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Dealing with a New Mental Health Diagnosis

Dr. Donatus Onwurah, Psychiatrist, Victoria Hospital

When a psychiatrist, psychologist, or family physician shares the news that you have a mental health disorder, it is normal to feel many emotions.  You may be relieved that there is a reason for the symptoms you’ve been experiencing.  You may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. You might even feel overwhelmed.  These feelings are normal and common.  Remember that mental health disorders are also very common!  We see them all the time, and help is available.

Feeling Comfortable with the Diagnosis

The good news is you are now starting a journey where you will be supported as you become healthier.  Just like some physical illnesses, some mental health diagnoses will stay with you for a long time, but you can manage them and have an improved quality of life. If it bothers you, don’t dwell on the diagnosis itself.  Instead, stay focused on working with your caregiver towards becoming healthier.

Sharing the News

How widely should you share your diagnosis?  This is a great topic to discuss with your caregiver, but we recommend you consider sharing the news with one, or a few, trusted family members. We often encourage these family members meet your care providers because family can be very supportive and may have helpful insight.  

Getting Up to Speed

Finding out more about your diagnosis is helpful; you can learn coping strategies, what to avoid, and what to expect.  Your care provider will probably provide you with educational information such as pamphlets or links to reputable websites.  If you don’t get this information, be sure to ask. 

Support Can Make a Difference

We have excellent support groups in Manitoba, and some wonderful groups online too.  Ask your care provider which groups they recommend.  Attending a support group might feel intimidating to start, but it is a terrific place to learn more about your diagnosis, connect with people having similar struggles, become motivated, and of course, feel support as you progress. 

Take It One Day at a Time

Tackling a mental health diagnosis is rarely a quick fix.  Discuss reasonable expectations with your care provider and talk about reasons for having hope.  Stick to your treatment plan; it is very important!  Taking life just 24 hours at a time can make things much more manageable. 

Providing Support for a Family Member

If your loved one receives a new diagnosis, know that your support is very valuable.  If possible, consider meeting with the care provider to get tips on helping. Try a family support group; ask the care provider for recommendations. Finally, be sure to care for yourself during this challenging time and monitor your own mental health.

Remember that the diagnosis of a mental health disorder is the start of a new chapter.  Stay focused on your recovery, not your diagnosis.  Get support, get informed, and take it one day at a time.   Be well! 

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