can help. IOPs can provide an escalated level of therapy for those who need more structure to their treatment, combining individual and group sessions. EHN Canada’s IOPs incorporate almost daily therapy for 8 intensive weeks, led by highly qualified mental health professionals, and can be used to treat depression and anxiety disorders, substance addictions, and workplace trauma. There is even a mental health program for teens aged 14-18 years. Clients can participate virtually or in-person, and the flexible outpatient schedule means employees can continue to work and care for their families while getting the essential help they need.  

And in severe cases, an employee may need 24/7 care, or others may not have a conducive environment at home in which to recover. In these instances, inpatient treatment is recommended to provide a safe and supportive setting for recovery and enable a comprehensive plan for a successful return-to-work. 

 
CONSTANT SUPPORT FOR LONG-TERM RECOVERY 

The goal of anyone enrolling in a mental health or addiction treatment program is to bring lasting results. Offering constant support can help them stay on track. While your organization may not be able to offer all of the solutions suggested here, offering as many as you can go a long way in helping your employees maintain or a develop better mental health. And that, in turn, will lead to a healthier business.  

To find out EHN Canada’s range of treatment options, from online Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) to inpatient care, and how these fit into a comprehensive workplace mental health strategy, visit ehnonline.ca and ehncanada.com. 

Four Things You Need to Know About Fentanyl to Stay Safe

Fentanyl: How To Identify (And Stay Safe From) This Hidden Killer

A lethal drug has made its way onto Canadian streets in recent years. If the word “fentanyl” doesn’t ring alarm bells, it should. Nearly 9 in 10 deaths due to opioid overdose in early 2021 could be traced back to fentanyl.1 That’s over 1,500 deaths in just three months!1

The threat of fentanyl is growing at a disturbing rate. In just under a decade, fentanyl-related fatal overdoses increased by a staggering 548% in Ontario, making it the deadliest opioid around.2 Similar trends are seen across Canada, with the vast majority of fentanyl deaths occurring in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario.1–2

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful opioid: a highly-addictive pain-relieving drug derived from poppies.3 Besides fentanyl, other opioids include morphine, codeine, and heroin.1–2 While some opioids are extracted directly from the poppy plant, fentanyl is made by scientists to be chemically identical to naturally sourced opioids.3

How Is Fentanyl Used?

Doctors prescribe fentanyl to ease severe pain. This could be for people who have undergone major surgery or those experiencing chronic pain—particularly if they don’t respond well to other pain-relief medication.3 Approximately 185,000 Canadians have been prescribed fentanyl by their doctors.4

Fentanyl is also one of the most popular drugs for anesthesia.5–6 Doctors use it to put you in a sleep-like state or to numb a small part of your body during surgery so that you don’t feel any pain during the procedure.5–6 As an anesthetic, fentanyl may be given on its own or in combination with another drug.5–6

What’s of primary concern is when fentanyl is used non-medicinally. People who take fentanyl illicitly in high doses feel a rush of euphoria followed by a calm and relaxing sensation.7–8 But the consequences of illicit fentanyl use can be devastating.

Why Is Fentanyl So Dangerous

Fentanyl carries a particularly high risk of accidental overdose because of how strong, fast-acting, and addictive it is.7–9

Fentanyl is so strong that an amount equal to about four grains of salt can kill you.7,10 In fact, merely touching pure fentanyl can seriously harm or kill you.10 For comparison, fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine and 40 times stronger than heroin.7 With such a powerful drug, it’s very easy to overestimate how much fentanyl you can consume safely, especially if you haven’t taken prescribed opioids before.3,7

Not only is the difference between a safe fentanyl dose and a toxic one slim, but its fast action also means you might not realize the danger until it’s too late.8-9 Indeed, life-threatening effects can occur as quickly as two minutes after consuming fentanyl.7

Fentanyl is also highly addictive.8-9,11 Like other opioids, it floods your brain’s reward centre. Before long, fentanyl’s powerful euphoric effect is the only thing that makes you feel good.3,9 It’s also very difficult to stop taking fentanyl once your body has become dependent on it—stopping will lead to a whole host of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, including muscle and bone pain, insomnia, vomiting, and diarrhea.3 Anyone who wants to stop or detox from a drug like fentanyl should be closely monitored by a healthcare provider to manage these adverse effects.

On top of this, most people aren’t even aware that they’ve taken fentanyl.7,10,12 One study found that 3 in 4 people who tested positive for fentanyl denied using it.12 How is this possible? Well, fentanyl is frequently cut into other street drugs, like heroin, cocaine, meth, and MDMA, to make them cheaper to produce.3,7 To demonstrate, when Health Canada tested heroin samples from 2012 to 2015, they discovered that over half were laced with fentanyl.13 Fentanyl can also masquerade as prescription opioids or other counterfeit pills, like Xanax.7,14–16

Regardless of how you encounter fentanyl, the risk of accidental overdose is high because you never quite know where it’s hiding.7

What Does Fentanyl Smell Like, Taste Like, And Look Like?

Given how common fentanyl contamination is, you’re probably interested in knowing how to identify it.

Unfortunately, fentanyl is nearly impossible to detect, since it doesn’t have a smell or taste at all.7,10 What’s more, fentanyl is a white powder, making it visually indistinguishable from other white, powdery drugs, like cocaine and some forms of heroin.8,11,17–18

Similarly, counterfeit pills containing fentanyl can look exactly like legitimate medication.18 Besides powders and pills, street fentanyl can come as a liquid, on blotter paper, or in eye-drops,3,10 and is sometimes sold as brightly coloured powders or “pebbles” that look like candy.18–19

Staying Safe From Fentanyl

If fentanyl has no smell or taste, and isn’t visible when mixed with other products, how can you tell if drugs are contaminated with it?

Fortunately, a method to check for fentanyl exists for those who use street drugs habitually.20 First, dissolve a small sample of a drug in water. Then, dip a fentanyl test strip into this solution. One line indicates that fentanyl is present, whereas two lines means fentanyl wasn’t detected.21

Be cautious, though: a negative result won’t guarantee your safety. Test strips aren’t 100% accurate and can only detect some—not all—types of fentanyl.20,22 This test also can’t tell you how much fentanyl is actually present or how strong it is.22 Keep in mind, however, that any potential exposure to fentanyl, when not prescribed and taken under supervision of healthcare providers, is extremely dangerous.

Ideally, you should check a drug every time before taking it, as fentanyl can be distributed unevenly.22 However, if you suspect you may have taken fentanyl accidentally, test strips can still be used on urine samples.21

In general, try to avoid taking drugs when you find unwanted fentanyl in them—just to be safe. But, if you do, start with a smaller amount and slowly increase so you can gauge how strongly you’re being affected.20It’s also a good idea to have someone check in on you regularly, if possible. It’s always safer to buddy up so that you’re not alone when using, or potentially being exposed to, fentanyl.7 That way, someone can call for medical assistance and administer naloxone, if needed.

Naloxone Prevents Fatal Fentanyl Overdose

Naloxone is a life-saving treatment that acts within minutes to temporarily stop fentanyl overdose.23–24 Naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan®, has reversed thousands of overdoses across Canada, with an 83–100% success rate.25–26 The treatment works by kicking fentanyl off brain receptors and blocking fentanyl from having any effect for a short period of time.24

It’s important to note that naloxone wears off in 30 to 90 minutes, so it’s critical to seek medical attention immediately after administering it by calling 911 or your local emergency line.10,27 Also, do keep in mind that you may need to give multiple doses of naloxone to keep blocking fentanyl until help arrives.28–29

Signs of fentanyl overdose, which indicate when naloxone needs to be administered, include:7,10,29

If you’re ever in doubt as to whether naloxone is appropriate, just use it. If you or the person you’re with isn’t actually experiencing an overdose, naloxone won’t cause any harm and is safe for all ages.24,27 And don’t worry—it’s not addictive.24Take-home naloxone kits are available to Canadians without a prescription from most pharmacies and local health authorities.23 Certain provinces even provide the kits for free.24 Naloxone is available as a ready-to-use nasal spray or as an injection that can be delivered into any muscle in the body (e.g., an arm or a thigh).24

What To Do If You Become Addicted To Fentanyl

Naloxone works best in emergency situations and is not meant to offset the effects of regular fentanyl use.29 Instead, fentanyl addiction is best managed using a combination of psychotherapy and medication-assisted treatment (MAT).30 MAT makes use of specific drugs that bind to the same brain receptors as fentanyl31 but, rather than making you feel euphoric, MAT reduces fentanyl cravings and minimizes withdrawal symptoms.31

The two most recommended types of MAT are Suboxone® (buprenorphine and naloxone, combined) and methadone.30,32–34 Although both buprenorphine and methadone are opioids, they are safe when taken as prescribed by a doctor.33 And, if you don’t feel comfortable discussing fentanyl addiction with your family doctor, you can often contact accredited addiction treatment centres yourself to access help from specialists in a safe, confidential space.

