How do I know if I am just sad or I have a mental illness?

Think through your day: is your sadness or anxiety affecting your ability to go to school, get your school work done, participate in your favourite activities, or be in friendships/relationships that feel satisfying? Do you feel a heavy weight on your shoulders, or like you’re walking through life in a fog? Do things that usually make you feel happy not make you feel happy anymore? Have you been thinking about hurting or even killing yourself? If so, let somebody know so you can take a step to get some support. We often think about mental illness as either you have it or you don’t, but it’s never that simple. Many of us live our lives somewhere in the middle. Worry less about labels and more about getting back to a place where you are happy and able to live life the way that makes you feel happy.

Does exercising actually help mental health?

A lot of people say things like, “Go for a walk, you will feel better!” This comes from the idea that exercising causes your brain to produce endorphins, which can make you happy while your brain is riding that endorphin wave. While studies show that self-help strategies paired with professional help (if needed) can help young adults, we don’t know which self-help strategies are the most effective. So, see what works for you. If you are stressed before a test, go for a walk, get a massage, do yoga, or hang out with friends and pay attention to what helps you de-stress. The best way to know if something works is to try it! If you are facing a mental health challenge, “walk it off” is not great advice – but counselling paired with being outside on a beautiful day can have a positive effect.

How do I know if I am “just not hungry” or actually have an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are all different and complex – some include symptoms like not eating, while others include overeating, or eating regularly and then purging. Ultimately, only a doctor can diagnose an eating disorder. If you’re concerned, compare your usual eating habits to your habits now. Has something changed? Are you eating a lot more or a lot less? Eating in secret or at strange times? Getting sick after meals? These could be signs of an eating disorder.