Spirit of Giving

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Speaking out in support of Reproductive Mental Health

Julie is the mother of two adorable boys, Lukas and Cole.  She experienced postpartum anxiety and depression after her first son was born. With incredible support from family, friends, colleagues, and the IWK’s Reproduction Mental Health Clinic,  she was able to prevent the same experience from happening again.

Shoppers Drug Mart Run for Women.

Shoppers Drug Mart Run for Women.

“I don’t want to be the poster girl for anxiety.”

That’s exactly what I said during my last therapy session with my psychiatrist at the IWK. I remember it well because even as the words were leaving my mouth I didn’t feel good about them.

But in that moment, eight months into my second pregnancy, that’s how I felt. I had been seeing her on a regular basis during the second half of my pregnancy, committed to doing whatever it took to prevent another devastating run-in with postpartum anxiety and depression.

Every two weeks I would sit on the little couch in her office and talk. I fancy myself a pretty good communicator. Hell, I’ve made a career out of it. Wanna know how I feel about something? Just ask me. I tend to tell it like it is – or at least the way I see it.

But I didn’t want people to know that I was struggling with a mental health issue. I thought if people knew they would walk on eggshells around me afraid that I was a ticking time bomb of panic that they could somehow trigger at any moment.

So when I made the poster girl comment, it stayed with me long after my therapy sessions came to end. It wasn’t like me to shy away from difficult subjects. But there is such a powerful and far-reaching stigma associated with mental health, it silenced me too.

It occurred to me one day many months later why that statement bothered me so much. If I’m not willing to talk about my mental health, how can I ever expect other women, especially mothers, to feel any different? By staying silent, I was part of the problem. By speaking out I become part of the solution.

Although you won’t see my face on any posters (and trust me, we can all be thankful for that), I will be speaking out about my own postpartum mental health experiences at the Shoppers Drug Mart Run for Women on Sunday, May 4th in Halifax.

I am so honoured to be a part of this event because all money raised goes to IWK’s Reproductive Mental Health Services and its goal of treating pregnant and postpartum women who might otherwise not get the help they so desperately need.

Women like me.

Learn more about the Shoppers Drug Mark Run for Women.
Make a gift to the IWK Foundation.

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Change Makers – Jacob

This article is a series of three, written by Tom Mason for the Fall 2013/Winter 2014 issue of Izaak Magazine – an in-depth, behind the scenes, all-access publication highlighting the incredible, everyday happenings at the IWK Health Centre. A stay at the hospital can be tough, but for some exceptional young people, it’s also a time to grow , gain strength and learn about who they are. 

Jacob Hamilton

Jacob Hamilton

For Jacob Hamilton, paying it forward means finding strength in his own life. At 19, Jacob has been through more than most people his age. He’s already struggled with mental illness, and the stigma that surrounds it, for several years.

Jacob spent four months in the IWK inpatient mental health unit starting at age 17. He endured weeks of difficult medication changes, missed out on family and school events, even spending his birthday and the days leading up to Christmas in the hospital. Through it all, the IWK staff was there to help him, at times becoming almost part of his extended family. “They even took part in Christmas activities with me,” he says.

Today Jacob uses his own experiences to help other young people suffering with mental illness. He volunteers with the IWK Foundation and has worked to raise money for a new inpatient mental health unit for the hospital that will offer much improved care space for those with acute mental illness requiring hospitalization at the IWK. He speaks out to help improve adolescent mental health care in Nova Scotia, and he advocates for young people, to help them overcome the stigma that so often goes with mental illness.

“Mental illness is a disease like any other,” he says. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of, and there’s always hope. There are a lot of youth out there dealing with these issues. They need to know how they can access mental health care.”

He’s also attending Dalhousie University, working on a science degree and planning to major in neuroscience, microbiology and immunology. Jacob recently received a $40,000 scholarship to help him pay for university and he’s doing well with his studies, but he still deals with his illness every day. “I have good days and bad days,” he says. The hours he gives back as a mental health volunteer are one of the ways he copes. “I do it as a way to give back to the IWK. I lost a lot of time in my life because of my illness. I lost a year of school. The IWK helped me get better. They helped me get back to real life.”

Jacob says that people with mental illness need someone in their corner to help them get proper treatment in their most difficult days. That’s what motivates him to work so hard. “They need to fight for the right care, and the irony is they really aren’t equipped to fight,” he says. “There are a lot of patients who can’t speak about their problems, but I don’t mind speaking out.”

This story and many exciting others are available for FREE though Izaak Magazine’s fully interactive mobile app, available for download on the iTunes Newstand and Google play. You can also read Izaak magazine online through your desktop computer.

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Pregnancy was a very difficult time for me.

Reproductive Mental Health is just one way the IWK Health Centre supports women’s health. This service helps women with mental health concerns while they are under reproductive care—before, during, or following a pregnancy. This past weekend, women showed their support by participating in the Shoppers Drug Mart Run for Women, and were able to raise a remarkable $12,000 to support the Reproductive Mental Health Services at the IWK. Here is one patient’s story about how the IWK helped her though her difficult time.  