Research shows that MAT is highly effective at reducing opioid use and its associated health and lifestyle risks.30,32–34 Notably, up to 60% of people with addiction are opioid-free while receiving methadone or Suboxone® treatment alongside counselling, psychotherapy, and social support.30,31,33

If you want to stop using fentanyl, you’ll need a MAT prescription from a doctor, which

can be administered from either a treatment setting or through your local pharmacy.35 Methadone is normally given as a fruit-flavoured liquid solution, while Suboxone® is provided in tablet form.34 Irrespective of which MAT is prescribed, it needs to be taken daily and supervised by a healthcare professional.36

If you think you may be at risk of fentanyl overdose or addiction, talk to EHN Canada at 416-644-6345. Reaching out is confidential, with no obligations, and we can help you find the treatment you need to recover.

References

1. Government of Canada. (2021). Apparent Opioid and Stimulant Toxicity Deaths: Surveillance of Opioid- and Stimulant-Related Harms in Canada. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://health-infobase.canada.ca/src/doc/SRHD/UpdateDeathsSep2021.pdf

2. The Ontario Drug Policy Research Network. (2017). Latest Trends in Opioid-Related Deaths in Ontario 1991-2015. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://odprn.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/ODPRN-Report_Latest-trends-in-opioid-related-deaths.pdf

3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Fentanyl DrugFacts. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl

4. Statistics Canada. (2019). Canadian Community Health Survey, 2018. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/190625/dq190625b-eng.htm

5. Stanley, T. H. (2005). Fentanyl. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 29(5), 67–71. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2005.01.009

6. Stanley, T. H. (2014). The fentanyl story. The Journal of Pain, 15(12), 1215–1226. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2014.08.010

7. Health Canada. (2018). Fentanyl. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/controlled-illegal-drugs/fentanyl.html

8. Suzuki, J., & El-Haddad, S. (2017). A review: Fentanyl and non-pharmaceutical fentanyls. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 171, 107–116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.11.033

9. Comer, S. D., & Cahill, C. M. (2019). Fentanyl: Receptor pharmacology, abuse potential, and implications for treatment. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 106, 49–57. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.12.005

10.   Royal Canadian Mounted Police. (2017). What is fentanyl? Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/en/what-is-fentanyl

11.   European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2021). Fentanyl drug profile. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/drug-profiles/fentanyl_en

12.   Amlani, A., McKee, G., Khamis, N., Raghukumar, G., Tsang, E., & Buxton, J. A. (2015). Why the FUSS (Fentanyl Urine Screen Study)? A cross-sectional survey to characterize an emerging threat to people who use drugs in British Columbia, Canada. Harm Reduction Journal, 12, 54. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-015-0088-4

13. Belzak, L., & Halverson, J. (2018). Evidence synthesis – The opioid crisis in Canada: a national perspective. Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada: Research, Policy and Practice, 38(6), 224–233. https://doi.org/10.24095/hpcdp.38.6.02

14. Prentiss, M. (2019). Fake Xanax pills containing fentanyl circulating in Halifax. CBC News. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/fake-xanax-pills-containing-fentanyl-halifax-1.5090647

15. CBC News. (2021). Counterfeit Xanax pills with fentanyl, other drugs circulating in Winnipeg, police warn. CBC News. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/winnipeg-police-counterfeit-xanax-fentanyl-1.6000380

16. Tobias, S., Shapiro, A. M., Grant, C. J., Patel, P., Lysyshyn, M., & Ti, L. (2021). Drug checking identifies counterfeit alprazolam tablets. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 218, 108300. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.108300

17.   Behrman, A. D. (2008). Luck of the Draw: Common Adulterants Found in Illicit Drugs. Journal of Emergency Nursing, 34(1), 80–82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jen.2007.10.001

18.   British Columbia Centre on Substance Use. (2019). BCCSU Guidelines for Identifying Colours and Textures. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.bccsu.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/BCCSU_Identification_Guide.pdf

19.   National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2018). Prevention of Occupational Exposure to Fentanyl and Other Opioids. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://tools.niehs.nih.gov/wetp/public/hasl_get_blob.cfm?ID=11206

20.   Legislative Analysis and Public Policy Association. (2021). Fentanyl test strips. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.nmhealth.org/publication/view/general/6756/

21.   Goldman, J. E., Waye, K. M., Periera, K. A., Krieger, M. S., Yedinak, J. L., & Marshall, B. D. L. (2019). Perspectives on rapid fentanyl test strips as a harm reduction practice among young adults who use drugs: a qualitative study. Harm Reduction Journal, 16, 3. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-018-0276-0

22.   Interior Health. (2020). Drug Checking with Fentanyl Test Strips. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.interiorhealth.ca/Forms/822329.pdf

23.   Health Canada. (2016). Notice – Availability of Naloxone Hydrochloride Nasal Spray (NARCAN) in Canada. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/drug-products/announcements/notice-availability-naloxone-hydrochloride-nasal-spray-narcan-canada.html

24.   Health Canada. (2017). Naloxone. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/opioids/naloxone.html

25.   Rzasa Lynn, R., & Galinkin, J. L. (2018). Naloxone dosage for opioid reversal: current evidence and clinical implications. Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety, 9(1), 63–88. https://doi.org/10.1177/2042098617744161

26.   Health Canada. (2021). Naloxone: Save a Life (fact sheet). Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/healthy-living/naloxone-save-a-life-fact-sheet.html

27.   Health Canada. (2019). What you need to know about fentanyl exposure. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/controlled-illegal-drugs/fentanyl/exposure.html

28.   Moss, R. B., & Carlo, D. J. (2019). Higher doses of naloxone are needed in the synthetic opioid era. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 14, 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13011-019-0195-4

29.   National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Naloxone DrugFacts. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/naloxone

30.   Korownyk, C., Perry, D., Ton, J., Kolber, M. R., Garrison, S., Thomas, B., Allan, G. M., Bateman, C., de Queiroz, R., Kennedy, D., Lamba, W., Marlinga, J., Mogus, T., Nickonchuk, T., Orrantia, E., Reich, K., Wong, N., Dugré, N., & Lindblad, A. J. (2019). Managing opioid use disorder in primary care: PEER simplified guideline. Canadian Family Physician Le Médecin de famille canadien, 65, 321–330 (2019).

31.   Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health. (2019). Programs for the Treatment of Opioid Addiction: An Environmental Scan. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://cadth.ca/sites/default/files/es/es0335-programs-for-treatment-opioid-addiction-in-Canada.pdf

32.   National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Medications to Treat Opioid Use Disorder Research Report: How effective are medications to treat opioid use disorder? Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/medications-to-treat-opioid-addiction/efficacy-medications-opioid-use-disorder

33.   Smith Connery, H. (2015). Medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorder: review of the evidence and future directions. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 23(2), 63–75. https://doi.org/10.1097/HRP.0000000000000075

34.   McKeganey, N., Russell, C., & Cockayne, L. (2013). Medically assisted recovery from opiate dependence within the context of the UK drug strategy: methadone and Suboxone (buprenorphine–naloxone) patients compared. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 44(1), 97–102. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsat.2012.04.003

35.   Piske, M., Thomson, T., Krebs, E., Hongdilokkul, N., Bruneau, J., Greenland, S., Gustafson, P., Ehsan Karim, M., McCandless, L. C., Maclure, M., Platt, R. W., Siebert, U., Eugenia Socías, M., Tsui, J. I., Wood, E., & Nosyk, B. (2020). Comparative effectiveness of buprenorphine–naloxone versus methadone for treatment of opioid use disorder: a population–based observational study protocol in British Columbia, Canada. BMJ Open, 10(9), e036102. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2019-036102

36.   Bruneau, J., Ahamad, K., Goyer, M. E., Poulin, G., Selby, P., Fischer, B., Wild, T. C., Wood, E. (2018). Management of opioid use disorders: a national clinical practice guideline. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 190(9), E247–E257. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.170958

Seeking Treatment for a Loved One: How to Navigate the Conversation

With Lynn McLaughlin

Best-Selling and Award-Winning Author, Owner/Founder of Lynn McLaughlin Co

It is hard to know when it becomes time to intervene in someone else’s life and suggest mental health and/or addiction treatment. The lead up to the conversation can be anxiety-ridden and awkward, but it doesn’t have to be! Circumstances vary for every individual, but approaching a loved one with an open mind and a caring heart is a great place to start.  Join Lynn McLaughlin, best-selling and award-winning author, as she provides perspectives from personal experience on how to help a loved one seek treatment. We will identify when it is indeed time to intervene and suggest professional support, how this impacts the family dynamic, and what the possible outcomes are, both good and bad, from initiating that difficult conversation.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES:

Untreated Mental Health and Addiction: A Most Dangerous Workplace Hazard

Originally written for the Ontario Occupational Health Nurses Association (OOHNA) Xpress (Sept/Oct 2021)

Unchecked and untreated mental health disorders and addiction are slowing down both Canadian workers and their organizations—and the pandemic has only made it worse. But a new treatment program can help employees recover without having to give up their careers.

