Category Archives: Mental Illness

#BellLetsTalk – Community Recreation as a Context for Mental Health Recovery

bell-lets-talkIn previous years, on #BellLetsTalk day, I have highlighted leisure’s role in mental health, explored how the digital age may be affecting our mental health, and have focused specifically on the interaction between depression and leisure. This year I wanted to focus attention on a recent article published by a collection of Canadian scholars about the important role that community recreation plays in mental health recovery (Fenton, White, Gallant, Hutchinson, & Hamilton-Hinch, 2016).

Fenton et al. (2016) indicate that participation in community recreation activities and contexts is often an overlooked and undervalued means to support mental health recovery. Their focus is on social inclusion or participation in society/community. Individuals with mental health problems often experience social exclusion in a number of ways including being excluded from consumption activities (e.g., lack of income), production activities (e.g., employment), services (e.g., transportation, health services), social relations or social interaction (e.g., isolated networks) and political engagement (e.g., having a voice; Boardman, 2011). Therefore, a identifying ways in which community recreation can support social inclusion offers a valuable contribution to mental health recovery.

Elements of Recovery

Prior to discussing the role of community recreation in social inclusion and mental health recovery, it is important to highlight some of the common elements in recovery from mental illness. Davidson, O’Connell, Tondora, Lawless, and Evans (2005) review of the literature related to recovery offered a number of common elements including:

  • Redefining self in a way that allows individuals to re-conceptualize mental illness as simply one aspect of a multi-dimensional identity
  • Incorporating illness sees an individual accepting the limitations imposed by their illness while also discovering the possibilities for achieving various goals
  • Becoming involved in meaningful activities of one’s choice
  • Being supported by others be they family members, colleagues, or friends in ways that offer encouragement and a celebration of positive experiences, steps, or outcomes
  • Overcoming stigma often requires individuals to be resilient in the face of the social consequences and societal stigma associated with mental illness
  • Managing symptoms involves actively participating in one’s treatment and making choices that help bring symptoms under control including during difficult times or when setbacks occur.

Davidson et al. (2005) summarize the key elements by indicating that recovery as “a redefinition of one’s illness as only one aspect of a multidimensional sense of self capable of identifying, choosing, and pursuing personally meaningful goals and aspirations despite continuing to suffer the effects and side effects of mental illness” (p. 483).

Benefits of Community Recreation

Recreation can be defined as an  “experience that results from freely chosen participation in physical, social, intellectual, creative and spiritual pursuits that enhance individual and community wellbeing” (Interprovincial Sport and Recreation Council and Canadian Parks and Recreation Association, 2015, p. 4). What recreation is and includes can offer much to individuals with mental illnesses as related to some of the elements of recovery. First, recreation involves choice and thus giving individuals the opportunity to exercise control and choose meaningful activities – ones that may help with incorporating illness and with the redefining of self. Recreation activities can provide individuals with a valued identity such as musician or quilter or volunteer (Iwasaki et al., 2014) that allow them to characterize and define themselves beyond their illness. The existing evidence also suggests that community recreation is a chance for social interaction in which individuals with mental illness can develop their social skills, build their social and support networks, and feel a sense of belonging and inclusion (Fenton et al., 2017).

Recreation as a Community Arena that Supports Social Inclusion

Fenton et al. (2016) talk about community recreation as a “community arena” – a space in which individuals feel safe and supported to fully participate without being concerned about being defined by their mental illness or mental health problems. These are private and public leisure and recreation spaces in which individuals are viewed as community members, as participants, and as citizens participating in recreation rather than clients participating in therapy.  It is in these community arenas where leisure interests are explored and the development of leisure roles and identities are fostered.

It is also within the community arenas where individuals may vary their participation while still feeling and being included. This could mean rather than running as a participant on a team in the annual Run for the Cure event, an individual volunteers to help with registration or at the water station along the run. Community arenas are flexible in the opportunity offered for individuals to participate.

