Healthy Living in the North

Quitting is hard, what’s your story? Wrap-up and Fitbit winner!

20160614-QuitStoriesWrapUpSince World No Tobacco Day (May 30) Northerners have been sharing their ‘Quit Stories’. I’d like to share a few more of the stories that came in, but first, many congratulations out to Melanie in Fort St. John whose name was drawn in the story entry contest to win a Fitbit Activity Tracker. Congratulations Melanie!

You may remember reading Melanie’s positive quit story. She shared that after several attempts using a variety of methods she is currently 6 months smoke-free! Her parting words:

If you really want something you will achieve it!

We know quitting is hard, and for some, the quit comes when it absolutely has to. As in this story shared by Erica in Prince George:

My brother has smoked for 36 years. Recently he had pneumonia and a collapsed lung. It was only then that he quit. He always wanted to, but said that he would go through such bad withdrawals that he would just start smoking again. A doctor he saw, told him that his lung capacity was only about 38%, and that he needed to quit right away. This scared him so badly, that he quit. The truth was that he was so sick, that he could not smoke, he could hardly breathe. Now he tells me it was the best thing he ever did for himself. It was just too bad that it took such an extreme situation for him to quit.

Nicole, in Terrace, found health a strong motivator too – but realized quickly how much money she saved as well!:

I moved to Terrace in 2008. After 10 years of smoking, and being an asthmatic, I had been hospitalized hundreds of times. Each time becoming more and more serious. When we moved I felt this would be a great time to quit, new town new me. It was incredibly hard. I never thought about the stress of a new town along with the cravings to smoke and at the time my partner was still smoking. I continued and was successful and then was able to encourage my partner who then quit in Dec of the same year. It’s been 8 years now and we are both healthier and happier. The monies we saved from smoking we now use to go on holidays. We continued to move the money we were spending on cigarettes into an account we opened and labelled “holiday” it’s amazing how much money we were spending without realizing it. This gave us a twofold benefit. We are healthier and we have holiday money which we were not previously making a priority.

Many more stories came in and I wish I could list them all, but space will allow me only to thank everyone who shared their quit story and entered the contest. We are all touched by tobacco use and it takes a lot of hard work and determination to quit –but it helps everyone around you when you do.

Do you want to quit? Speak with your health care provider and for information and free support to help you, visit QuitNow or call 1-877-455-2233. You can also ask your pharmacist how to access information and FREE nicotine patches, gum, lozenges or inhalers through the BC Smoking Cessation Program.

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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True-life quit stories – northerners going tobacco-free!

Quitting smoking is hard, what’s your story?

The “Quit Story contest” deadline is this Friday (June 10th) and so far the submissions have been heartfelt and inspiring.

Before sharing these stories, I should note that your quit story can also involve your experience with the quit attempts of people in your life – we’ve all been touched by tobacco use through our family, friends and work. Many thanks to all who have entered the contest and shared their stories – perhaps these words can help support your decision, or that of someone in your life. You can share your story and enter the contest to win a Fitbit activity tracker until Friday – so keep those quit stories coming!

In Prince George, Carolyn is newly tobacco-free:

“I’ve been a non-smoker for about 3 weeks now, after 20 years of smoking. I feel much better. I can keep up with my sons better, and I’m not coughing and wheezing when we go for walks. It’s been tough, but I’m excited to think that I’ll likely be around for their weddings someday!”

Sandy, from Terrace, talks about how tough quitting can be:smoke-69124_960_720cropped

“I started smoking when I was 16 and quit when I was 40, wow, that’s a lot of years. I sort of tried to quit everytime a new “program” came out; gum, patches, pills, etc. There was something about smoking that I liked though, not just the buzz it gave me but the time away from the kids, household chores, work, life. It was a time for me to zone out for a few minutes or to socialize with other smokers in the back parking lot. I tried to be a courteous smoker, always outside, away from doors and windows and I would justify my addiction by saying it’s really the only bad habit I had. I had lost family members to lung cancer but always thought well, if that’s what’s gonna get me then so be it.