Nurses and doctors clocking long hours, face-to-face with the virus. Office employees working in solitude or surrounded by their children. Military service members sitting helpless at home. Few careers have been untouched by the pandemic, and for many Canadians it has led to increased cases of depression, anxiety, and dependence on drugs and alcohol.

But it’s not all bad news. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on workplace mental health and addiction like never before. What once felt like a dirty little secret that could destroy one’s career has now become part of the mainstream conversation. While it will take years to undo the stigma, we are moving in the right direction. And new treatment options offer new hope for recovery.

BUBBLING UNDER THE SURFACE

Long before COVID-19, mental health disorders and addiction had been quietly harming workers across Canada.  Depression, anxiety, burnout, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), Operational Stress Injury (OSI), and substance abuse have each been impacting our workplace performance and productivity, while also eroding our quality of life.

Workplace wellbeing solutions provider, LifeWorks, says that “a study of workplace mental health conducted in Canada found that employees would report to managers that they were ‘sick’ rather than disclosing mental health issues.”

And while some have embraced remote work during the pandemic (a little longer to sleep in, no public transit or traffic jams), for others, working from home has actually made both their home life and work life more stressful. Those with children have found it hard to manage, and some have found the solitude particularly triggering. Women in particular have shown it has impacted them more than their male counterparts.

 

Studies from the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction found that during the pandemic “more females report moderate-to-severe anxiety symptoms than males (29% vs 20%), with even higher rates for females than males in households with kids under 13 (37% vs 24%). And females in households with kids under 13 report higher rates of increased substance use than males (37% vs 26% for alcohol, 48% vs 37% for cannabis).”

Is returning to work the solution? Not for everyone. Forty-six percent of Canadian employees are also reporting feelings of stress and anxiety around plans to head back to the office—or a simple lack of transparency from their companies.

STIGMA IS COSTING COMPANIES

While symptoms take their toll on employees, businesses and organizations are also dealing with the economic fallout. Increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, and higher rates of disability leave are all hurting Canadian organizations—to the tune of $51 billion per year, according to CAMH.

Where to begin fixing the problem? An employee coming to terms with their mental health or addiction is the first step. But a nefarious outside force can also be stopping them from seeking help: stigma.

A McKinsey study with a sample of the U.S. workforce found that “many employees with a behavioral-health condition indicated that they would avoid treatment because they didn’t want people finding out about their mental illness (37%) or substance-use disorder (52%).

Stigma was also associated with lower workforce productivity. Close to seven in ten respondents with high self-stigma levels reported missing at least a day of work because of burnout or stress.”

We do seem to be turning a corner, however. As more people talk publicly about their struggles, especially those in leadership roles, the more it is encouraging others to do the same.

And many organizations are beefing up their mental health coverage for employees.

GOOD FOR EMPLOYEES AND COMPANIES

While some companies may be dragging their feet over cost hesitations, offering treatment for employees actually shows long-term return on investments.

Deloitte assessed companies who already offer mental health treatment. Their findings: for every dollar invested, “the median yearly ROI on mental health programs was CA$1.62 among the seven companies that provided at least three years’ worth of data. Companies whose programs had been in place for three or more years had a median yearly ROI of CA$2.18.”

So, a good decision for employees is also a good one for a company’s bottom line.

A NEW WAVE OF TREATMENT OPTIONS

Those struggling with mental health or addiction often avoid seeking treatment for many reasons: the aforementioned stigma, feeling like they cannot step away from professional and family obligations, or a lack of available resources or treatment options. Knowing the barriers to seeking help, what can help businesses capitalize on the potential return on investing in workplace mental health?

The pandemic has ushered in a new wave of online services that make it possible for employees to get the care they need, while still maintaining their workplace responsibilities and caring for their families.

EHN Canada, a network of treatment facilities across Canada, works closely with progressive employers to enhance strong workplace mental health solutions. Last year, with rising demand for higher intensity programs to address worsening symptoms,  they launched their virtual Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs).

EHN’s online IOPs treat depression and anxiety, substance use disorders, and workplace trauma, but they are more than simply an app or online counselling. An IOP is a structured blend of individual and group therapy sessions spanning 8 weeks, followed by 10 months of online aftercare designed to help clients stay on track. The evidence-based approach and use of group counselling truly set this option apart from the rest, giving clients an immersive and elevated experience that produces results.

Also included is access to EHN Online’s Wagon app to help set goals, track recovery progress, and monitor triggers; a team of strong clinical experts, specifically trained in providing online treatment; and the flexibility and convenience of therapy that can accommodate busy lifestyles.

To find out more about Intensive Outpatient Treatment and how it fits into a comprehensive workplace mental health strategy, visit ehnonline.ca.

EHN CAN HELP

Whether you’re an individual who needs help with your mental health or substance use, or an employer or healthcare provider with a client in need of support, EHN Canada can help. We offer proven, best practices that treat concurrent disorders and support patients in achieving and maintaining long-term recovery. Call any of the numbers below, 24/7, to discover how our evidence-based treatments and qualified staff can help you.

Evidence-Based Treatment for Mental Health, Trauma, and Addiction: The Way Forward

In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental health condition or addiction.[i] Yet, 40 to 60% of people with a substance use disorder relapse—similar to relapse rates of other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and asthma.[ii] On average, 520 per 100,000 Canadians are re-admitted to hospital every year for a mental health condition.[iii] With high relapse and hospitalization rates, poor mental health is not only devastating, it also costs the Canadian economy over $50 billion per year.1

Despite mental health’s far-reaching impact, not everyone is getting the quality of treatment they desperately need. A 2016 study found that only 13% of British Columbians with depression received adequate psychotherapy or counselling.[iv] Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” when practiced by a qualified professional, can be effective at treating mental health conditions alone or in conjunction with medication.[v] Knowing this, we need to make proven and effective psychotherapies more accessible.

Over the years, countless mental health treatments have been practiced, yet they remain largely unregulated. Treatment practices aren’t standardized for a variety of reasons, including:

To address this issue, health care providers need to implement evidence-based practices for mental health, trauma, and addiction. Mental health conditions are heterogeneous, so it’s imperative to individualize proven treatment programs to address a patient’s unique needs and preferences.[viii] This will ensure that patients receive treatments with a meaningful effect, while putting less economic strain on the healthcare system.

First, what are evidence-based practices?

Evidence-based practices are interventions with consistent scientific evidence showing that they improve patient outcomes.[vii] In other words, evidence-based practices come to be following several randomized clinical trials comparing the practice under investigation to alternative practices and/or to the current standard of care.[vii]

Common evidence-based psychotherapies used to treat mental health, trauma, and addiction include:

It’s essential to evaluate how a patient is responding to treatment, irrespective of the psychotherapy chosen. Progress and outcome measures assess whether a treatment actually improves a patient’s symptoms or functioning, allowing providers to plan, monitor, and adjust treatment options as needed.[xiii] Measures can screen individuals for mental health conditions, substance dependence, or PTSD (e.g., PHQ9, GAD-7, GAINSS, LDQ, and PCL) or assess an individual’s progress with a given psychotherapy (e.g., OQ-45). By determining what’s working and what’s not, an individualized treatment plan can be implemented—with constant tweaking—to provide the best approach for every patient.

Several other factors contribute to treatment success, too. One consideration is group versus individual therapy. Of course, there are advantages of each:

A combination of group and individual therapy is preferable over individual counselling alone, particularly when one or the other hasn’t resulted in satisfactory progress. This way, the patient can reap the rewards of both therapy styles.

Likewise, the severity of a patient’s mental health condition and that patient’s living situation factor into whether an inpatient or outpatient program is most appropriate. Studies show comparative effectiveness between these two formats,[xvii] but one size doesn’t fit all. When comparing inpatient and outpatient treatments, we see that:

When narrowing down further to an optimal treatment facility, standard of care and staff qualifications are noteworthy. Facilities should adhere to the best proven practices for each mental health condition. If providing a detox program or medication-assisted treatment, doctors and nurses should be present at facilities to provide medical supervision. Lastly, psychotherapy should be conducted by highly trained psychotherapists and counsellors.

