COAST- FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
A: COAST stands for “Crisis Outreach and Support Team”. We are a mobile crisis team made up of Crisis Workers who can assist in a mental health-related crisis situation. The COAST Child and Youth Program provides service to children and youth up to the 18th birthday who reside in the Hamilton, Ontario Area, and provides mental health information to parents or caregivers of a child or youth in a mental health crisis. Those individuals over the age of 18 are referred to the Adult COAST team.
COAST provides a range of accessible services that include outreach, assessment, support and interventions to help prevent further crisis.
Call us when you feel that you are in a mental health crisis, or you are the parent of a child or youth who may be experiencing a crisis. COAST offers services for both children/youth and adults. For information about COAST’s services for adults, please see the ADULTS section of this website.
A: Mental illness is the term used to refer to a variety of mental disorders. Mental disorders are health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.
The most common serious mental illnesses are schizophrenia, depression and manic depression. In general, the major mental illnesses tend to be “episodic”. This means the symptoms come and go, leaving periods in between when people can lead fairly normal lives.
The COAST website includes information about all of these disorders and others, and information about how to recognize the symptoms of each type of mental illness.
Mental health means striking a balance in all aspects of one’s life: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental. At times, the balance may be tipped too much in one direction and one’s footing has to found again. Everyone’s personal balance is unique and the challenge is to stay mentally healthy by keeping the right balance.
Mental illness is increasingly recognized as a serious and growing problem. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians, close to six million, will develop a mental illness at some time in their lives. Many more individuals such as family, friends and colleagues are also affected.
Mental illness has no single cause. In the past, people often blamed parents unfairly if a child in the family developed a mental illness. However, it is most likely several factors together that lead to mental illness. These factors can be biological, psychological or social in nature. Mental health professionals can help to determine how each of these factors in a person’s life have led to mental illness, and make a plan to deal with the illness.
This site includes detailed information about each one of these factors, and the variety of different causes of mental illness.
Just as there are different causes, there are also many different ways to deal with mental illness.
Mental health professionals can help in different ways, depending on the type of mental illness, and the factors that cause these illnesses to develop. This site includes detailed information about how to deal with each mental illness.
This site also includes information about non-professional support, such as family, friends and mental health support groups. Information is also available for friends and family of someone with mental illness, and different ways in which they can help.
There are a number of ways in which a family can be supportive of a family member who suffers from a mental illness, and ways in which each member of a family can support one another in dealing with the stress and difficulty that often results when a family member has a mental illness.
This includes open communication and cooperation between family members. Another way for families to cope with these issues is to link up to other families who have been through similar problems, or some who still are. This is a way for families to understand how they can be the most supportive of the person experiencing mental illness, and to one another as they try to cope with these issues. This site includes information about support organizations for families of people who suffer from mental illness.
Experts in the field suggest that a suicidal person is feeling so much pain that they can see no other option. They feel that they are a burden to others, and in desperation see death as a way to escape their overwhelming pain and anguish. The suicidal state of mind has been described as constricted, filled with a sense of self-hatred, rejection, and hopelessness.
Most people who consider suicide are not determined to die. They are undecided about whether to live or die. Warning signs may be their way of asking for help or revealing the seriousness of their situation.
Signs to watch for:
- a previous suicide attempt
- general talk of death or suicide
- talking about a specific suicide plan, including the method, date, location
- making a plan (e.g. drawing up a Will, talking about final wishes)
- signs of depression or other mental illness
- writing or drawing about suicide
- giving away valued possessions
- sudden change in behaviour (for better or worse)
- withdrawal from friends and activities
- increased use of alcohol or other drugs
- recent loss (such as death, loss of a job, or loss of a relationship)
- feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.
Remember, there is no ultimate list of warning signs. Any one of these signs by itself does not necessarily mean a person is suicidal, but the more of these signs that are present, the greater the risk of suicidal behaviour. On the other hand, a suicidal person may not display the signs on this list. It may be right to be concerned simply because someone’s behaviour is out of character. Sudden shifts in actions or attitude may alert friends to potential problems.
How you can help
- Ask directly if the person is thinking about suicide. Talking openly about suicide does not increase the risk. In fact, it can bring relief to someone who has been afraid to confide their suicidal thoughts.
- Talk to the person in a non-judgmental way, and listen to them without becoming upset. Let the person know you care and want to help.
- Believe what the person says, and take all threats seriously.
- Look into community resources, such as crisis lines and counselling services that you can suggest to the person.
- Never keep someone’s suicidal feelings a secret. Tell someone who can help.
- Take action if you feel someone is at immediate risk. If necessary, make contact with the police, emergency services, crisis services or a hospital to ensure the person’s safety.
Q. What can I do about my friend who told me he/she was suicidal and made me promise not to tell anyone?
A young person who makes a promise to keep this type of secret is stuck in an awful position. They are afraid their friend is going to kill themselves, yet at the same time they have sworn to secrecy. This is a huge burden for a young person to carry. On one hand, they are afraid that their friend will die, or be seriously hurt. On the other hand, they worry that their friend will be angry with them if they tell anyone.
How adults can help
A promise like this is just too much responsibility for a young person to handle. Adults need to help them see the reality of the situation. If they do not tell someone, they may end up with a dead friend. They need to ask themselves if they prefer to have a friend who is alive and angry, or one who is dead. Also, if the friend succeeds and commits suicide, the surviving friend will go through severe trauma.
Encourage the young person to let you contact a parent or other trusted adult. This person can then contact a trained mental health professional, who may be able to help their friend.
You can receive more help and information by e-mailing the Centre for Suicide Prevention at firstname.lastname@example.org
COAST is able to provide this information free of charge. There are also many online resources for people experiencing mental illness. One of the best online resources can be found on the Canadian Mental Health Association Website at www.cmha.ca