Call it an epiphany, or a light bulb moment, whatever… I sitting on my front step, taking a mom’s time out when I realized that I didn’t want to do it anymore, I didn’t want to leave the kids in the house and hide out so I could have a smoke. That was it, I went to doctor, had a little cry, told him I wanted to try the new drug to quit, didn’t hurt that I was also feeling depressed and needed the anti-depressant part too. I took the drug for 2 months then stopped because of the side effects. I told myself over and over again that I didn’t want to go through all that again, I didn’t want to hide, or disappoint or make excuses for my behaviour. I had two very smart children watching me as well, making sure I didn’t slip. I tested myself once, after about 4 months, stupid thing to do and I don’t recommend it! I took a drag off my friend’s cigarette and was so dizzy and queasy that I couldn’t take another drag, if I did, I would have been right back at it again. I never tested myself again. I always thought I would like to be one of those smokers that only smokes when they have a few drinks, but then I would be an alcoholic.

I loved smoking, I loved the smell, the jolt when the smoke hits the back of your throat, the socializing and even the zoning out. Would I go back? Not on your life. That’s how I stay smoke free, I admit to what I miss and accept it and move on. I can honestly say that I will never smoke again. I said that in 2010 and I am still saying it in 2016, never again.”

I’ll share more stories before the end of the week – I’m excited to read all that come in. Sometimes these aren’t easy stories to tell, thank you for your words.

The contest runs until Friday, the 10th, so enter today! You can win a Fitbit activity tracker to keep you on your toes!

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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World No Tobacco Day – Quit story contest

Pile of cigarettes with red ban  crossing over top

Quitting is hard, what’s your story? Share for a chance to win.

Quitting smoking is hard, what’s your story? Share it for your chance to win a Fitbit!

Today we recognize World No Tobacco Day and we can all consider making some changes in our lives towards better health. Tobacco use touches most of us, even non-smokers, as we see people in our lives light up around us and breathe in second-hand smoke. The sad truth is that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death –more than alcohol, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.

In recognition of the challenges in quitting, we’re launching a contest where you can share your quit story and be entered to win a Fitbit wireless activity wristband. This can be your personal story quitting (or trying to quit) smoking, or your experience with someone in your life doing so. Your story may encourage someone to quit!

Share your story for your chance to win!

Need some inspiration? Here’s a short quit story from Anthony of Gitwinksihlkw via QuitNow.ca:

I worked in camps at the time, on one of my times off, I got to thinking, why do I have to go so far just to have a smoke, hiding from my nephews and nieces, telling them what I do are bad for them? I got tired of being a hypocrite, so when I returned to camp before Christmas, I just did not bring any cigarettes with me. 4 weeks in camp was the hardest time in years. But I never looked back, over a year later and I feel great. 15 years I smoked, realized I was quitting for the wrong reasons in the past. I needed to quit for myself and not for others.

Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.

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World No Tobacco Day 2016

Once again, it’s that time of year. The warm days of spring, which signal the start of soccer, baseball, and yard work have arrived. Now before you get lost in thoughts of hammocks and hamburgers, I would like to remind you of an important date:

Tuesday, May 31 is World No Tobacco Day

It’s no secret that tobacco use is dangerous to your health. In fact, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and illness in Canada. For World No Tobacco Day 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) is focusing on plain packaging for tobacco products.

Plain packaging works for many reasons. According to the WHO, plain packaging reduces the appeal of tobacco products. In addition, it takes away potential marketing space for tobacco producers. It also limits misleading labelling and makes health warnings more effective.

If you think about it, it makes sense. We’re constantly being bombarded by advertising and at one time it was the same with tobacco products. Bans on advertising tobacco products on television and in print have helped lower the rates of tobacco use. Now there’s evidence that plain packaging can be effective as well.

A study in Europe found that the use of plain packaging combined with health warnings increased awareness about the health risks of tobacco use. In particular, using large “picture” type warnings coupled with plain packaging was very effective. The study also found that people were encouraged to quit using tobacco when this combination was used.

So, what’s Canada doing about plain packaging?

The government of Canada has confirmed its dedication to introducing plain packaging requirements for tobacco products. This could include bans on brand colors, logos and graphics as part of these requirements. To start the process, the Public Health Agency of Canada is looking into a cost-benefit analysis for plain packaging of tobacco products.

Interest in plain packaging is also increasing all around the world:

  • Australia was the first country to implement plain packaging in December 2012.
  • Ireland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and France all passed plain packaging laws. These laws will take effect this month.
  • A number of other countries are considering the adoption of plain packaging laws.

The WHO’s goal for World No Tobacco Day is to highlight the role of plain packaging as part of a comprehensive approach to tobacco control and support countries as they require plain packaging for tobacco products.

As a Tobacco Reduction Coordinator and father of a teenager, I think that anything that makes tobacco less attractive is worth pursuing. Perhaps we should take a page out of the tobacco control book from Australia.

Plain packaging poster

Plain packaging of tobacco products features standard sizes, neutral fonts, and dull colors for all brands to make tobacco products less visually appealing.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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National Non Smoking Week: Plan to make 2016 your smoke free year

QuitNow.ca logo

Want to access online support and counselling as part of your plan to quit smoking this year? QuitNow has free services available to support you!

Today is the start of National Non Smoking Week! Many tobacco users use this opportunity to quit smoking. It often takes a few tries to successfully quit smoking. The more you are prepared, the more likely it is that you will succeed.

There are many reasons why people smoke, but 70% of tobacco users want to quit and many wish that they had never started. If you have tried to quit before, think about that experience and recognize what worked and also what made you relapse.

Nicotine is a very addictive substance and causes uncomfortable withdrawal when you go for a period of time without smoking. Smoking is also a learned behaviour that you may associate with certain feelings or activities. It may also be a social activity for some. The addiction is quite complex and unique to each individual.

Because of this, I recommend that you keep a diary of your smoking prior to quitting to identify your triggers and to help you change your behavior to reduce your smoking. Record what you were doing when you decided to smoke and why you feel you need one. You may even find that you reduce the amount you smoke prior to quitting.

Try to write down your goals and how you will achieve them:

  • Are you going to use nicotine replacement therapy or other medications? If so, check out the BC Smoking Cessation Program for free products.
  • Are you going to tell your friends to gain support or are you going to keep it to yourself?
  • Are you going to access online support and counselling through QuitNow services?
  • What is your measure of success? Have you completely quit or cut back? Are you still craving?

Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health. You will feel better, have more money in your pocket and no longer have to worry about quitting!

The BC Smoking Cessation Program is now easier than ever to access. As of January 1, 2016, you can get 12 weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy products (including gum, patches, lozenges, and inhalers) just by visiting any pharmacy in the province. You may also qualify for assistance for other tobacco cessation medications. For more information, visit QuitNow.ca or call HealthLink (8-1-1).

Every day is a good day to quit smoking. Plan to make 2016 your smoke free year!

Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.

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Third-hand smoke, have you heard of it?

Woman lighting a cigarette

The health impacts of smoking and second-hand smoke are relatively well-known, but do you know about the dangers of third-hand smoke?

Third-hand smoke is the stale, smoky odour that lingers in the air that is left behind after a cigarette is extinguished. Electronic cigarettes and other vapourizing devices also leave behind chemicals for others to breathe.

It’s now common knowledge that smoking is harmful and breathing in second-hand smoke is equally harmful to the non-smoker. However, third-hand smoke could be harmful as well.

Like second-hand smoke, third-hand smoke is composed of toxic carcinogens like arsenic, lead, and cyanide as well as heavy metals. Although the visible cigarette smoke is gone, its particles can be deposited onto every surface of a home or vehicle. Sticky, highly toxic particulates can cling to clothes, furniture, flooring, ceilings, walls, hair, skin, toys and bedding. Gases can be absorbed into carpets, draperies, and other upholstery or even incorporated into the environment’s dust. These gases can still be inhaled long after a cigarette has been extinguished.

Third-hand smoke residue is a health hazard for children. Children breathe faster and can inhale more of the toxins. They also crawl on, play on, or are closer to the dusty, contaminated surfaces where the toxic chemicals lay in wait. This increases children’s exposure and puts them at greater risk from the harmful effects of third-hand smoke.

Third-hand smoke is also resistant to normal cleaning. Simply airing out rooms, opening windows, using fans or air conditioners, or confining smoking to only certain areas of a home does not remove the residue left behind from third-hand smoke.

Making homes, vehicles and schools smoke-free is the best way to avoid third-hand smoke.

Avoid exposure to third-hand smoke with these tips:

  • Do not smoke tobacco around children.
  • Shower and wash your hands after smoking.
  • Keep all surfaces clean.
  • Identify your home as smoke-free and do not allow people to smoke in your house or car.
  • Consider wearing a jacket or shirt that can be removed after smoking, especially when holding a child.
  • If you are a tobacco user, quit! Visit QuitNow for resources to help you quit.
Doreen Bond

About Doreen Bond

A true Northerner, Doreen was born and raised in Prince Rupert and has lived in the north her whole life. She works in at the Public Health Unit in Prince Rupert as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health’s Population Health team. Doreen is passionate about tobacco reduction and has a strong interest in community development. Once contemplating a move to Vancouver Island, she chose to stay in Prince Rupert to raise her sons with everything the north has to offer. In her spare time, she loves sport fishing on the ocean, beachcombing on the white sandy beaches and hiking outdoors on the pristine mountain trails. When not at work, Doreen can be found at home, spending quality time with her family and friends and taking the odd bellydancing class.

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A highly sophisticated, engineered, and deadly product

List of tobacco-related statistics.

Nicotine may not directly cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, or COPD, but it’s the nicotine addiction that keeps smokers craving and inhaling harmful smoke and chemicals.

No doubt, you’ve heard at some point in your life that smoking isn’t good for you. If you are a smoker, you’ve probably been told many times to quit. Chances are that if someone close to you smokes, you’ve been the one telling them to quit.

Despite the health risks linked to smoking, the overall smoking rate for B.C. is 11%. Smoking rates in northern B.C. are much higher, however, at 23.1%.

Have you ever wondered why?

In looking back on my 7 years of working in tobacco reduction, I am amazed at how many people underestimated how addictive nicotine is and how unaware smokers were regarding the harmful effects of smoking. Many people think that smoking is just a habit or a lifestyle choice. Some think that only more willpower is needed to quit smoking. However, the reality is that nicotine is a drug and smoking is a powerful addiction that makes it difficult to quit!

Nicotine follows the same reward pathways in the brain as heroin & cocaine. After the cigarette smoke is inhaled, the nicotine gets absorbed in the lungs within 7 seconds – yes, that quickly! Then it stimulates neuroreceptors and releases a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that makes you feel relaxed, helps with concentration and gives you a bit of a boost. Keep repeating this process, and nicotine addiction is born.

The cigarette is a highly sophisticated product and is engineered to be a very effective nicotine delivery system. However, nicotine addiction is only one of the risks that come with smoking. In the white cloud of cigarette smoke, over 7,000 chemicals are released when the tobacco is burned. These include tar, nail polish remover, candle wax, battery acid, and formaldehyde – to name just a few! These chemicals are toxic and poison your internal organs, especially your heart and lungs. Over 70 of these chemicals are linked to various cancers.

The reality is that nicotine does not cause cancer or heart disease or stroke or COPD. However, it is the nicotine addiction that keeps smokers craving and inhaling the tobacco smoke and all those chemicals. Nicotine is extremely potent and addictive and contributes to tobacco dependency. Just because the intake of nicotine is legal does not make it OK. Nicotine is impacting the health of Canadians by the thousands each year.

The statistics are staggering:

  • Tobacco use is the #1 cause of preventable death & illness in Canada.
  • Tobacco users have a 50% higher risk of heart attack.
  • The risk of suffering a stroke is 8 times greater for smokers.
  • Smoking is the #1 cause of lung cancer.
  • Approximately 37,000 people in Canada die each year from a smoking-related illness.

Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health and it’s important to remember the process rarely happens in one step.

The good news is that there is help to quit if you are a tobacco user or would like to help a tobacco user quit.

Check out quitnow.ca for free counselling service and resources or dial 8-1-1 (HealthLink BC) to access the BC Stop Smoking Program for free nicotine replacement therapy.

Now that you know a bit more about how addictive nicotine truly is, what can you do to stop the addiction either for yourself or to support somebody with their smoke-free journey?

Doreen Bond

About Doreen Bond

A true Northerner, Doreen was born and raised in Prince Rupert and has lived in the north her whole life. She works in at the Public Health Unit in Prince Rupert as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health’s Population Health team. Doreen is passionate about tobacco reduction and has a strong interest in community development. Once contemplating a move to Vancouver Island, she chose to stay in Prince Rupert to raise her sons with everything the north has to offer. In her spare time, she loves sport fishing on the ocean, beachcombing on the white sandy beaches and hiking outdoors on the pristine mountain trails. When not at work, Doreen can be found at home, spending quality time with her family and friends and taking the odd bellydancing class.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Stroke awareness and heart disease

Learn the signs of stroke: Act FAST

Do you know the signs of stroke?

Sometimes we spend so much time doing what we are doing that we forget why we are doing it. This, of course, also happens in men’s health blogging. Why am I blogging?

After rereading Where Are The Men? (the men’s health report), it is once again obvious why I need to do what I am currently doing. We have to somehow give men the ability to live healthier, longer lives by providing information that is current and well-researched.

One thing is clear: men are dying younger than women and we need to address that gap. To do this, we need to address the causes of earlier male mortality and look at the lifestyle factors that contribute to that. Lifestyle factors are things that we men can change. Making small changes to your lifestyle will have a big effect on your health! So what can we men do to live longer, healthier lives?

It’s Stroke Month so I’ll start there!

Heart disease and stroke prevention

The Heart & Stroke Foundation has information on the risk factors that you can do something about to prevent heart disease. For the Mayo Clinic, they present this as five steps to follow to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

  • Quit smoking.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week.
  • Eat a diet that’s healthy.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get regular checkups.

If you are overweight, smoke and have a poor diet, the road ahead can seem overwhelming. It is, however, very achievable. How, you ask?

Start with one step. Then add another.

At first, the best step might simply be to go to the doctor and have your blood pressure checkup. Then you have a starting point that can be a valuable place from which to decide your next move in consultation with the doctor.

In addition, add some fruit and vegetables to your diet, as well as some extra activity and exercise to your life. For some people, this is best done by doing something that makes sense to them, like walking to work. Park the car further away. Take the stairs. Stand up more often if you are in a sitting job. Simple things done often can mean a lot in the long term.

Stop smoking.

If you smoke, there really is no getting around it. You have to stop.

Stopping smoking is the one big thing that you can do to help yourself. Nicotine replacement therapy is now available via 8-1-1 to help you quit and your doctor can also help if you are having a really hard time.

A stroke is a real, life-threatening emergency and requires rapid emergency response. Lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of having one. Let’s make some changes!

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Spirit the Caribou: training montage

Yesterday, we introduced the newest member of the Northern Health family – Spirit! Today, you can see the rigorous training he’s gone through to prepare to bring health messaging to northern B.C.’s youth:

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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Community Health Stars: Myles Mattila

A graphic that states, "Nominate a Community Health Star."

The Community Health Stars program aims to shine a light on northerners who are positively influencing health.

Biking, playing hockey, and hanging out with friends: standard fare for a 15-year-old male in northern B.C. Myles Mattila shares these interests, but it’s his other extracurricular hobby that makes him anything but your average teenager; in his spare time, Myles works to promote mental health in youth throughout the Prince George area.

Myles’s mental health work is directly connected to his love for hockey, exemplifying the impact that professional athletes can have as positive role models. A ninth-round draft pick of the Vancouver Giants in the 2014 WHL draft and a midget player in Prince George, Myles was inspired to begin working with mindcheck.ca after reading a newspaper article in the Vancouver Province. The article was about the two-year anniversary of Rick Rypien’s suicide, and the impact that the tragic loss had on his friend and Vancouver Canuck teammate, Kevin Bieksa. In the article, Bieksa talked about the Raise-it-4-Ryp Golf Tournament, a charity event that he hosts in honour of Rypien, which raised $23,000 dollars for mindcheck.ca.

Myles wears a mindcheck.ca shirt, promoting the mental health site.

Myles promotes mindcheck.ca.

“I related to the story,” said Myles of the Vancouver Province article, “because I had a teammate with mental health issues, and was unsure how to help. I came to the conclusion that my peers should have the resources they need to get help, regardless of the mental distress that they’re experiencing.” Having been exposed to mindcheck.ca, Myles would, like Bieksa, strap on a skate of a different kind – one that would help him cut through the stigma surrounding mental health issues in youth.

Mindcheck.ca provided an excellent starting point for Myles. The website – a partnership between Fraser Health, BC Mental Health & Substance Services, and the Provincial Health Services Authority – addresses mental health in a manner that is accessible for youth. It features a broad range of topics, including depression, mood and anxiety issues; coping with stress, alcohol and substance misuse; body image, eating disorders, and more. Offering a range of resources like quizzes, stories, tips, and helpful contact information, mindcheck.ca also has links for friends and family members of youth who are suffering from mental illness and would like to learn more.

Mental health is an often-overlooked health subject, affecting more people than you might think and, unlike many other health issues, there is a stigma surrounding the topic. In fact, according to the Canadian Medical Association, only 49% of Canadians said they would socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness. A shocking number when considering that one in five Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life. Due to the stigma, two in three Canadians will suffer in silence and only one out of five children who require services will obtain them.

The importance of educating youth on mental health and wellness cannot be overstated. Mental health and substance use disorders are the primary health issues experienced by young people in their teens and early 20s. Additionally, 75% of mental health and substance use issues begin by the age of 24, often going unrecognized and untreated, which makes early identification vital to providing help.

Given the above statistics, you can imagine the tremendous challenges faced by youth looking for help. “There is stigma attached to youth,” said Myles, “and even worse is the stigma for a youth who also has mental illness. The belief can be that they are incapable of having insight into what they need so that then others speak for them without necessarily being their voice. While promoting mindcheck.ca, I have realized that talking is important for everyone to raise awareness about mental health. It makes it easier for everyone to open up and share their experiences when they are in need … breaking down the stigma of mental health, trying to make it an issue that everyone can talk about. ”

So, what is the message that Myles wants youth to take away from his presentations and the mindcheck.ca website? “…that they are not alone,” he said. “Many people struggle with mental illness. If they are struggling, they need to be aware that they have resources and contacts who can help them get through these difficult times.” He also recommends that anyone, youth or otherwise, who wants to champion the cause of mental health in youth can find promotional materials at mindcheck.ca.

Northern Health’s Community Health Stars

Northern Health couldn’t be happier to have someone like Myles as a voice for youth and mental health in our region and our first Community Health Star. Community Health Stars is a new and ongoing program that shines the light on members of northern communities who are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to spread the message of personal health and wellness. You can nominate a person who you feel would make a great candidate for Community Health Star at northernhealth.ca.

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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