Working to Reduce the Barriers to Recreation

While recreation participation in community arenas can promote social inclusion of individuals with mental health problems and offer additional benefits that support recovery, Fenton et al. (2016) explain that many individuals are not able to access recreation. The symptoms of the mental health problems (e.g., depression) may interfere with participation (e.g., motivation). Individuals may not have someone to participate with (e.g., lack of social network). They may also face a number of structural barriers – lack of transportation, lack of finances, and even social barriers such as stigma or discrimination.

Stigma, in particular, has been identified as a barrier that can have more impact than the illness itself (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2012). The portrayal and perception of individuals with mental health problems as dangerous or unpredictable undermines opportunities for participation in recreation and increases the risk that these individuals will experience social exclusion (Fenton et al., 2016). With this being the case, one can hope that initiatives like “Bell Let’s Talk Day,” which strives to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness, support, both indirectly and directly, the development and expansion of community arenas in which individuals with mental illness are accepted as participants and valued as community members.

Ultimately, Fenton et al. (2016) recommend and discuss a variety of intersectoral collaboration initiatives that could work to reduce barriers to recreation and to support social inclusion of participants with mental health problems. Their key message is that recreation services must be informed by mental health sector to understand the experiences of those who live with mental illness and what a recovery-oriented model of support involves. At the same time, the mental health sector and individuals with mental illness must value the role of recreation in the recovery of individuals with mental illness. This knowledge exchange is critical to optimizing the engagement of individuals with mental illness in recreation and ensuring that they are participating in community arenas that support them as participants.

References

Boardman, J. (2011). Social exclusion and mental health – how people with mental health problems are disadvantaged: An overview. Mental Health and Social Inclusion, 15(3), 112-121.

Davidson, L., O’Connell, M. J., Tondora, J., Lawless, M., & Evans, A. C. (2005). Recovery in serious mental illness: A new wine or just a new bottle?. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 36(5), 480-487.

Fenton, L., White, C., Gallant, K. A., Gilbert, R., Hutchinson, S., Hamilton-Hinch, B., & Lauckner, H. (2017). The benefits of recreation for the recovery and social inclusion of individuals with mental illness: an integrative review. Leisure Sciences, 39(1), 1-19.

Fenton, L., White, C., Gallant, K., Hutchinson, S., & Hamilton-Hinch, B. (2016). Recreation for mental health recovery. Leisure/Loisir, 40(3), 345-365.

Iwasaki, Y., Coyle, C., Shank, J. W., Messina, E., Porter, H., Salzer, M., … Koons, G. (2014). Role of leisure in recovery from mental illness. American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 17(2), 147–165.

Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2012). Changing directions, changing lives. Mental
health strategy of Canada. Calgary, AB. Retrieved from http://strategy.mentalhealthcommission.ca/pdf/strategy-text-en.pdf

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The Digital Age, Social Wellness, and Mental Health on Bell Let’s Talk Day

This year on Bell Let’s Talk Day, I’m in Nanaimo, BC. It’s hard not to reflect on the fact that this beautiful spot in Canada arguably has a winter climate that supports mental health (temperatures above 0 degrees, no snow, and I actually saw some flowers when I was walking by the waterfront on Sunday).

This year, the relationships among social wellness, digital technology, leisure, and mental health are at the forefront of my mind. I’ve been reading Sherry Turkle’s new book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. As I’ve read what she’s learned from talking to people about digital technology, the implications for our social wellness were troublesome to me and worthy of some consideration.

Social Wellness

Social wellness is the dimension of wellness that focuses on our interactions with others. Having positive, meaningful relationships with others; using good communication in our interactions; having a support network of friends and family; and respecting yourself and others all contribute to our social wellness. Social wellness, in turn, supports our mental health. For example, positive social interactions can help us manage and prevent depression (Cruwys et al., 2013) and the support networks we have and even our perception that we have support can buffer stress (Cohen & Willis, 1985). Our positive relationships with others also contribute to our feelings of self worth, our self-esteem, and our self-confidence.

