Mindsight, a look into mental illnesses

sad person covering face
Photo by Madison Gulenchyn

The nine most common mental illnesses are depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicide, self-harm, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, psychosis and trauma

First-aid classes exist for the public to be prepared for a physical health emergency, but what happens when there’s a mental health emergency?

Mindsight is the CPR of mental health, according to Dr. Wendy Stanyon, a professor in the nursing program at UOIT.

It’s an online program accessible to anyone who wants to help friends or family dealing with mental illness.

Stanyon said when she first came to UOIT in 2004 people avoided her because she was someone who talked openly about mental illnesses. She disagrees with those who say they aren’t comfortable with the topic.

“Every one of us has a role to play. It’s like CPR, you’re not a cardiologist, and you’re not a medical person per say,” Stanyon said. “Why is it that you don’t think you can use your words to help someone with a mental illness?”

With her background in mental health research she created the online tool, Mindsight. Its main purpose is to help everyday people help others who have mental health issues.

Stanyon hoped the system would promote honest discussion and allow people to be trained in mental health as if it was CPR. She wants people to come out of Mindsight with a basic knowledge of what they can do to help.

Since it first launched eight years ago, more than 8,000 people locally and nationally have completed Mindsight and received a certificate of completion from UOIT. It’s free and accessible to everyone.

Photo from http://mymindsight.uoit.ca
Photo from http://mymindsight.uoit.ca
Stanyon wanted to create a self-contained program that explained stigmas and the nine most common mental illnesses. She wanted the program to give a basic understanding, so everyday people could understand and help others, help themselves.

The nine most common mental illnesses shown in the computer program are depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicide, self-harm, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, psychosis and trauma.

The program gives an inside look at mental illnesses and how they impact those who deal with them. Along with the most common mental illnesses, it also explains how everyone can help someone dealing with one of them.

Stanyon created Mindsight to address the common levels of the stigma seen in society.

“I was wondering why there was such a great level of misunderstanding stigma around mental illness,” she said.

The site itself is designed to appear as a social media page. Each mental illness has its own modules, with video clips, and an introduction to someone who is managing their lives with a mental illness.

The university will issue a certificate to anyone who completes all modules and achieves a mark of 80 per cent on each quiz.

“There’s a two minute or less clip of someone living with the mental illness,” Stanyon said. “They talk about what it’s like to live with the illness and what people have done overtime that has been helpful. But also, what friends and family perhaps have done unknowingly that hasn’t been helpful.”

She said people who are dealing with a mental illness want a good listener and someone who won’t judge them. They don’t want someone who will give advice.

“We are all capable of actively listening, being compassionate, and open to somebody sharing the challenges they have. I don’t think anybody can’t learn to do that,” she said.

Stanyon said no one is looking to be fixed, they just want a difficult period in their life to be acknowledged. To see those who are managing their mental illnesses as people lets them know they are validated.

“We’re all responsible for each other in terms of being there. Not that you’re going to solve someone’s problems, but reaching out, being compassionate and seeing that people know the resources they can access,” Stanyon said.