For Anxiety Sufferers, Help Is Available

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Michelle Hominick

Have you ever felt incapacitated by nervousness, apprehension, and worry? It might have been a full-blown panic attack, or it could just be a creeping sense of dread that gets in the way of your everyday life. Whatever form it takes, it falls into the category of anxiety, and millions of people in Canada struggle with it.

Michelle Hominick, a woman from Niverville, knows what’s it’s like to feel this way and she wants people to know that they are not alone. Help is available.

“Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses,” says Hominick. “It looks different on everyone, although there is a lot of overlap. Essentially, anxiety is an activation of our sympathetic nervous system. We have a running narrative in our head all day long of worst case scenarios. We avoid situations and tasks. It creates negative interpretations of situations… People with anxiety tend to make more catastrophic interpretations and have a steady flow of negative self-talk.”

In Canada, one in five people suffer from a mental illness, and the situation in Manitoba is even worse, with one in four.

“So many people struggle with anxiety, and I feel I can help people who are suffering in silence,” says Hominick. Last month, she got on Facebook to advertise a peer support group. They have already held their first meeting, and now she’s trying to get the word out to get more people involved. “Peer support groups have the benefit of normalizing what you’re going through. When you hear the struggles of others and it sounds like you too, it helps you to feel like you’re not an alien from outer space. You’re not damaged. You’re not weird. Many people are in this boat with you and we can learn from each other about how to deal with it.”

Hominick has a master’s degree in social work. Her work has focused on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) intervention and dialectical behaviour therapy. Despite her background, she says that she attends and hosts the group as a peer, not as a clinician.

“I’ve focused on working in mental health for a decade and I’m currently employed as the clinical social worker for oncology at Grace Hospital,” she says. “I provide CBT interventions to cancer patients and their families. Essentially, I teach people how they have emotions, as in the biological processes, [and] how to process those emotions effectively. And I engage in cognitive restructuring to treat the causes for their anxiety and depression. I teach people how to be more effective communicators, how to manage pain, and how to improve their sleep.”

She points out that even if a person doesn’t necessarily have the symptoms to meet the criteria for a mental illness diagnosis, anxiety can still have a profound impact on their life.

So far the peer support group has seen a lot of interest, with dozens of people messaging Hominick for details. The group meets at her home every week, on alternating Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and it’s open to all adults—men and women, anyone who thinks they struggle with anxiety.

“[The problem] is huge. Enormous,” Hominick says. “It can’t be overstated. Our culture and society is a stage set for anxiety to thrive. Luckily, there are a lot of ways we can make ourselves better at dealing with that—we just have to be shown how.”

For more information

For details about Hominick’s peer support group, contact her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/michelle.homi...

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