IWK FoundationI was about four months pregnant with our second child when I ended up at the IWK Mental Health Reproductive Center. I was sent to a social worker at the IWK Health Centre, and I credit her for helping me get to where I am today.

My boyfriend and I have had a rocky relationship and one day I showed up for my appointment at the perinatal centre in a crying mess because we had yet another bad fight. I was immediately referred to the Mental Health Reproductive Center because I literally felt out of control – a complete emotional wreck. Pregnancy was a very difficult time for me. I have always struggled with low self-esteem, emotional irregularity, and childhood issues. I have spent over 20 years talking with therapists and realized that my issues ran quite deep. I often felt overwhelmed by my list of issues and what was required to “correct” them. I felt like I was the only mother going through this and while it was supposed to be the happiest time of my life, I felt alone and overwhelmed.

My obstetrician explained that some women experience postpartum depression while other’s can experience it during the pregnancy itself. I was one of the later. I literally would feel hormones surge through my body and I didn’t know what to do. I needed help badly and I wanted to be a positive role model for my children, so I had to address my problems head on and get the help, advice, and support in order to do so.

The Mental Health Reproductive Centre at the IWK provides therapy and support to expectant mothers and will continue to do so up to a year following their child’s birth. I stayed on for two years, because I had a substantial history of a personality disorder with emotional highs and lows. My social worker was determined to see this through for me. She didn’t give up on me when she could have easily sent me on my way. I have the utmost respect for the IWK and their services as they followed through with every single physical and emotional issue that I ever raised to them.

– Tara

Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation. 

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Generosity Rocks!

Thank You Bedford Masonic Lodge 104 and the Masonic Foundation of Nova Scotia!

This past weekend was a busy one for the IWK and the IWK Foundation, but only one event brought the crowd to their (dancing) feet. The Bedford Masonic Lodge 104 held Free Bird, a rockin’ benefit concert in support of Mental Health Awareness, at the Lower Deck Bar & Grill on May 26. This event benefited several mental health organizations, including the IWK Health Centre.

The incredible generosity of the Masonic Lodge did not stop there; the Masonic Foundation of Nova Scotia recently announced they will be donating $10,000 to mental health care at the IWK! Their donation will go a very long way to changing lives through excellence in care.

Events like Free Bird not only raise much-needed funds, they also bring our community together to create an open dialogue on mental health. This is a conversation that must keep going! One of the Health Centre’s goals is to remove the stigma that exists around mental illness, and the more we all talk about it and share our experiences, the faster we will move toward positive change.

The crowd at Free Bird was treated to concerts by local bands who played everything  from rock to swing-influenced tunes. Bands included: Loose Ends, Swingology, Remedy, Memphis Nights, and The Take It Easy Band. A silent auction and 50/50 draws rounded out the event perfectly.

We are so grateful to the Bedford Masonic Lodge 104 and the Masonic Foundation of Nova Scotia for their generosity and for including us as a beneficiary of this unique event – and to the community as a whole for attending and supporting this very important cause.  Your contribution will surely change lives; together, we really can make a difference.


Swingology had people up and dancing the night away!

Loose Ends at Free Bird

Loose Ends rocking the stage!

Women’s Wellbeing EXPO

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The IWK Health Centre Foundation is committed to supporting excellence in specialized care in all areas of the IWK Health Centre – including women’s services. Thanks to the talented health care professionals, the IWK is able to provide specialized health care to Maritime women throughout their lifespan, including urogynecology and gynecology services, and breast health care. That’s why the IWK Foundation and IWK Health Centre are proud presenting sponsors of the inaugural Women’s Wellbeing EXPO taking place May 24, 25, & 26 at Cole Harbour Place.

The Women’s Wellbeing Expo is a great opportunity to gather up your girlfriends, sisters, mothers and daughters and have some fun this weekend.  The Expo will feature a wide variety of exciting informational topics highlighting wellness, personal health issues and financial management. Make sure to catch the incredible line-up of speakers and seminar topics, including several top physicians and experts from the IWK Health Centre team. Here is a list of topics and times for the IWK presenters:

 Dr. Camille Hancock Friesen Dr. Camille Hancock Friesen, MD FRCSC
3 Things You Should Know That Could Save Your Life Saturday, May 25, 2013, 10:30 am – 11:30 am
 gillian Dr. Gillian Graves, MD FRCSC
Saturday, May 25, 2013, 1 pm – 2 pm
 susan Dr. Susan Lappin, MD
Barriers to Breastfeeding
Saturday, May 25, 2013, 1 pm – 2 pm
 natalie  isabelle Dr. Natalie Rosen, BA PhD & Dr. Isabelle Delisle, MD FRCSC
Vaginal Pain and Women’s Sexuality
Saturday, May 25, 2013, 2:15 pm – 3:15 pm
 renda Dr. Renda Bouzayen, MD FECSC
Assisted Reproduction Treatment
Sunday, May 26, 2013, 10:45 am – 11:45 am
 margaret Margaret Devries, Breast Health Educator
Demystifying Breast Health
Sunday, May 26, 2013, 10:45 am – 11:45 am

Catherine Walsh, Dietician
Women’s Nutritional Health: Navigating the Journey
Sunday, May 26, 2013, 1:15 pm – 2:15 pm

When it comes to your health, knowledge is power. We are very proud to be a part of this unique event, which will bring together education, conversation, and the power of the female spirit. Come and join us for a weekend of fun, wellness, and girl power!

