Happy Mental Health Week! Today we’re talking about mental health from the point of view of individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
When we talk about mental health for individuals with FASD, we often talk about the mental health issues people with FASD commonly experience. But it is important to remember that mental health more than mental illness. Our mental health “includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”
For individuals with FASD, it can be difficult to develop the skills you need to maintain good mental health. There are a number of things that might be a barrier to you achieving good mental health, such as your personal challenges, stigma, and lack of services available. But there are ways that you can work to improve your mental health despite these barriers. Below are 5 strategies that you can use!
1. Focus on your strengths
Identify your strengths. Find things you are interested in, that you do well, and that you’re talented at. Work to grow your strengths by practicing these skills and applying them to your daily life.
If you don’t know what your strengths are, look at the information from your professional diagnostic assessment or ask your friends and family what they think you do well.
2. Develop good coping strategies
Coping strategies are the things you do to calm yourself down when you start to feel overwhelmed. Figure out healthy ways that you can cope with feelings of anger, stress, anxiety, or sadness. Healthy coping strategies will look different for everyone. Your coping strategies might include deep breathing exercises, doing a physical activity, getting creative, or something else unique to you.
Remember: drinking alcohol and/or using substances are not healthy coping strategies.
3. Make a routine and stick to it
For people with FASD consistent routines can be really beneficial. Create a routine by setting times throughout the day where you will complete different tasks. Follow the same routine every day. This structure can help you make sure that you are doing the things you need to do to maintain your physical health and build life skills.
4. Create strategies to overcome your challenges
Everyone has limitations. The key to success is to learn what your limitations are and find ways to change your behaviour or your environment to succeed. Do you have problems remembering to do things? Set an alarm on your phone to remind you of important dates and deadlines!
You can also work with other people, like family members, teachers, and professionals, to help you understand your challenges and build the skills you need to succeed. Click here for more information on what challenges you might face and strategies to overcome them.
5. Ask for support if you need it
Ask your close friends and family members to help you improve your mental health. They know you very well and they can help you build up the skills you need. You might also benefit from professional support (i.e., educational supports, drug and alcohol counselling, employment training) in order to help you achieve your full potential. Work with an FASD professional to help identify your needs and find the best supports for you.
Remember: the skills and supports you need might look different from what other people need, and that is okay. Everyone is different!