An additional consideration for concurrent disorders is that treatment is most successful when all conditions are addressed in a coordinated manner.[xviii] For example, an individual might have an anxiety disorder and alcohol dependence requiring both mental health and addiction treatment.18 Since concurrent disorders likely affect each other, addressing them together often results in better outcomes for patients.

Mental health touches the lives of all Canadians. By providing individualized, evidence-based, and outcomes-focused treatment, together we can ameliorate the negative effects of the mental health crisis.

EHN CAN HELP

Whether you’re an individual who needs help with your mental health or substance use, or an employer or healthcare provider with a client in need of support, EHN Canada can help. We offer proven, best practices that treat concurrent disorders and support patients in achieving and maintaining long-term recovery. Call any of the numbers below, 24/7, to discover how our evidence-based treatments and qualified staff can help you.

References

[i] Smetanin et al. (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041. Prepared for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Toronto: RiskAnalytica.

[ii] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (July 2020). Treatment and Recovery. Accessed on September 28, 2021 from: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery

[iii] Public Health Agency of Canada. (2019). Inequalities in mental illness hospitalization in Canada. Accessed on September 28, 2021 from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/science-research-data/inequalities-mental-illness-hospitalization-infographic.html

[iv] Puyat et al. (2016). How often do individuals with major depression receive minimally adequate treatment? A population-based data linkage study. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 61(7):394-404.

[v] Seligman. (1995). The effectiveness of psychotherapy: The consumer reports study. American Psychologist, 50(12): 965-974.

[vi] Cohen et al. (2013). Evidence-based practice in mental health. Re$earch Infosource Inc. Publication. Accessed on September 28, 2021 from: https://cpa.ca/docs/File/Practice/Evidence_Based_Practice_inMentalHealth.pdf

[vii] Drake et al. (2001). Implementing evidence-based practices in routine mental health service settings. Psychiatric Services, 52(2):179-182.

[viii] Alda. (2013). Personalized psychiatry: many questions, fewer answers. J Psychiatry Neurosci, 38(6):363-5.

[ix] Page at al. (2012). Effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy modified for inpatients with depression. International Scholarly Research Network Psychiatry:1-7.

[x] Bohus et al. (2004). Effectiveness of inpatient dialectical behavioral therapy for borderline personality disorder: a controlled trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy 42:487-499.

[xi] Stotts et al. (2015). The promise of third-wave behavioral therapies in the treatment of substance use disorders. Curr Opin Psychol, 2:75-81.

[xii] Watkins et al. (2018). Treating PTSD: a review of evidence-based psychotherapy interventions. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 12:1-9.

[xiii] Kilbourne et al. (2018). Measuring and improving the quality of mental health care: a global perspective. World Psychiatry, 17(1): 30-38.

[xiv] Cyr et al. (2016). Making the case for peer support. Mental Health Commission of Canada. Accessed on October 4, 2021 from: https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca//www/wp-content/uploads/drupal/2016-07/MHCC_Making_the_Case_for_Peer_Support_2016_Eng.pdf

[xv] CAMH. (2021). Health Info: Group Therapy. Accessed on September 28, 2021 from: https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/group-therapy

[xvi] Mayo Clinic. (2016). Psychotherapy: Overview. Accessed on October 4, 2021 from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/psychotherapy/about/pac-20384616

[xvii] Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for substance use disorder: a review of clinical effectiveness and guidelines. Ottawa: CADTH; 2017 Nov. (CADTH rapid response report: summary with critical appraisal).

[xviii] Skinner at al. (2010). Concurrent substance use and mental health disorders: an information guide. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Accessed on September 28, 2021 from: https://www.camh.ca/-/media/files/guides-and-publications/concurrent-disorders-guide-en.pdf

9 Tips to Help You Cope with Life after Lockdown

For a lot of us, the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions brings feelings of joy as we get back to the life we once had. But for some, it’s doing the opposite: bringing feelings of anxiety of getting back into the real world. Just like it took us some time to get used to life in lockdown, it’s going to take some time (and a little bit of work) to find our way back to life after it. Here are some tips to help make things a little bit easier.

1. Mind Your Body

It’s never been more important to maintain your strength and physical health in a time like this. Not only is proper diet and exercise important to your overall well being, they are the only things you truly have control over in any of this.

Focus on eating plenty of whole foods, drinking lots of water, and trying to keep takeout to a minimum. As for exercise, the key is to do what makes you feel good. Download a routine you can do at home, go for a walk or a bike ride, dance around your place—whatever keeps you motivated enough to make it a healthy habit.

2. Try Meditation Or Deep Breathing Exercises

If you find yourself feeling anxious, make some time to do some calming breathing techniques. You could also take it one step further and give meditation a try. Just 10 minutes a day can help you centre yourself and reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression. There are some great apps and videos out there that can help guide you along.

3. Get Outside

Aside from the obvious benefits of exercise, taking in that sweet fresh air does wonders for your mind, body and soul. Even just a quick 10 minute walk around the block can perk up your mood, get your heart rate up, and give you a healthy dose of vitamin D (if the sun’s out) which kicks those endorphins into high gear.

4. Connect With Friends And Family

Though seeing people may be the last thing you feel like doing, try to stay connected with those you feel comfortable with. Not only can they provide a good listening ear, they can likely relate as we’re all going through this together. And if you still can’t connect live for whatever reason, try using social media, going on a virtual platform, or just taking a good old-fashioned (socially distanced) walk in the park.

5. Take Breaks From Watching Or Reading News Stories

While it’s good to be informed, constant talk about the pandemic and its effects have been taking a massive toll on our mental health. Consider limiting time on news shows or apps, and if you have a hard time doing that, consider removing the apps entirely until you can break the media habit.

6. Lend A Hand

As it turns out, being of service, whether volunteering to help a friend, colleague or a charitable organization can not only make you feel good, it can be good for you, too. When you perform an act of kindness, it activates the area of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust. In turn, the brain releases feel good endorphins delivering you a big dose of happiness while bringing down feelings of stress and depression.

7. Make Plans to Do Things You Love

Remember all of the things that brought you joy in the before times? Things like sitting on a patio and grabbing a bite with friends, going to concerts and shows, or travelling around to different cities. Though you may not be able to do all of the things right now, start planning to do some of them. Even make a wish list of things you want to do in the next year or two as the world continues to open up. Looking positively towards to future can help kick our mind out of the stalemate it’s in and onto the exciting possibilities of what’s to come.

8. Make Plans to Do Things You Love

Remember all of the things that brought you joy in the before times? Things like sitting on a patio and grabbing a bite with friends, going to concerts and shows, or travelling around to different cities. Though you may not be able to do all of the things right now, start planning to do some of them. Even make a wish list of things you want to do in the next year or two as the world continues to open up. Looking positively towards to future can help kick our mind out of the stalemate it’s in and onto the exciting possibilities of what’s to come.

When you find negative feelings coming on, change the narrative and try talking to yourself compassionately. The next time you catch yourself saying something critical, try to frame it up differently in your head and be a little more supportive and kind to yourself. For example, if you mess something up, instead of saying “I’m such a idiot”, say, “I just made a mistake. I’ll do better next time.”

9.Take Things SLOW

Feeling anxious about the “return to normal”? You are not alone. A lot of people are finding just the thought of getting back to some semblance of normal life to be overwhelming. Don’t forget that we have been living in unprecedented times and our lives have been turned literally upside down. The key here is to take things slow.

Still Need Some Help? We’re Here For You.

If you’re still having a hard time moving forward, even after following these best practices, we have programs available to help you get through this. The Edgewood Health Network Canada offers a unique approach to the treatment of mental health disorders with a wide range of options, available in both English and French, that are tailored to each individual’s specific needs.

Our Safe, Comfortable Facilities

Rest assured, we remain 100% dedicated to providing safe facilities by taking exceptional precautions against COVID-19, even as the world opens back up. We go beyond standard protocols to ensure that necessary screening and prevention measures are in place and we continue to work regularly with local Public Health Departments to ensure Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) measures are optimized. We also continue to do patient and staff testing regularly and the use of PPE is stringently enforced.

About EHN Canada Programs:

EHN Canada Can Help

To learn more about the addiction and mental health treatment programs provided by EHN Canada, enroll yourself in one of our programs, or refer someone else, please call us at 1-416-644-6345. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.

A Work In Progress: Why Workplace Mental Health Matters

No matter what your job is, there is always work to be done on your mental health or recovery from addiction. To complicate things, this pandemic changed the way we work dramatically overnight—and it has only made matters worse for many people. But there is something we can and should do about it. In honour of Mental Health Week, from May 3-9, 2021, we’re exploring the problem of mental health in the workplace, how it’s been intensified, and what you can do to help yourself and your staff or colleagues.

