Connecting with your community can enhance your resiliency

Christmas is over, the deep cold of winter is setting in, and Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year – has come and gone. It’s followed by Bell Let’s Talk Day, a campaign to encourage Canadians to talk openly about mental health.

When it comes to mental health, the solution to keeping your spirits from sagging can sometimes be simple: having a good social support system and keeping active. If your circle of supports is less than robust, the best way to build it up begins with a call to 211, where a trained 211 specialist can assess your situation, then connect you to an array community resources.

Building a strong foundation for mental health begins in childhood. Throughout Ontario there’s a host of resources geared towards children and parents – from parent and child programs to gym and movie nights for teens, like those found at Braeburn Neighbourhood Place in Etobicoke. In Dorion, east of Thunder Bay, the Thunder Bay-Atikokan Ontario Early Years Centre satellite is a one stop family centre.

Continuing to find ways to stay engaged in the community is equally important for youth and as you enter adulthood. Luckily, in Ontario, there are countless low-cost or free programs where you can learn new skills and meet new people . Think learning to grow food your own vegetables with an urban farming project such as Backyard Bounty in Guelph or joining the cool programs like the Veterinary Club at Essex County 4-H Association for Youth. Public libraries also offer free computer access so you can stay connected with your friends online.

Being unemployed, can be downright depressing when you go it alone. A 211 I&R Specialist can hook you up with an Employment Ontario agency where you can get help with your resumé, receive career counselling or attend group sessions on topics like social media or workers’ rights. Mentoring is also a great way to increase your network (and your chances of finding work), so be sure to ask a 211 specialist about mentoring agencies, especially if you’re a young worker or a newcomer.

Staying active in the community can be crucial as we enter our later years, a time when partners and friends may have passed away and our own physical health is on the decline. Sometimes simply taking part in social and volunteer activities can prevent premature deterioration of mental health and improve quality of life. A 211 counsellor can refer you to a variety of volunteer centres or seniors clubs, where you can take part in exercise programs, craft activities or day trips.

No matter what your age, making and maintaining relationships with others is vital to mental health. In fact, global research shows that a person’s well-being is determined not just by genetics or the physical environment we live in, also by the social support systems in place.

Call 2-1-1 or search 211ontario.ca to connect to your community for improved mental health.

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