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COVID-19: Halifax psychiatrist says people need to be taught ‘mental fitness’ skills

Click to play video: 'How to strengthen mental health in the new year as COVID-19 pandemic drags on' How to strengthen mental health in the new year as COVID-19 pandemic drags on
A Halifax psychiatrist says many people aren't taught skills to deal with mental health challenges. – Jan 2, 2022

A Halifax-based psychiatrist said the pandemic has cast a spotlight on the benefits people can bring to their lives if they focus on developing skills that improve their overall “mental fitness.”

“You have more control over your mental health than you actually realize, and we need to tell people that, and we need to teach people that, right?” observed Dr. Jackie Kinley, the director of the Mental Health Day Treatment Program with NS health.

READ MORE: World Mental Health Day: Getting closer to ending the stigma, WHO says

Kinley is also the founder of a mental health skills development institution that aims to expand people’s growth in personal areas they may be struggling with.

“Sometimes its perspective, it’s that mindset shift. Sometimes it’s what I call, ‘Think fit,’ which is mental discipline, learning how to ground and stay focused, and be forward-thinking. Like, a lot of people struggle with that, that’s why you have so much ADHD, and all these attentional issues, people don’t ground — they live in this frenetic headspace,” Kinley said.

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She said emotional intelligence is another aspect of many people’s lives that gets overlooked when it comes to improving someone’s overall wellbeing.

“I often say it’s not about feeling better, it’s about getting better at feeling. We live in a world where we suppress emotions, we don’t value them,” she said.

READ MORE: A ‘free environment’: Championing peer support programs on World Mental Health Day

Kinley said the mental health crisis pre-dated COVID-19 for many years and that one in five people will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime.

She said while there is always a need to improve access to resources like psychotherapy, people also stand to gain a lot of benefit from focusing on ways to improve their mental health skillset.

“We can teach people these things and we know if we teach people these things, they not only feel better, they do better.”

Kinley said a silver lining of the pandemic is that it’s helped break down barriers many people may have previously felt when it comes to discussing mental health challenges and ways to overcome them.

“COVID’s really kind of levelled the playing field, now we’re all stretched, and these are skills that everybody has to develop. And, what I really like about it is that it’s actually, really, sort of destigmatizing because any of us can get ill,” she said.

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