Whar are Untreated Mental Health Disorders and Addiction Costing Businesses?

Whether we like it or not, most of us have to work. And it’s probably where we spend half of our waking hours at least. Even at the best of times, there can be stress, exhaustion, monotony, and professional and personal conflicts.

All of these can lead to workplace trauma, anxiety, depression, and increased dependency on substances. And this isn’t good for your people or your business.

How prevalent is workplace mental illness—and how is it impacting your organization?

According to a recent report from Deloitte, mental health disorders are impacting more and people every year:

How is it hurting your business?

With more employees missing work, taking leave, or simply quitting their jobs altogether, it can hurt your productivity. Across Canada, poor mental health could cost the Canadian economy upwards of $50 billion per year.

And the Pandemic has only made the Situation Worse

For those who are still going to a physical workplace, the pandemic has added a new layer of stress and risk. And for those working remotely, they are battling isolation and loneliness.

But the stigma around mental health is still dissuading employees from telling anyone.

According to a new report from HR services provider Morneau Shepell, 44% of respondents feared their career would suffer if they came forward about a mental health issue. And the number rose to 50% for those in management roles.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Mental health and substance use disorders are serious and often require diagnosis and treatment from a doctor or registered mental health professional. But there are things you can do at work to help.

To help support your employees:

To help support your colleagues:

Want to learn more about what you can do?

Mental Health, Addiction and a Pandemic: Assessing the Impact on Workplaces which took place live on May 6th, 2021.

During this webinar, you will find out more about:

And for Mental Health Week this year, we have a handout with 5 simple daily exercises you can do with your employees and colleagues to help with their mental wellbeing in the workplace.

[maxbutton id=”1″ url=”https://share.hsforms.com/18NrHSh5jS9Gw8UvitQrKvg4tdqg” text=”Get Download” ]

EHN Canada Can Help

To learn more about the addiction and mental health treatment programs provided by EHN Canada, enroll yourself in one of our programs, or refer someone else, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.

Healing and Re-shaping your Trauma through Cognitive Processing Therapy

Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Traumatic events happen all around us, so it should come as no surprise that almost everyone in the world will be exposed to trauma at some point in their lives. In fact, 90% of US adults and 76% of Canadian adults report exposure to at least one traumatic event.1,2

Traumatic events include but are not limited to:
– Physical or sexual assault
– Witnessing a death or serious violent event
– Witnessing or experiencing a major accident or fire
– Exposure to war or combat

Although many people experience it, everyone deals with and responds to trauma differently. Some have minimal long-term effects, while others may develop a trauma- and stressor-related disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or acute stress disorder (ASD). Whether or not a person develops these conditions typically depends on the type, number, and intensity of traumatic events, as well as sex, age, social factors, and their specific circumstances at the time.3

But what exactly are trauma- and stressor-related disorders?

Both post-traumatic stress disorder and acute distress disorder are conditions that occur as a direct result of experiencing, witnessing, or learning about one or more traumatic event.

Symptoms of PTSD and ASD include:4,5
– Recurrent memories, dreams, or flashbacks of a traumatic event
– Intense psychological and/or physical distress
– Avoidance of trauma-associated cues or stimuli
– Negative alterations to mood or cognitive ability
– Irritable, angry, or reckless behaviour
– Disturbed sleep (e.g. due to heightened alertness)
– Derealization (a distorted sense of reality)
– Depersonalization (feeling detached from the body or mind)

In order to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or acute distress disorder, your symptoms need to a) significantly disturb your personal life, social life, or career and b) not be caused by a substance (e.g. a medication or alcohol) or illness.6

The key difference between PTSD and ASD is in how long it takes to experience symptoms, and how long these symptoms last, following a traumatic event. PTSD is diagnosed when you’ve been experiencing symptoms for at least a month, whereas ASD can be diagnosed as soon as 3 days post-traumatic event.7,8 Patients with ASD may also report more dissociative symptoms, like out-of-body experiences and an altered sense of reality.

Another thing to note is that post-traumatic stress disorder often occurs alongside other mental health disorders. For example, 1 in 2 people who have been diagnosed with PTSD also suffer from a mood, anxiety, or substance-use disorder.9 It’s also fairly common for individuals with PTSD to exhibit suicidal behaviour.10

Some consider ASD to be a natural pre-cursor to chronic PTSD. However, this is not always the case. In other words, not all individuals with ASD go on to develop PTSD, and not all PTSD patients were previously diagnosed with ASD.

A better way of looking at it is that there are 4 common trajectories that humans will demonstrate in their response to trauma:11
1. “Resiliency” – fairly minor PTSD symptoms that don’t progress
2. “Recovery” – more severe PTSD symptoms that improve over time
3. “Delayed reaction” – minimal PTSD symptoms that worsen over time
4. “Chronic distress” – more severe PTSD symptoms that don’t improve

No matter your trauma trajectory, research shows that accessing psychotherapy soon after a traumatic event can help lower your risk of PTSD, or improve PTSD or ASD symptoms if you’re already experiencing them.12,13

TREATMENTS FOR TRAUMA AND POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

It’s extremely important to treat the negative effects of trauma, and trauma- and stressor-related disorders like PTSD and ASD, because of the profound impact they have one’s quality of life. So, how can you determine the best way to treat your trauma?

Trauma treatment is either pharmacological (i.e. by taking medication), psychological (involving talking therapy), or a combination of both.

Pharmacological therapy aims to treat both direct and indirect PTSD symptoms, as patients with PTSD often suffer from concurrent mental health disorders. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of drug therapy for PTSD, so this approach may not be the best option for everyone.14

Medications that are commonly prescribed for PTSD include:15
– Anti-depressants (e.g. sertraline, paroxetine, fluoxetine, or venlafaxine)
– Anti-anxiety drugs
– Anti-psychotics

In contrast, psychological therapy (also known as “talk therapy”) has a strong, proven track record among trauma patients. If you’ve experienced trauma and require support, some psychotherapy treatment options you may wish to explore include:16
– Cognitive behavioral therapy (helps you recognize and change negative thoughts and behaviours surrounding your trauma)
– Prolonged exposure therapy (exposes you to your trauma in a safe environment, through writing or visualization, to help reduce negative responses towards it)
– Cognitive therapy (helps you modify negative memories of the trauma that have been affecting your everyday life)
– Cognitive processing therapy (helps you challenge your negative, damaging beliefs about your trauma)

Let’s dive a little deeper into cognitive processing therapy, as it’s one of the most effective trauma treatments and is typically chosen as a first-line therapy.17,18

What is Cognitive Processing Therapy

As mentioned, cognitive processing therapy (CPT) supports you in reassessing or altering the beliefs surrounding your trauma that negatively impact your mental health. CPT involves multiple therapy sessions that aim to help you a) challenge your thoughts and emotions towards your trauma and b) develop skills and adaptive strategies to re-frame these thoughts and emotions positively.

Cognitive processing therapy sessions are centered around the following core themes:19
– Safety
– Trust
– Power
– Control
– Self-esteem
– Intimacy
– Facing the future

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of starting cognitive processing therapy, don’t worry! Its process is designed to naturally ease you in. To help you set yourself realistic expectations when entering into a CPT relationship, let’s explore what this form of therapy might involve.

Your first counselling session will give you more background information about CPT and how it works. Your counsellor will also want to discuss the nature of your trauma, explain the connection between your thoughts and emotions, and describe how ‘automatic thoughts’ can contribute to your PTSD symptoms. Finally, you may be asked to write about how your trauma has affected you and how you’ve adapted to dealing with your traumatic experience(s).20,21

Out-of-session, reflective work, to help you get the most out of your cognitive processing therapy sessions, can be quite extensive. As you begin to re-interpret and re-frame your trauma, these take-home assignments and worksheets will help you organize and make sense of your thoughts and feelings.22,23

Subsequent counselling sessions will hone in on any trauma-related dysfunctional thinking patterns you may have, challenging these thoughts and ideas, and helping you further develop alternative thought patterns. This process of proactively challenging your beliefs is a skillset that you’ll learn and develop throughout your program. The end goal of CPT is that you’ll have a better quality of life through being able to apply these practical skills wherever needed, which will be evident when you compare your “before and after” written homework statements.24

In a review of 114 randomized, controlled trials, cognitive processing therapy came out on top as the trauma therapy with the strongest clinical effect, along with cognitive therapy and prolonged exposure therapy.25 CPT is effective in both children and adults for multiple types of trauma, including sexual abuse and military traumas.26 CPT is also a proven approach to reducing attachment-related avoidance in abused adolescents and young adults, as well as in patients with acute stress disorder.27,28

Choosing a Cognitive Processing Therapy Approach

As you can see, cognitive processing therapy can be quite an intensive process, involving multiple lengthy sessions and extensive at-home work. Because of this, it’s possible to undergo CPT as either an outpatient or an inpatient. Both program types have demonstrated beneficial outcomes for patients. So, if you feel CPT is worth pursuing, how should you decide which option may be best for you?