Women’s Wellbeing Expo
May 24, 25 and 26, 2013
Cole Harbour Place
51 Forest Hills Parkway
Dartmouth, NS  B2W 6C6
(902) 464 – 5100

To get full details on all presenters and weekend events, and to purchase tickets, please visit  www.womenswellbeingexpo.com

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What is bullying?

Today is Pink Shirt day! An initiative started by two Nova Scotia teens as a protest against a bullying incident at their high school. Bullying Canada is a national anti-bullying charitable organization, dedicated to create awareness amongst youth and encourage them to speak out about bullying and victimization. Rob Frenette, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Bullying Canada shares his thoughts on exactly what bullying is, and how to stop it.

Youths know that bullying isn’t only physical, but emotional. Youths know that bullying is deadly.

Rob Frenette, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Bullying Canada.

Rob Frenette, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Bullying Canada.

Bullying is wrong! It is behaviour that makes the person being bullied feel afraid or uncomfortable, and even though many children see it every day, there are many ways that young people bully each other – even if they don’t realize it at the time. What may seem like harmless “teasing” can in fact leave individuals feeling vulnerable and worthless. The facts don’t lie:

  • Approximately one in 10 children have bullied others and as many as 25% of children in grades four to six have been bullied.
  • One in seven Canadian children aged 11 to 16 are victims of bullying.
  • Bullying occurs once every seven minutes on the playground and once every 25 minutes in the classroom.
  • In most cases, bullying stops within 10 seconds when peers intervene, or do not support the bullying behaviour.
  • There is a correlation between increased supervision and decreased bullying. Bullies stop when adults are around.

The four most common types of bullying are:

Verbal bullying – name-calling, sarcasm, teasing, spreading rumours, threatening, making negative references to one’s culture, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, unwanted sexual comments.

Social Bullying – mobbing, scapegoating, excluding others from a group, humiliating others with public gestures or graffiti intended to put others down.

Physical Bullying – hitting, poking, pinching, chasing, shoving, coercing, destroying or stealing belongings, unwanted sexual touching.

Cyber Bullying – using the internet or text messaging to intimidate, put-down, spread rumours or make fun of someone.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and myths about how bullying should be handled. Bullying is a reality that faces many youth today and complaints of bullying shouldn’t be ignored or dismissed.

Myth #1 – “Children have got to learn to stand up for themselves.” 
Children who get up the courage to complain about being bullied are saying they’ve tried and can’t cope with the situation on their own. Treat their complaints as a call for help. In addition to offering support, it can be helpful to provide children with problem solving and assertiveness training to assist them in dealing with difficult situations.

Myth #2 – “It builds character.”
Children who are bullied repeatedly, have low self-esteem and do not trust others. Bullying damages a person’s self-concept.

Myth #3 – “That’s not bullying. They’re just teasing.”
Vicious taunting hurts and should be stopped.

Myth #5 – “Kids will be kids.”
Bullying is a learned behaviour. Children may be imitating aggressive behaviour they have seen on television, in movies or at home. It is important for adults to discuss violence in the media with youth, so they can learn how to keep it in context. There is a need to focus on changing attitudes toward violence.

Bullying is painful and humiliating, and kids who are bullied feel embarrassed, battered and shamed. By speaking out and bringing awareness to bullying, we can make a difference.

For more information about bullying, Bullying Canada and how you can help, visit www.bullyingcanada.ca.

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IWK marks mental health milestone

Carla Adams is a Principal Communications Strategist at the IWK Foundation.

Glenna Rose-Williams and Dr. Jerry Grey mark the beginning of construction.

Glenna Rose-Williams and Dr. Jerry Grey mark the beginning of construction.

Here is one way to guarantee lots of smiling faces in an otherwise non-descript construction zone – give them a hammer or crow bar and let them have at it.

It was a monumental moment.  On Monday, February 11th, physicians, staff and a patient took some healthy swings at a wall to ceremoniously mark the construction of a state-of-the-art inpatient mental health unit on the fifth floor of the IWK.

Clinical nurse leader, Glenna Rose-Williams, has worked on the current unit (known as 4 South) for five years.  “I think I’m most excited about the natural light that will be in our new unit. It will be a bright, happy feeling space.”

Generous donors are funding the new unit, set for completion about a year from now.  In September, Myron and Berna Garron contributed $10 million to the IWK – $5 million of which is earmarked for mental health.  In October, RBC also donated $500,000 to the new unit.

Dr. Jerry Grey, head of psychiatry for the inpatient mental health unit, hopes that the new and improved environment for mental health patients will bring better outcomes and reduce stigma.

“We’re very excited about this new unit. We feel very strongly that it will have a very positive influence in changing families’ and children as well as other physicians’ attitudes and perceptions of our patients.”

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this project – a real dream come true for the IWK.

Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation.