Amy Zimmer Bounced Back with Program
By: Brian Kelly
Amy Zimmer found help to deal with her fear of losing everything from friends and loved ones to her job.
She can now manage her emotions rather than turning to alcohol or an eating disorder and isolating herself to try and cope.
“I was never given the tools to overcome my negative thoughts,” said Zimmer. “I was afraid that if I talked about my issues I would have walked myself into a position that was vulnerable for judgment.”
Instead she “lived my high school days wearing a mask and crying into my pillow.”
Fears that dogged her as a teen resurfaced following the birth of her daughter and a suicide of a friend.
“My suppressed anxiety came back with a vengeance,” is how Zimmer described her situation at a launch last Thursday of two new psychotherapy programs now available in the Sault Ste. Marie area. “The negative thoughts took over.”
She was reluctant to take her daughter to the beach for fear of her child being hurt. Bringing her daughter to day care was “a daily challenge.” She didn’t trust her child being with anyone else.
“My fears consumed me and I had no control again,” said Zimmer.
She was concerned how her mental health challenges would affect raising her daughter.
“It could have potentially affected how I was able to mother my child,” said Zimmer.
The mental health worker at Canadian Mental Health Association took two months off work in 2017 and did the BounceBack program – a free telephone-coaching program that comes with workbooks and videos. Subjects include assertiveness, relationships with family and friends and identifying negative feelings. BounceBack is based on cognitive behaviour therapy. The training gave Zimmer what she didn’t have before – tools to deal with her fears.
“CBT taught me to change my thinking,” she said. “CBT taught me that I may not have control over others, but I have control over how I respond … Thanks to CBT I have control over my responses to life’s challenges and control of my thoughts. I have the ability to successfully cope with most situations and I don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Having such a resource when she was a teenager “would have changed my life,” said Zimmer.
“The stresses of high school were too much for me,” she said. “Don’t struggle. You can change the way you think.”
BounceBack is available for anyone 15 and up. Information is available at https://bouncebackontario.ca
Also available is Big White Wall, at bigwhitewall.ca, an online peer support and self-management tool for anyone 16 and older. It’s also free.
In the Sault, BounceBack and Big White Wall are collaborations between North East Local Health Integration Network, Ontario Telemedicine Network, Canadian Mental Health Association and Sault College. BounceBack is available in more than a dozen languages including French, Cantonese and Mandarin. It’s based at a call centre at a CMHA branch in Newmarket, Ont. BounceBack and Big White Wall are funded by the provincial government and are designed for persons with mild to moderate anxiety or depression.
“We’re hoping it’s an early intervention,” said Annette Katajamaki, executive director of Canadian Mental Health Association Sault Ste. Marie. “It’s a tool in their toolbox to feel better.”
One in five Canadians deals with a mental health issue during their lifetime, she adds.
Sault College was selected for the rollout because post-secondary students likely have a greater chance of a mental health concern since they are often away from home and their support network.
A referral from a family doctor or nurse practitioner is needed to do BounceBack. Or, a person can self-refer, but needs to provide their health care provider’s contact information.
CMHA has worked with Sault College for six years. Mental health educator Lisa Carricato is on campus part-time.
“It really works to help people build some skills and some resiliency as they work through the program,” said Carricato of BounceBack.
Matt Trainor, director of student services at Sault College, called BounceBack and Big White Wall two more sources students can use outside regular operating hours at the post-secondary institution.
Sault College launched an app, I.M. Well, in September 2017. Students are encouraged to download the software program if they need help at odd hours. Good2Talk is a free, confidential help line for post-secondary students. Call 866-925-5454.
Katajamaki remembers when she was a direct service worker at CMHA and couldn’t offer assistance to some people because their mental health conditions weren’t serious enough to qualify for funding.
“That really sucked,” she said. “It hurt a lot of people. A lot of people didn’t get the help they needed. (BounceBack) is great for that.”
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