One of the benefits to choosing an inpatient treatment program is that it can help keep you focused when undergoing the above-mentioned processes, and this could optimize how you receive and respond to care. Inpatient cognitive processing therapy has been demonstrated to reduce PTSD symptoms, including suicidality, by reducing patients’ perceived burden on others and restructuring their negative beliefs.29

For example, veterans with PTSD who receive CPT in residential rehabilitation programs report greater symptom improvement compared to those receiving treatment outside of residency.30 Studies also show that the longer people with PTSD receive inpatient treatment, the more improvement they see in their symptoms and the less they need to use outpatient services.31

Despite such encouraging scientific evidence and all of the clinical success stories supporting cognitive processing therapy for trauma, you likely won’t see results right away – it may take some time before you experience symptom improvement. CPT sessions typically run over a period of 12 weeks, so the benefits of CPT are not expected to be evident from Day 1. Long-term commitment and program dedication is necessary, and any symptom improvement that you experience will be gradual.

That said, one of the best things about taking a cognitive processing therapy approach to managing trauma is that the results are long-lasting. Several scientific studies have proven that PTSD symptom improvement can last for many months, or even years, after CPT program completion.32 It’s, therefore, no wonder that the American Psychological Association (APA) Guideline Development Panel for the Treatment of PTSD strongly recommends CPT, among other cognitive behavioral therapies, as a first-line treatment option for adult patients with PTSD.33

Of course, every patient is different in how they respond to trauma therapy, and certain treatments may work better for some than others. However, the benefits of CPT to treat trauma- and stressor-related disorders have been repeatedly demonstrated such that CPT is often recommended as the gold standard of all cognitive behavioral therapy approaches.

Although it can seem daunting to make your first move in seeking out treatment, and to continue receiving treatment if you’re not seeing immediate results, knowing when to ask for help is critical. If your trauma is negatively affecting your quality of life, wellbeing, or relationships, taking that first step can be instrumental in developing long-term strategies to manage your beliefs about your trauma and getting your life back on track.

References:

1. Kilpatrick DG, Resnick HS, Milanak ME, Miller MW, Keyes KM, Friedman MJ. National estimates of exposure to traumatic events and PTSD prevalence using DSM-IV and DSM-5 criteria. J Trauma Stress. 2013 Oct;26(5):537-47. doi: 10.1002/jts.21848.
2. Van Ameringen M, Mancini C, Patterson B, Boyle MH. Post-traumatic stress disorder in Canada. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2008 Fall;14(3):171-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-5949.2008.00049.x.
3. Shalev A, Liberzon I, Marmar C. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. N Engl J Med. 2017 Jun 22;376(25):2459-2469. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1612499.
4. Shalev A, Liberzon I, Marmar C. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. N Engl J Med. 2017 Jun 22;376(25):2459-2469. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1612499.
5. Bryant RA. The Current Evidence for Acute Stress Disorder. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2018 Oct 13;20(12):111. doi: 10.1007/s11920-018-0976-x.
6. Shalev A, Liberzon I, Marmar C. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. N Engl J Med. 2017 Jun 22;376(25):2459-2469. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1612499.
7. Shalev A, Liberzon I, Marmar C. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. N Engl J Med. 2017 Jun 22;376(25):2459-2469. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1612499.
8. Bryant RA. The Current Evidence for Acute Stress Disorder. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2018 Oct 13;20(12):111. doi: 10.1007/s11920-018-0976-x.
9. Shalev A, Liberzon I, Marmar C. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. N Engl J Med. 2017 Jun 22;376(25):2459-2469. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1612499.
10. Shalev A, Liberzon I, Marmar C. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. N Engl J Med. 2017 Jun 22;376(25):2459-2469. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1612499.
11. Bryant RA. The Current Evidence for Acute Stress Disorder. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2018 Oct 13;20(12):111. doi: 10.1007/s11920-018-0976-x.
12. Shalev A, Liberzon I, Marmar C. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. N Engl J Med. 2017 Jun 22;376(25):2459-2469. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1612499.
13. Bryant RA. The Current Evidence for Acute Stress Disorder. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2018 Oct 13;20(12):111. doi: 10.1007/s11920-018-0976-x.
14. Shalev A, Liberzon I, Marmar C. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. N Engl J Med. 2017 Jun 22;376(25):2459-2469. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1612499.
15. Shalev A, Liberzon I, Marmar C. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. N Engl J Med. 2017 Jun 22;376(25):2459-2469. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1612499.
16. American Psychological Association. PTSD treatment. Retrieved April 22, 2021 from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments
17. Lewis C, Roberts NP, Andrew M, Starling E, Bisson JI. Psychological therapies for post-traumatic stress disorder in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2020 Mar 10;11(1):1729633. doi: 10.1080/20008198.2020.1729633. eCollection 2020.
18. Guideline Development Panel for the Treatment of PTSD in Adults, American Psychological Association. Summary of the clinical practice guideline for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults. Am Psychol. 2019 Jul-Aug;74(5):596-607. doi: 10.1037/amp0000473.
19. American Psychological Association. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). Retrieved April 22, 2021 from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments/cognitive-processing-therapy
20. American Psychological Association. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). Retrieved April 22, 2021 from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments/cognitive-processing-therapy
21. Nixon RD. Cognitive processing therapy versus supportive counseling for acute stress disorder following assault: a randomized pilot trial. Behav Ther. 2012 Dec;43(4):825-36. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2012.05.001. Epub 2012 May 11.
22. Monson CM, Resick PA, Rizvi SL. Posttraumatic stress disorder CPT Case Example. In D.H. Barlow (Ed.), Clinical handbook of psychological disorders (5th ed., pp. 80-113). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
23. Nixon RD. Cognitive processing therapy versus supportive counseling for acute stress disorder following assault: a randomized pilot trial. Behav Ther. 2012 Dec;43(4):825-36. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2012.05.001. Epub 2012 May 11.
24. Monson CM, Resick PA, Rizvi SL. Posttraumatic stress disorder CPT Case Example. In D.H. Barlow (Ed.), Clinical handbook of psychological disorders (5th ed., pp. 80-113). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
25. Lewis C, Roberts NP, Andrew M, Starling E, Bisson JI. Psychological therapies for post-traumatic stress disorder in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2020 Mar 10;11(1):1729633. doi: 10.1080/20008198.2020.1729633. eCollection 2020.
26. Lewis C, Roberts NP, Andrew M, Starling E, Bisson JI. Psychological therapies for post-traumatic stress disorder in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2020 Mar 10;11(1):1729633. doi: 10.1080/20008198.2020.1729633. eCollection 2020.
27. Rimane E, Steil R, Renneberg B, Rosner R. Get secure soon: attachment in abused adolescents and young adults before and after trauma-focused cognitive processing therapy. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2020 Sep 12. doi: 10.1007/s00787-020-01637-x. Online ahead of print.
28. Nixon RD. Cognitive processing therapy versus supportive counseling for acute stress disorder following assault: a randomized pilot trial. Behav Ther. 2012 Dec;43(4):825-36. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2012.05.001. Epub 2012 May 11.
29. Blain RC, Pukay-Martin ND, Martin CE, Dutton-Cox CE, Chard KM. Residential Cognitive Processing Therapy Decreases Suicidality by Reducing Perceived Burdensomeness in Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. J Trauma Stress. 2020 Oct 31. doi: 10.1002/jts.22618. Online ahead of print.
30. Alvarez J, McLean C, Harris AH, Rosen CS, Ruzek JI, Kimerling R. The comparative effectiveness of cognitive processing therapy for male veterans treated in a VHA posttraumatic stress disorder residential rehabilitation program. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2011 Oct;79(5):590-9. doi: 10.1037/a0024466.
31. Banducci AN, Bonn-Miller MO, Timko C, Rosen CS. Associations between residential treatment length, PTSD, and outpatient healthcare utilization among veterans. Psychol Serv. 2018 Nov;15(4):529-535. doi: 10.1037/ser0000204. Epub 2017 Dec 21.
32. Shalev A, Liberzon I, Marmar C. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. N Engl J Med. 2017 Jun 22;376(25):2459-2469. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1612499.
33. Guideline Development Panel for the Treatment of PTSD in Adults, American Psychological Association. Summary of the clinical practice guideline for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults. Am Psychol. 2019 Jul-Aug;74(5):596-607. doi: 10.1037/amp0000473.

