For months, Sharon had not been able to drive, take care of her home or continue her job as a teacher. Her anxiety had reached the point that made the thought of getting out of bed and facing another day increasingly difficult. For months, she couldn’t shake her depressed mood and knew she needed help, but didn’t know where to turn.
After visiting her doctor, Sharon learned about a program at Mackenzie Health (formerly York Central Hospital) that would provide her with the support, structure and skills she needed to help her manage her anxiety and return to her life. The program helped improve her day-to-day mood and functioning, enabling her to get back to her teaching position, a goal she wasn’t able to accomplish on her own.
Each weekday, participants at Mackenzie Health’s Stepping Stones Mental Health Day Hospital program work toward rebuilding the skills and confidence they need to make positive changes in their lives. This educational program for adults with anxiety, thought or mood disorders brings participants together with others facing similar challenges.
Morning sessions include a check-in and a group for teaching skills such as improving self-esteem, managing anxiety, interpersonal skills and making lifestyle changes. Each afternoon, the program offers specific workshops that participants can choose from such as recovery, positive psychology, managing emotions or addictions.
With different goals and reasons for attending, participants learn practical ways to cope with the difficult thoughts and feelings they are experiencing. Throughout the structured six week program, attendees learn in small groups and meet one-on-one with mental health professionals, as well as community service providers. By meeting with doctors, counselors and other healthcare professionals, participants learn to get back on track.
“One of the unique features about this program is the partnerships we have developed with community health care agencies that come in to meet with participants and teach them about services available in the community,” says Lesley Krempulec, Team Leader for Stepping Stones and Occupational Therapist at Mackenzie Health. “The program empowers people to make positive changes in their lives that they will be able to sustain once they have completed the program,” she adds.
By participating in Stepping Stones, Sharon was able to share her experience with people who understood and had similar feelings and concerns. Day by day she learned small, practical ways to cope. The program helped her acknowledge her challenges in struggling with anxiety and depression, and motived her to get back to being the active, engaged teacher she wanted to be.
“After attending Stepping Stones, participants may attend the weekly Transitions Group, which acts as a follow-up program,” adds Krempulec. “This gives people the opportunity to check in on their progress and identify any need for additional assistance.”
Sharon thinks of her experience in Stepping Stones as an opportunity for recovery and growth. She has learned what she can do to continue with her journey and appreciates the support and expertise she received along the way.