But how might our social wellness (and therefore, our mental health) be affected by trends in how we communicate and interact?

“I’d Rather Text than Talk”

The popularity of mobile communication devices (MCDs) has offered a way of communicating with others that does not require conversation. Turkle (2015) highlights that there is currently a generation of young people who indicate that they would rather text their friends or email than have a conversation. For perspective on the growth of text messages, Pew Institute survey results revealed that in 2000, 14 billion text messages were sent in the US. In 2010, this number had exploded to 188 billion. While this seems to be a particular trend among young people, Turkle also found that in the workplace, some adults choose to email colleagues rather than walking down the hall and having a conversation. Why? Part of it seems to be that we enjoy having control over what we communicate when we text or email. We can edit and perfect our messages before hitting “send”. In other ways, it is perceived as more efficient or convenient – it is quicker to send a text or an email than it is to engage in a longer interaction than we wanted or needed (again, it is about control).

But what is lost when we opt for texting over talking or emailing over conversation? The biggest concern seems to around the impact on the digital natives – those who have grown up with technology and MCDs. Developmental psychologists express concern that this form of communication is likely to most greatly impact young people (e.g., tweens and teens) because they have not yet fully developed their interpersonal skills. Turkle (2015) argues that conversations provide opportunities to think, reason and self-reflect – skills she says are the bedrock of social development. Without conversation, the opportunity to develop empathy, interpret nonverbal cues (facial expression, body language) and understand emotional subtleties may also be lost. For example, Turkle talks about the difference between saying “I’m sorry” via text and apologizing in person when you might see, through nonverbal cues, the pain and discomfort you have caused another person. It is this kind of face-to-face experience with the “messiness” of human relationships that leads to better relationships and social wellness.

I should note that while Turkle (2015) argues that the little bits and pieces of text messages do not add up to a conversation, others argue that the increased contact that occurs through text messaging could be helpful to friendship development (Hartley-Brewer, 2009). Personally, I need to see more evidence that quantity of interaction trumps quality of interaction in terms of social wellness and associated outcomes.

Having Lunch or Coffee – The Phone on the Table

In Reclaiming Conversation, Turkle (2015) discusses what she learned through her research about how phones can influence our social interactions. “Studies show the mere presence of a phone on the table (even a phone turned off) changes what people talk about. If we might be interrupted, we keep conversations light, on topics of little controversy or consequence. And conversations with phones on the landscape block empathic connection. If two people are speaking and there is a phone on a nearby desk, each feels less connected to the other than when there is no phone present. Even a silent phone disconnects us” (p. 21). One of her participants explained that if, during a conversation, someone picks up his/her phone, it is a sign that the conversation is getting too serious or heavy and that it needs to be lightened up. I cannot help but wonder how this impacts one’s perception of support or one’s ability to access support. If the possibility of interruption is ever present, are we as likely to enter into conversations in which we are vulnerable – conversations which can result in two people have a better understanding of each other and a closer, deeper relationship? Or, do we keep the conversation on a more superficial level? If conversations occur only on a superficial level, do we access the same positive outcomes of social interaction as we do when we have those conversations in which people are sharing themselves – their fears, their disappointments, or their hopes and plans. How do we ask for support from people in our network during a difficult time (an action related to social wellness), if we cannot have a deeper conversation about what is going on with us and what we need?

rather text than talk

Certainly, superficial conversations can happen anywhere at anytime, but the idea that an object on the landscape (as Turkle refers to it) could block opportunities for more meaningful conversations and the deepening of relationships is something we might want to pay attention to. Arguably, this practice could impact our social wellness.

