This past weekend I was lucky to be able to give back to the community while doing something I have loved since a boy. Mental health gets a lot of press in January during “Bell Let’s Talk”. The rest of the year it seems as though mental health issues still have a stigma attached to them. Many are now speaking out with regards to how mental health has touched their lives; be it personally or via a friend or family member.
This past weekends event is one such time where mental health is brought to the forefront by a family I have known since I was very little. When you play rep hockey in Canada you make friends for life, even if you only see them once in a blue moon. I had heard about this event through contacts I played with years ago, and wanted to get involved at any level I could. You see, this tournament is in memorial to the little brother of former teammates of mine for whom the struggle became too much. Whether it was pressure from society in respect to mental health or not is inconsequential; a life was lost in direct relation to mental health. I have had other brushes with this with friends/neighbours from childhood. It’s devastating to think that they feel they have nowhere else to turn.
It’s at that point which made me start to think about how in my profession we have an impact not only into the physical being of our patients, but largely into their emotional wellbeing. I am sitting here rubbing my legs (I havn’t played 3+ games in a day in a looooong time!) and I understand that I can say to people “My legs are killing me after hockey” and they get it; where saying the same thing in regard to how I might feel emotionally may be met with more blank stares and confusion. Nowhere is this more apparent then in the sport environment. Being “tough” and just “pressing through” while not “whining” are all things an athlete could attest to being told. That same scenario plays out in my consultations regularly, with some groups of patients unwilling to admit to the full involvement of their problem. I have folks come in complaining of a whole gambit of different issues and I always try to ensure that their psycho-social involvement be brought at the very least into consideration. That is not to say I start looking at the Freudian manifestations they may be displaying; but rather that they acknowledge what outside stressors could impact their situation.
In times like this I am reminded of some specific past cases. One of which included a patient who would improve in many ways with regular care, but fall back just as quickly. After a few episodes of up and down on that rollercoaster we delved a little deeper into what they were dealing with; and found that they were still struggling with the emotional baggage of a divorce. I recommended that they seek some counselling in order to aid and to this day that patient is doing remarkably well both physically and emotionally. (Which is why we need to work together in the health field!)
Our chronic pain patients also report improvement that I feel has a large influence from the brain/body connection (…and the research is looking good recently. Stay tuned!). Other Brain based issues like PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) also seem to be showing very positive outcomes in the US; giving hope where there was very little prior.
In the end, I think the most important thing for everyone to take into account is that we need to be helping each other. Whether it is by helping in an active manner in the healthcare realm, or simply listening with compassion and eliminating any associated stigma for mental health.
In the sports realm it is always refreshing to see change for the better of our fellow man. (Except the goalies… those guys are just strange to want to stand in front of slap shots all day long… jk )
Dr. Matthew Lindsay, DC
Aligned Chiropractic – Burlington, ON