EHN Canada offers their first gender-specific treatment facilities at Nova Scotia-based Ledgehill

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EHN Canada offers their first gender-specific treatment facilities at Nova Scotia-based Ledgehill

 

Annapolis County, NS – EHN Canada, a network of mental health and addiction facilities across Canada, is adding a unique new option to its roster: their first on the East coast and their first with separate treatment offerings for men and women.

 

Ledgehill is located in picturesque Lawrencetown in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, about an hour outside of Halifax, adding to EHN’s existing facilities in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. Ledgehill, which will be undergoing some renovations as it joins the EHN Canada network, also offers patients of both facilities the serene, calming surroundings that can often aid in recovery. Each located in Annapolis County on acres of beautiful land, male and female treatment quarters are 7km apart, and patients from either centre won’t have opportunities to connect.

“Something we’ve been wanting to bring to the network for a number of years is gender-specific treatment,” Cara Vaccarino, EHN Canada’s Chief Operating Officer explains. “We know that recovery can be enhanced by treatment protocols that are sensitive to gender-based experiences.”

While all patients may not need or request gender-specific treatment, the facility offers a powerful new option to seek effective therapy and begin their path to recovery. Ledgehill is open to trans and non-binary patients as well, but for an inclusive experience that is designed to address the unique challenges faced by this community, EHN Canada’s Edgewood facility in Nanaimo, BC offers its LGBTQ+ program.

Why can this new gender-based option be so essential? “Many of our patients who suffer from a substance abuse disorder—it stems from early childhood abuse, or late childhood abuse, some type of trauma, often trauma that is interpersonal, often times involving a male aggressor or an unhealthy physical conflict with a man,” Vaccarino says.

“So, it’s about providing a much safer space for women to explore issues around gender bias, abuse, and domestic violence. Women in group therapy with men may feel reluctant to explore the consequences of early childhood abuse or domestic violence in front of men. For women, in particular, having a program that’s really focused around the female condition is essential.”

The benefits of gender-specific treatment aren’t only for women. Vaccarino continues, “When you have genders mixed in a treatment environment, it can be distracting for both men and women. A lot of the people we treat have established patterns of unhealthy relationships, so when you have them separated in a treatment environment, it can really take distractions away and help them focus.”

While Ledgehill won’t be the country’s only gender-specific treatment facility, it will be the only one to offer the high-quality, evidence-based treatment programs that aren’t available anywhere else in Canada right now. And the facility is also a response to requests for EHN Canada to expand its facility options to the East coast.

“We’re responding to the needs and the requests of many long-standing referral sources, like the RCMP, the Canadian Armed Forces, Veterans Affairs, interprovincial ministries of health. They’re all excited about us setting up standards of care and clinical excellence in the Maritimes,” Vaccarino says.

But she wants to be clear that the facility, which is staffed by both male and female clinicians, “is actually not about avoiding men; it’s about building competency around relating to men.”

ABOUT EHN CANADA

EHN Canada is the nation’s largest network of industry-leading mental health, trauma, and addiction treatment facilities, each with a passion for providing quality treatment for Canadians. We are committed to both caring for our patients and supporting their loved ones. With over 100 years of collective experience, our inpatient, outpatient, and online programs are offered across the country, providing essential compassionate care to patients wherever they are.
To learn more, please visit www.ehncanada.com

EHN Canada’s new Eating Disorders Program, launching March 1, is helping those turned away by public healthcare options

Toronto, ON – Bellwood Health Services, part of the EHN Canada nationwide network of premier treatment centres, is offering a new program designed to treat both eating disorders and concurrent mental health and addiction disorders.

The program launches March 1, 2021, and not a moment too soon for those who have felt neglected during this pandemic, highlighting the increasing need for more mental health services for vulnerable populations.

Eating Disorder Group Therapy

EHN Canada’s new Eating Disorders Program launches March 1, 2021 (CNW Group/EHN Canada)

With COVID-19 restrictions and increasing resource demands on hospitals everywhere, many day programs that were previously provided in the hospital setting have had to be reduced or temporarily shut down, resulting in growing wait lists within the public sector. While many hospitals are trying to supplement these programs through online platforms, patients who would have typically gotten 40 hours of treatment each week are, for example, now only receiving up to two 90-minute sessions per week.

It is simply not enough to effectively treat people dealing with an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, especially when they are forced to stay home and face many triggers alone.

Where are all those suffering with eating disorders going? Patients are looking to facilities such as Bellwood, knocking on our doors asking for comprehensive concurrent eating disorders treatment.

Its availability and willingness to take in patients is not the only thing that sets the new Bellwood Eating Disorders Program apart from others. It will also be one of the few programs in Canada to treat co-occurring conditions such as substance abuse and trauma, along with eating disorders.

Bellwood Executive Director Terri Marques explains, “The unique part of this program is that we are marrying the treatment of addictions and eating disorders. In Canada and around the world, it is most typical to either do one or the other.”

Why is this so essential?

She continues, “When you fix either the addiction or the eating disorder, the other can suddenly get more activated. It is a desperate need to cope with life. At Bellwood, we want to do both, attacking both issues at the same time and treating the whole person, instead of compartmentalizing care. We have over 35 years of experience working with addiction. We are leveraging that knowledge into the Eating Disorders Program.”

Bellwood’s Eating Disorders Program will include:

This program is right for patients who:

The program is set to launch at Bellwood Health Services in Toronto, ON and “it’s going to be life-saving, improve quality of life, and help individuals regain control of their lives,” Marques assures.

For more information about EHN Canada’s new Eating Disorders Program, please visit:

https://www.edgewoodhealthnetwork.com/locations/inpatient-centres/bellwood/programs/concurrent-inpatient-eating-disorder-and-addiction-treatment/

About EHN Canada

As a trusted leader in addiction and mental health services, EHN Canada is committed to increasing access to high quality treatment for all Canadians. With facilities across the country, EHN Canada is the nation’s largest private network of residential, outpatient, and online programs. We have over 75 years of collective experience in treating mental health, trauma/PTSD, and substance use disorders.

Whether in-person or virtual, each of our treatment centres is designed for healing, including a dedication to medical excellence, clinicians who provide compassionate and non-judgmental care, and an inclusive community of peers and alumni. Our team of doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, psychotherapists, social workers, occupational therapists, and support counsellors has expertise in treating complex clinical diagnoses and concurrent conditions.

Moreover, we value long-term outcomes and recovery for our patients and their loved ones, which is why supportive services like our Aftercare and Family Programs are so important. Our recognition and understanding of the challenges faced by patients today means we provide treatment that is personalized, effective, and sustainable.

House of Miracles

Opinion by EHN Staff

Written by Francois Brassens, an employee at Edgewood Treatment Centre.

This article was originally published January 21, 2019. Updated December 30, 2020.

Edgewood Treatment Centre has for decades been affectionately referred to as “The House of Miracles” by its alumni and staff. Regardless of whether or not you’re in recovery, and regardless of whether you’re a patient, clinician, or housekeeping staff, the human experience at Edgewood is a marvel that encompasses all the nuances of life and the human condition. Nestled in Nanaimo, in beautiful British Columbia, lies this charming and peaceful sanctum of healing. Walk through its doors and you’ll discover a vibrant community unlike any other.

Time and time again, new patients arrive at Edgewood for treatment, broken fragments of their former selves, barely hanging on to a thread of hope. However, the moment they cross the threshold is the moment that they begin their journey of recovery.

Every person who comes to Edgewood for treatment is unique. We care for each patient and support him or her with our diverse multidisciplinary team of professionals: it comprises psychiatrists, counselors, nurses, nutritionists, chaplains, fitness trainers, support staff, a medical doctor, and much more. The comprehensive support that we provide allows patients to develop the tools to pick up, one by one, the fragmented pieces of themselves and start to build themselves anew.

Edgewood has been helping, loving, and caring for people who struggle with addiction and mental health disorders for nearly 25 years. Even in my short time here, I’ve met or heard about numerous patients who believed that they were “hopeless cases” and “lost causes,” but who transformed themselves through the treatment process and now tell stories of hope, success, and great inspiration.

Of the many stories I’ve heard, one that really stands out to me is that of a Canadian Veteran who started using opioids in his teens to escape his childhood trauma and consequently became addicted. Later in his life, he made another attempt to escape his pains by joining the Canadian Armed Forces and served in Afghanistan. After returning from Afghanistan, he reached a breaking point and could no longer conceal his trauma and addiction. He made several attempts to recover that were initiated through Canadian Armed Forces resources. But after several failed attempts and a dismal diagnosis, he was written off as a lost cause.