I wonder how important and desirable group gatherings in which the norm is for the phone to stay in your bag or pocket might become. Might those leisure experiences in which this is the norm offer the best opportunity for having the social interactions that support our mental health? Should we be seeking out yarn parties, sporting activities, or a book club – gatherings where the focus is on engaging in something together and where conversation is a natural part of the interaction if we want to develop those close social ties or deepen the ones we have? Or, is it unrealistic to think that there are any sacred spaces in which the conversation will not be interrupted by someone not present?

knitting party

Expectations and Stresses of Modern Friendship Lived Online

For young people in particular, the trend or practice seems to be that when they are together, they are inattentive (e.g., on their phones…together, but not really together). However, when they are apart, Turkle describes them as hyper vigilent. Some of the young people she talked to as part of her research expressed feeling stressed when they must go long periods without their phone. This was in part because there is an expectation that if a friend sends a text, you will respond within a few minutes. Missing out or being left out of something is a big deal for teenagers in particular. Even at night, young people expressed worrying about this and many indicated sleeping with their phones right beside them or in their beds so that they would know if a text came in.

With these expectations and the stresses that seem to accompany them, I wonder how  “present” youth can be in their activities that separate them from their phones and their online social lives. As someone who studies leisure, I have concerns about how these expectations affect someone’s enjoyment of or engagement in what they are participating in at the time. Leisure offers excellent opportunities to meet people with shared interests and to develop friendships. But does the concern about what is happening online affect one’s ability to develop and enjoy meaningful face-to-face relationships when the opportunities exist?

The CNN Documentary #Being13 that was aired in October of 2015 demonstrated this fear of missing out when teens in that study estimated checking their phones up to 200 times during the school day. They appeared to be anxious – worried that they might be left out of something. They might see a photo of some of their friends hanging out without them or at a party they were not invited to. One teen explained that she was only as good as her latest selfie and status post on Instagram. Apparently, popularity and belonging fluctuated based on these factors. This documentary left me with the impression that social wellness, for these youth, was very unstable. Friends who intentionally exclude you from a party and post photos they know you will see – that doesn’t seem like a healthy peer relationship. Or, feeling left out and hurt because you see two of your friends hanging out without you – that suggests youth may be quite vulnerable as social lives are lived online.

Social wellness occurs when relationships are positive and healthy – you feel good about the relationships you are in. It occurs when you have a support network – people you know you can count on to help you when you need them. It seems that as social lives are lived as much online as they are face-to-face, developing social wellness may be more complex and challenging to achieve. And if social wellness is low or unstable, it will have an impact on mental health.

Because of the important links between social wellness and mental health, I think it will become increasingly important to be aware of our digital interactions, the role that our devices play in our relationships, and how they may interfere with us achieving and maintaining a high degree of social wellness.

References:

Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 310–357.

Cruwys, T., Dingle, G. A., Haslam, C., Haslam, S. A., Jetten, J., & Morton, T. A. (2013). Social group memberships protect against future depression, alleviate depression symptoms and prevent depression relapse. Social Science & Medicine, 98, 179-186.

Turkle, S. (2015). Reclaiming conversation: The power of talk in the digital age. New York: Penguin Press.

Leisure’s Role in Mental Health: #BellLetsTalk Day

January 28th is a day in Canada that is annually dedicated to ending the stigma associated with mental health problems and illnesses. Last year, I wrote a post about depression and the role that leisure can play in preventing and managing it. Today, I wanted to take the opportunity on Bell Let’s Talk Day 2015 to continue highlighting the importance of leisure and recreation in mental health using two interesting pieces of literature that have emerged in the last year that link leisure and mental health.

