Living with a chronic illness can often affect one’s mental health. It is important to have support people and resources to help you learn to cope with the disease.
Having IBD can take a toll on your mental health. We know that just by having IBD can put people at higher risk of developing a mental illness1. Depression and anxiety in people with IBD are well-documented in the scientific literature, and are commonly undertreated2,3. Prevalence rates of anxiety and depression in the IBD population are often reported as 20% and 15% respectively, although this may be higher due to lower reporting rates associated with stigma and discomfort discussing emotional health4. Similarly, we know that the mental health of caregivers of people with IBD also can be affected5.
The chronic nature of IBD might make you feel like you never get a break, especially when you may not experience periods of remission from your disease6. Living with the uncertainty of having IBD, as well as the stigma experienced in talking about digestive processes, pain, diarrhea, and restrictive diets can make people feel even more isolated and alone in their experience of their illness. On top of this, IBD is known as an “invisible illness”; one that cannot be seen just by looking at a person. This makes it difficult to communicate to others why you might be experiencing symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and emotional distress. Patients also discuss feeling like they are grieving the loss of their health, body, and life they had before being diagnosed with IBD
This psychological impact of IBD can be one of the most distressing of symptoms to deal with, as described by this patient interviewed by Crohn’s and Colitis here.
Being pregnant with IBD can also have an impact on your mental health due to the changes in your body, lifestyle, relationships, and others. In fact, a study by Vigod and colleagues1 shows that people with IBD have a higher likelihood of experiencing a new-onset mental illness after giving birth compared to the overall population.
In summary: Mental health is just as important as physical health. Ensuring that you have a healthy mind can help your physical health as well. Due to the stigma mental health may have at times, sometimes patients do not feel like they are able to discuss their psychological distress with others; they feel isolated and alone in their experience. There is nothing wrong with not feeling your best self at times, but it is very important that you talk to someone about any problems you are having. Let your doctor or nurse know if you think your mental health may be affected; they can help you find the right resources. You may also consider speaking to a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist to promote your mental health. There are also in-person and online support groups, education events, and peer-to-peer resources that you can access. You will find some of these supports you can turn to below.
Toronto Distress Centre: Call centre for emotional support and crisis intervention. Call 416-408-HELP (4357). More information here.
For a list of local crisis/distress centres across Canada, click here.
Canada Suicide Prevention Service: Call 1-833-456-4566 (24/7) or text 45645 (4 pm to 12 am ET). Support in French is also available. For more information click here.
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 686868 anywhere in Canada to text with a trained Crisis Responder. For more information click here.
Kids Help Phone: Call 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free) or text CONNECT to 686868. Available 24 hours a day to Canadians aged 5 to 29 who want confidential and anonymous care from professional counsellors. For more information click here.
Hope for Wellness Help Line: Available to all Indigenous peoples across Canada who need immediate crisis intervention. Experienced and culturally sensitive helpline counsellors can help if you want to talk or are distressed. Call 1-855-242-3310 (toll-free). Chat counselling is also available on their website.
To access perinatal mental health support in Toronto, visit the City of Toronto’s list of resources.
If you live outside of Toronto, call your local public health unit and ask about perinatal mental health support.
Mind Beacon: A free virtual mental health support program for Ontario residents to work one-on-one with a therapist to deal with stress, anxiety, depression and more. For more information click here.
The Warm Line: Operated by peers who understand and are aware of the loneliness and isolation of living with mental illness. Available 8 pm to midnight. Available 8 pm to midnight. Call 416-960-WARM (9276), text 647-557-5882, chat available on their website.
Gutsy Peer Support: A peer-to-peer online support program for Canadians affected by Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and their caregivers. For more information visit their website.
Wellness Together Canada: Created in response to an unprecedented rise in mental health and substance use concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Services range from basic wellness information, to one-on-one sessions with a counsellor, to participating in a community of support. Visit their website for more information.
WoodGreen Community Services: Offers free virtual single session counselling on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (registration opens at 4 pm and closes at 6:30 pm). No referral needed. Call (416) 645-6000 ext. 1990 to register or for more information. Visit their website for more information.
Yonge Street Mission: Offers free virtual single session and ongoing counselling Monday to Friday (1 pm – 4:30 pm) and Thursdays (3:30 pm – 7:30 pm). No referral needed. Call (416) 355-3568 to register or for more information. Click here for more information.
Family Services Toronto: Offers free virtual single session counselling Monday to Friday (9 am to 6 pm). Call (416) 595-9618 to register or for more information visit their website.
The Zane Cohen Centre for Digestive Diseases at Mount Sinai Hospital offers:
*Note that both support groups are currently on hold due to COVID.
Find a Private Counsellor or Therapist:
*Note that if you are working and are enrolled in an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), you may be eligible for counselling through this program.
BounceBack: A free program from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) that helps you build skills to improve your mental health. Visit their website for more information.
The Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI): Source of self-help tools and resources for people experiencing mental health problems. For more information click here.
MoodGym: An interactive self-help program that provides cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) training in order to help users prevent and cope with depression and anxiety. Visit their website for more information.
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA): Provides information on local resources and understanding mental illness. Visit their website for more information.
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH): Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital and a leading research centres in the area of addiction and mental health. Visit their website for more information.
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada: Provides opportunities to learn more about the latest information and research, attend live events, educational webinars, and patient programs. Visit their website for more information.