Back in September, I took the online Identify, Assist, Refer (IAR) mental health training offered by the Health and Wellness Centre. My experience was great for many reasons- it took less than twenty minutes, I got to sit in my comfy chair at home, and it really got me thinking about self-awareness.
As you probably picked up on, a major portion of the IAR training revolves around being able to identify people around you experiencing challenges to their mental health. But is that really all the identify portion teaches us?
I was born with congenital hypothyroidism, meaning essentially that before I was even born, my thyroid decided it was too much work to be a thing, and stopped developing.
At birth, and even now, my thyroid doesn’t actually function… At all. Sarcastic jokes are encouraged and appreciated. If anybody can write me a goofy limerick about this, I would thoroughly enjoy it.
Fortunately for me, they caught it within a week and I’ve been on daily medication for the past twenty years.
While I’ve lived my entire life learning about hypothyroidism and what it would be like if I missed my medication for a long period of time, I had no idea what it would actually feel like if I were to stop taking it. That is, until I somehow got my hands on a bad batch of medication in my final year of high school.
Aaah, fond memories. Imagine this: you’re really tired, but you’re not sleeping because it’s 3 PM and you’re not supposed to be sleeping. You get angry because you’re not sleeping . You lie down exactly where you are and sleep for way too long. That, plus the standard symptoms of untreated hypothyroidism.
Anyway, this brings me back to IAR and how much the training struck a chord with me.
I am incredibly lucky to have been raised by attentive parents that noticed something was wrong, and helped me take action. I fully believe that on my own, in my altered state, I would never have been able to recognize my symptoms- let alone know what to do with myself next.
In fact, as I finished the IAR training I recalled something my parents had said when my blood test results came back: it’s for the best that now I know what it feels like for my medication not to work. When I’m on my own in Toronto, I’ll now be able to identify it if it happens again.
Here at U of T, a lot of us aren’t in the position to have people who know us well enough to recognize when something isn’t right, and the IAR training addresses that. Not only does it give those around us the tools to identify, assist, and refer people, but it also gives us the tools to reflect on our own wellbeing, and what’s normal for us.
I believe it really gives us students a great basis to build on our awareness of others, and ourselves.
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