bell-lets-talk-did-you-know-3

Leisure and Subjective Well-Being

Contained within the body of existing leisure research is the notion that leisure enhances  subjective well-being (Newman, Tay, & Diener, 2014). Subjective well-being is comprised of a high level of positive affect/emotion, low level of negative affect/emotion, and a high degree of life satisfaction. Kecmanović (2010) has argued that although not necessarily “the” measure of mental health, subjective well-being is an important measure of mental health. Leisure and mental health, therefore, can be linked through leisure’s contribution to subjective well-being. According to Newman et al., (2014) leisure can enhance or support subjective well-being through offering opportunities: 1) to detach from work and other life pressures to relax and recover; 2) to choose what you wish to do and experience autonomy 3) to overcome challenge and improve skills resulting in a sense of mastery; 4) to make meaning; and 5) to meet affiliation or social needs. The authors further emphasize that some leisure pursuits could fulfill more psychological needs and enhance subjective well-being more greatly then others. For example, talking a yoga class at lunch may allow for detachment and relaxation, affiliation, autonomy, and mastery while live streaming a tv show on your computer at lunch may only allow for detachment and relaxation. While the relationship of why and how leisure influences subjective well-being is not completely understood (Newman et al., 2014), the body of research evidence is clear that leisure can have an influence and should be considered as something that contributes to one’s overall mental health.

The Role of Leisure in Recovery from Mental Illness

A recent study by Iwasaki and colleagues (2014) examined a culturally diverse sample of 101 individuals with mental illness with a range of diagnoses being represented including major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and panic disorder. Researchers were focused on understanding the role that leisure in recovery because leisure was an aspect of recovery that has not been extensively studied and therefore may be an undervalued component of recovery. Researchers found links between a number of leisure concepts and recovery.

First, leisure boredom was negatively associated with recovery. Individuals with mental illness may struggle to use their leisure constructively and this may have a negative effect on recovery.

Second, having favorite leisure activities that were meaningful (e.g., allowed for self expression, provided a sense of peace; promoted sense of belonging) significantly predicted recovery. Helping individuals with mental illness to identify meaningful personal and social activities that are enjoyable and pleasurable may, therefore, be important in facilitating recovery. Helping individuals to locate enjoyable activities of interest could also work toward lessening boredom and it’s potential negative effects on recovery.

Third, leisure as a means for coping with stress predicted lower psychiatric symptoms. Therefore, using leisure, for example, to gain feelings of personal control or help manage negative feelings was evaluated as predicting recovery. Educating individuals with mental illness about leisure’s potential for outcomes that contribute to stress coping may be important in facilitating recovery.

Finally, perceiving oneself as activity engaging (have place to go, people to see, things to do) in various domains of life including personal, family, social, community, and culture domains, significantly predicted recovery. Perceiving oneself as activity engaged was also positively correlated with leisure coping and meaning being generated through leisure, and was negatively correlated with leisure boredom. In this way, having places to go, people to see, and things to do may offer opportunities for individuals with mental illness to experience meaning through leisure, use leisure to cope, lessen boredom and further predict their recovery. Working with individuals within communities to ensure they are connected, feel a sense of belonging, and are engaged may be important to recovery from mental illness.

Don’t Forget About Leisure

bellletstalk leisure and health

Unfortunately, only 49% of Canadians said they would socialize with a friend who had a mental illness. Yet, affiliation and connection are exactly what individuals with mental illnesses need to support their recovery and contribute to their subjective well-being. Consider the research. Consider the role of leisure. Consider what your role might be in facilitating leisure for an individual with mental health problems or illnesses. Help to end the stigma.

References:

Iwasaki, Y., Coyle, C. , Shank, J., Messina, E., Porter, H. et al., (2014) Role of leisure in
recovery from mental illness, American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 17(2),
147-165.

Kecmanović, D. (2010). Is subjective well-being a measure or the measure of mental health?. Acta Medica Academica, 39(1), 62-70.

Newman, D. B., Tay, L., & Diener, E. (2014). Leisure and subjective well-being: A model of psychological mechanisms as mediating factors. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(3), 555-578.

