In this edition of "Meet The Westwind Staff", we are asking five questions of one of Westwind's Counsellors, Katrina Wilson.
1) WHAT LED YOU TO WESTWIND?
A) Growing up in the small town there wasn't much exposure to mental health issues, or eating disorders in particular. We had the wellness days in school where we talked about body image and nutritional eating, but there were never any open discussions about mental illness.
After graduating high school I moved to Brandon, MB to pursue studies at Brandon University. Campus life was much different from what I knew, and there was much more public talk about many issues. Hearing about Mental Health Awareness Week and learning about different mental illnesses in Psychology class led me to volunteering on the Klinic Crisis Line and the Manitoba Suicide Line, where I realized that I had a passion for talking to people and helping them.
In 2008 I started working toward a Masters in Counselling Psychology degree, and was introduced to Westwind through my practicum placement. This was an invaluable experience for me, because I was able to learn first-hand what eating disorders were actually about, which was quite different from what you learn about in textbooks. After finishing my practicum I continued working with Westwind as a Support Staff, and a year later I became a Counsellor.
2. WHAT HAS INSPIRED YOU ABOUT WORKING IN MENTAL HEALTH?
A) I’ve realized just how pervasive mental health issues are – everyone struggles in some way or another, whether it’s with clinical forms of depression and anxiety, or even the unhelpful, negative thoughts that can come at us on a day-to-day basis. Yet there is such a stigma around mental health, which unfortunately keeps a lot of people from reaching out for support and getting help. Working towards changing your mental and emotional well-being takes a lot of courage and strength, and I am constantly inspired by my clients who are willing to take the risks and reap the benefits.
3. WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR WORK AT WESTWIND?
A) I was drawn to the treatment model of Westwind and the view of the eating disorder as a spectrum rather than distinct categories of diagnosis. The notion that despite having common elements, each, eating disorder is actually unique helped me in better understanding my clients and helping them along their path to recovery. The philosophy that full recovery is possible was also new to me, however I now strongly believe that this is possible, and have seen it with many clients.
A main focus for me in my work with clients is on their identity and personality – how it has changed throughout the life of the eating disorder, and how it gets uncovered as they progress in their recovery. I certainly don't hesitate to bring my own personality to our interactions – my humour, laughter, and my love of cats (my office is riddled with cat stuff). Throughout their stay the clients' own likes, interests, and personality comes out, which is always amazing to see.
4. IF YOU COULD SAY ONE THING TO SOMEONE SEEKING TREATMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
A) For someone seeking treatment I would encourage you to see it as an investment into the rest of your life. The hard work and dedication you put into your recovery now will pay off in the future. In the kitchen at Westwind we have a quote posted on a cupboard: "My worst days in recovery are better than the best days in relapse - Kate LePage". This is a truth many clients have discovered, and it has helped them push through the tough days and persevere in their recovery. And it is an honour for me to play a role in that journey.
5. WHAT'S ONE THING YOU PRACTICE TO MAINTAIN POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH?
A) Working in the mental health field, I believe it is important to practice what you preach. Mindfulness and self-care are important aspects of my life – paying attention to my moods and emotions, my thoughts, and recognizing when old habits and unhelpful ways of thinking are working their way in (it happens to all of us!). Taking time for myself with baths, reading, spending time with family and friends, and playing my ukulele are essential for maintaining my own positive mental and emotional health.