Recognizing that he was at the end of his rope, he managed to muster the courage to reach out for help one last time. Luckily for him, the treatment facility he contacted was Edgewood. Unlike the facilities involved in his previous recovery attempts, at Edgewood they were able to determine that his addiction was the result of unresolved trauma. Also unlike the facilities that had been unable to help him in the past, Edgewood had programs designed to treat addiction and trauma concurrently.

Fast-forward to the present day: the man has been sober for over 2 years, married the love of his life, purchased a home, and is an inspiration for recovery communities across the county. He regularly shares his story at schools, conferences, and of course with his peers at Edgewood.

Needless to say, going through treatment at Edgewood is not all unicorns and rainbows—while our treatment programs are personalized for each patient, no process is perfect, and not all patients achieve recovery. Unfortunately, the reality is that recovering from addiction is a painful and arduous process. It is a journey that challenges every fiber of one’s being, every step of the way. Like most things in life that are worth achieving, success requires wholehearted commitment from everybody involved.

People often struggle with addiction for a long time before they arrive at Edgewood, and they continue to face challenges after they leave. However, for most of them, their time at Edgewood causes a critical transformation in how they see themselves and their lives: they shift from a hopeless feeling that they’re approaching the end, to a hopeful feeling that they’re starting a new and better life.

When I think about it, I realize that I witness miracles every day that I’m here at Edgewood and I’m extremely grateful to work in such an exceptional place. With the experiences of each new day, and with every inspiring new story that I hear, I only become more convinced that Edgewood truly is The House of Miracles.

We Can Help You

If you would like to learn more about the treatment programs provided by EHN Canada, enrol yourself in one of our programs, or refer someone else, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.

Remembrance Day and Alcoholics Anonymous: Connections Between the Military and Recovery

Opinion by EHN Guest Writer
Written by Jeff Vircoe, journalist.

Here Lies a Hampshire Grenadier

Who caught his death

Drinking cold small beer.

A good soldier is ne’er forgot

Whether he dieth by musket

Or by pot.

—Bill’s Story, Chapter One, Page One, Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

 

The verse is likely familiar to anyone who has stuck their nose into Big Book for any length of time. The co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, was visiting Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire, England during the Great War when he spotted a tombstone with the words inscribed on it. “An ominous warning—which I failed to heed,” Wilson wrote.

As November 11th approaches, it’s appropriate to consider how the history of the fellowship that has saved millions of lives is tied into the concept of remembrance, as well as the historical and spiritual parallels that exist between the program and the military.

The First World War, known as “The Great War,” was one of the main geopolitical events in the lives of all the key players in AA’s formation. Bill Wilson himself was a veteran of that First World War, though he did not see any action. Dr. William Silkworth, the medical director at Towns Hospital in New York City, the detox center where Wilson’s spiritual experience catapulted him into a new dimension in his search for sobriety, was also a veteran. Silkworth, of course, was the influential doctor who strongly subscribed to the theory that alcoholism was a disease and not a moral failing. He was the one who urged Wilson to talk to his shaky alcoholic recruits about the medical aspects of their addiction and not rely only on the religious Oxford Group approach.

In Europe, psychologist Carl Jung had also served as a Swiss army doctor. Jung, however, believed a spiritual transformation was the only way alcoholics could recover from their hopeless state.

With the Second World War clouds on the horizon as the Big Book was published in the spring of 1939, the connection between the military and AA remained easy to see. How would newly sober soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women handle a major conflict and remain sober?

The next book of significance written by Wilson was 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, published in 1953. In Step Three, on page 38 of that book, Wilson answered the question of dependence on a Higher Power on the battlefield as follows:

When World War Two broke out, this spiritual principal had its first major test. AA’s entered the services and were scattered all over the world. Would they be able to take discipline, stand up under fire, and endure the monotony and misery of war? Would the kind of dependence they had learned in AA carry them through? Well, it did. They had even fewer alcoholic lapses or emotional binges than AA’s safe at home did. They were just as capable of endurance and valor as any other soldiers. Whether in Alaska or on the Salerno beachhead, their dependence upon a Higher Power worked. And far from being a weakness, this dependence was their chief source of strength.

Modern global conflicts have certainly been a huge aspect of day-to-day living for people in recovery. From Beirut to Baghdad, Kabul to Kuwait City, 9/11, and other key moments and places have become sobering reminders for people all over the world to take time to remember those who sacrificed for others. And, for many sober alcoholics, they can see how the military played a key role in Akron and New York City in paving the way for them to find help in the program.

Sometimes the actual meeting place is where the connections between the military and recovery, past and present, are most noticeable. One such meeting is held in a chapel on Tuesday and Friday nights at 8 p.m. It’s an open meeting, with a discussion format. There’s no smoke break. It’s wheelchair accessible. Basically an AA meeting that could be found in any town, in any country. Yet this is anything but a typical AA meeting. The Salerno Beachhead Group meets at the largest Coalition airbase in western Iraq, far from its namesake in Italy where the Allies landed in September 1943.

The second week of November is nearly here, a time when reflection is put front and center by society, the media, parents, and governments. To Canadians, much of our birth as a strong, emerging nation to be reckoned with came on the Western Front battlefields of France and Belgium. Vimy Ridge. Passchendaele. The Somme. Names and places synonymous with Canadian heroism, with incredible acts of bravery and terrible losses of life. In the Second World War Canadians may remember the Liberation of Arnhem. Operation Overlord. Juno Beach. The Korean conflict. More recently Bosnia, Rwanda, and Afghanistan, where 158 Canadians lost their lives.

The days leading to November 11th clearly carry a different edge from any other commonly observed memorial day. The bright and blood-red poppy appears on the left breast, undeniably visible. Whether one has an opinion on the wars or not, or what the poppy signifies, it’s impossible to not notice this symbol of sacrifice.

In meeting rooms around the world, old-timers often remind us to remember those who walked the walk ahead of us. Risks were taken. Successes were achieved. Mistakes were made and lessons learned. Many AA slogans and clichés can be tied into the principle of looking back on our lives. “If you don’t remember your last drunk, you probably haven’t had it yet.”  Or, “It’s okay to look at the past, just try not to stare at it.”

But, maybe it’s okay on Remembrance Day to look back, to think about the importance of people who went before us because those memories, those salutes to our past can be tied feelings and expressions of gratitude. Without the old-timers, there simply would be no program. Current members did not invent service work. They did not create the 12 traditions which bind the fellowship together in numbers around two million. The old-timers did. Without them, there would be no 12 Step movement and, arguably, no treatment centers. People with alcohol or drug addictions would face an entirely different set of parameters in their struggles.

On November 11th, Remembrance Day is observed in Canada, and Veterans Day in the United States. Both commemorate the end of hostilities in the First World War. Bill Wilson, one of AA’s cofounders, was in uniform during that campaign. In November 1934, Bill was visited by his childhood friend, Ebby Thacher. Ebby was attempting to help his old buddy deal with a drinking problem which had landed him in Town’s Hospital four times over the previous couple of years. Ebby had gotten the Oxford Group message from Rowland Hazzard, an alcoholic who had been told that the only answer to his disease was to find some kind of spiritual transformation. The Oxford Group’s system gave Rowland that spiritual transformation. Rowland would later lose two sons during the Second World War.

Rowland to Ebby. Ebby to Bill. Bill to Bob. One alcoholic talking to another.  Poignant dates and places are woven through the fabric of AA’s rich history. Exactly one month after Remembrance Day, Bill Wilson fought for and protected his sobriety date and would never drink again.

This Remembrance Day, connections with AA’s history are plain to see. The principle of honoring those who came before us is as much a part of the program as it is to those who lost friends or relatives in wars past or present.

Virtual Remembrance Day Livestream

Join us for a special virtual Remembrance Day ceremony hosted by New Start Foundation and EHN Canada, featuring celebrated vocalist Robert Pilon.

The ceremony on November 11th will begin at 10:40 a.m. EST, and will be rebroadcast at 10:40 a.m. PST. Please access the Facebook Live link for ON here and for BC here.

For more information, please contact Kalandra by email at [email protected].

About Robert Pilon

Our special guest Robert Pilon is a stage, television, and recording artist best known for playing the signature roles of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables and The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, both in the Toronto Productions and across Canada. Robert has sung nationally and overseas, commemorating Wounded Warriors at Vimy Ridge and the 75th anniversary at Normandy. He has toured worldwide, bringing Robert Pilon and Friends to the international stage, recorded 2 CDs, and was a guest on Frank Mills’ Platinum Christmas album. He has starred in his own award-winning television special, A Canadian in New York with Gordon Lightfoot, Morley Safer and John Kim Bell among his guests, and has been on numerous television specials over the years.