 

 

Let’s Talk: Depression and Leisure

Depression and Leisure

Today, in Canada, it’s Bell Let’s Talk Day. Bell is a communications company and is planning to donate 5 cents today for every text and mobile phone call a Bell Mobile customer makes and for every tweet (#BellLetsTalk) and facebook share of their campaign message. Canadians are prompted to join the conversation about mental health. So today, I’m talking about mental health. In particular, I want to discuss the interactions between depression and leisure.

Research by the Public Health Agency of Canada (2006) found that approximately 12% of Canadians experience depression, 4.8% experience a major depressive episode, and rates of depression are higher among women than men (at a ratio of 2:1). In addition, 50% of those who experience a major depression will experience a second bout at some point in their lives.

I am a Canadian who contributes to these statistics. Not only have I experienced depression, I also suffer from anxiety. Throughout the years, leisure has played a critical role in my management of these mental illnesses.

To begin, leisure can be helpful in diagnosing depression. Among other things (see other symptoms here), the loss of interest or pleasure in usually enjoyed leisure activities is one of the symptoms of depression. Withdrawing from family and friends is another. These changes in enjoyment of leisure or avoidance of leisure can be indicators of depression. If you notice your own loss of interest in pleasurable activities or notice family members avoiding family events or invitations to spend time with friends or not participating in activities that normally were loved and enjoyed, these would be changes to monitor.

Leisure may also help to protect individuals from experiencing depression or the degree to which the symptoms are experienced (called buffering). And as research has shown, for many, leisure is used as a way to cope with the depression they experience (Fullagar, 2012; Nimrod, Kleiber, & Berdychevsk, 2012).

Protecting Your Leisure, Protecting Your Mental Health

Leisure can protect individuals from, or act as a buffer to the stresses they experience and the potential negative impacts those stresses can have on people’s health and well-being. Iso-Ahola and Coleman (1993) argued that: 1) the social nature of leisure participation and the opportunities for friendship and support; and 2) the opportunity for control and feelings of competence (self-determination) that are associated with leisure activities  can both help with protecting against stress. Those who are able to tap into personal and social resources available through leisure activities may protect from depression or contribute to a depressive episode being less serious.

There is considerable research pointing to the benefits of physical activity and depression in preventing and managing depression (Daley, 2008). Other activities like playing cards, watching television, and meditation can also help distract or give the mind a break from negative thoughts (Folkman, 2008).

Understanding the benefits that leisure can provide and the specific types of leisure activities that could be particularly helpful in certain situations (e.g., physical activity for preventing depression) is an important step in using leisure as a resource to protect your mental health – protect you from depression or a major depressive episode. If, however, there is a lack of time available for leisure in one’s life, it is difficult to use it as a resource. Therefore, protecting your leisure time or making it a priority by carving out leisure time is as important as understanding the benefits available.

One of the hard lessons I’ve learned in my working life is that my workplace is not going to protect my mental health. Don’t get me wrong, I work with good people and I have health benefits, but similar to many other Canadians in other work environments, I have experienced increases in my workload and a reduction in resources to do my job. The result is often longer hours, more stressful conditions under which to complete the extra work, and less personal leisure time available. As workload increases, there are concerns expressed about people getting burned out (i.e., tired, exhausted, losing motivation) or having to sacrifice productivity in one area to complete extra work in another. There never seems to be any discussion specifically about the impact on people’s leisure or their mental health (two things I see as closely connected). I’ve learned that it is up to me to say “no” and “I’ve done my part” and “I’m doing my share” and set realistic, achievable work-related goals so that my work life doesn’t completely take over the time I have available for leisure.

There may be those who have stressful family circumstances. Setting boundaries with others (e.g., family and friends), while perhaps more difficult than setting boundaries at work, may also be important especially if your care for others leaves you with little time or energy for yourself. When you protect your leisure time and are able to engage in leisure pursuits, you are protecting, managing, and perhaps even improving your mental health.

Coping with Depression Through Leisure

A fairly recent research article highlighted some of the ways in which individuals living with depression benefited from leisure (Nimrod et al., 2012). Particular activities such as exercise, yoga, outdoor recreation, and social interaction, were identified by individuals who were part of an on-line communities of individuals with depression as beneficial for coping. Leisure activities were found by some individuals to enhance their mood and help them to feel better about themselves (e.g., improve self-confidence or self-esteem). Some individuals used leisure (e.g., creative activities and social leisure) as a way to release their emotions and found this helpful. For others, involvement in leisure activities provided a sense of purpose or accomplishment and that sense of purpose was key in reducing their feelings of misery. A common theme – individuals experiencing depression perceived that activities that were related to the their interests could provide positive effects in helping them cope with depression.

Not all leisure activities are created equal when it comes to coping with depression, however.

Unfortunately, some individuals engage in leisure activities that are detrimental to their health to cope with depression. For example, drinking alcohol, using drugs, gambling, smoking, shopping compulsively, and overusing media are all activities people can use to cope with depression. These leisure activities could be dangerous to one’s physical or psychological health…and to one’s pocketbook. The use of these leisure activities tended to be viewed as strategies to avoid “challenging and problematic situations” (Nimrod et al., 2012, p. 432) and were perceived as problematic behaviors that would not lead to resolving the depression.

As Nimrod et al. (2012) discuss, those who intentionally engage in healthy uses of leisure for coping benefit from “durable rewards. It may reduce stress and provide relief and even improvement in one’s condition. The unhealthy use [of leisure] often provides immediate relief, but it may be harmful in the long term” (p. 442).

Need for Understanding and Education about the Role of Leisure

One of the things that is particularly unfortunate about engaging in leisure as part of managing depression or any other mental illness is public perception. In particular, those on medical leave who are “caught” bowling or taking a vacation often face judgement. I’ve witnessed the judgement of others – “If she’s well enough to go on vacation, she must be well enough to be at work.” Because of this judgement, many people feel the need to “hide” (or are even expected to hide) these experiences or not discuss them. They may not feel safe talking about how great it felt to go to a movie or a concert to take their mind off things or how relaxing it was to take a week away at a cottage or how volunteering their time gave them a sense of purpose. And so the isolation continues and opportunities for awareness and education are stifled.

At every opportunity I have, I speak up against those attitudes which seem to come mainly from lack of understanding of the complexity of depression. I try to help others understand that leisure activities and experiences are effective ways to manage one’s mental health. I am bothered when others expect those with mental illnesses to fade into the shadows – to quietly recover or to only discuss medical therapies (e.g., medication, talk therapy). However, it is heartening to read that in Nimrod et al.’s (2012) study, members of online communities offered a “place” where those experiencing depression could receive support, encouragement, and recommendations in terms of leisure as a coping strategy. My hope is that over time, members of non-online communities who are not experiencing depression will become more aware of the benefits and value of leisure and provide similar support and encouragement.

For those who cannot afford leisure activities, it is important that other advocate for them. Not everyone who experiences depression can afford to take yoga classes, go to movies, or engage in other pursuits that may help them to cope with depression. Some may not even be able to access on-line communities. Highlighting the benefits of leisure pursuits for mental health service providers and pushing for all individuals to have access to recreation and leisure opportunities is important work toward helping protect people from experiencing depression and offering those who experience it non-medical means of coping and managing.

But this only happens if we talk.

References and Further Reading:

Daley, A. (2008). Exercise and depression: a review of reviews. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 15(2), 140-147.

Folkman, S. (2008). The case for positive emotions in the stress process. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 21(1), 3-14.

Fullagar, S. (2008). Leisure practices as counter-depressants: Emotion-work and emotion-play within women’s recovery from depression. Leisure Sciences, 30(1), 35-52.

Nimrod, G., Kleiber, D. A., & Berdychevsky, L. (2012). Leisure in coping with depression. Journal of Leisure Research, 44(4), 419-449.

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2006). The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness In Canada 2006. Public Health Agency of Canada.

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