Erin Davis: Welcome to REAL TIME, the podcast for and about REALTORS®. My name is Erin Davis, and I am so glad to be able to share this timely and valuable, and above all, interesting conversation with you today. REAL TIME is a presentation of the Canadian Real Estate Association. The podcast for and about Canadian REALTORS®, brought to you by the Canadian Real Estate Association, one of this country's largest, single industry associations.
Now meet our guests, Dr. Raj Bhatla is Psychiatrist-in-Chief and Chief of Staff of the Royal Ottawa Healthcare Group. He did his undergraduate work at Harvard University and his medical degree at McGill University. He joined the Royal, one of Canada's foremost, mental healthcare teaching and research hospitals in 1992.
Ron Antalek is a second-generation REALTOR® with more than 30 years experience. He's also a philanthropist, committed volunteer and mental health advocate in his community of Maple Ridge, British Columbia. In 2020, Ron was the recipient of the Canadian REALTORS Care® Award.
On this Episode 26, Dr. Bhatla and Ron join REAL TIME in support of mental health week 2022, in a demanding profession like real estate. Taking the time to talk about our mental health is essential to fostering a vibrant driving industry, both today and tomorrow. Aligning with this year's theme of Empathy, we'll explore various topics surrounding mental health, including awareness, de-stigmatization, and how to support one another through compassion and understanding.
Thank you both so much for joining us for such an important discussion today. We're going to start with some quick introductions, and I know that I can't possibly do both of you justice. Tell us about yourselves and why the topic of mental health is important to you. We'll begin please with Dr. Bhatla.
Raj Bhatla: Oh, absolutely. Thanks for having us. Mental health is crucial importance to society in general, but for me personally. I've been working now in mental health as a psychiatrist for the past 30 years, working in a variety of settings, in the hospital, inpatient work, outpatient work, community work, and starting to see how much it impacts people's lives, always has, but increasingly I think we're aware of that. Personally, I'm aware of that even more as I've continued my practice for so long that it's just a crucial importance to me.
Erin: You've been with the Royal since 1992?
Raj: Yes, I have. In 1992, I started the Royal and I've always been also interested from a mental health point of view in the cultural aspects of mental health. I was actually born in India and raised in Canada, a lot of time in the US, and it's been really interesting to see how mental health and its perception and stigma has evolved in different cultures and societies, and it's really, really nice to see how much it's evolved in a positive direction in Canada and the US in particular, and around the world.
Erin: Yes. We will be delving into that, especially right here at home. Ron, its such a pleasure to have you with us today. Tell us a bit about yourself and why this mental health topic means so much to you.
Ron Antalek: Thank you, Erin. I was born and raised in Maple Ridge, BC. My father, when I was a child was working at Essondale, which is now the Riverview Hospital, as a psychiatric nurse, and my mom was a registered nurse working at St. Mary's and then later to Ridge Meadows Hospital. As a young child, this was in our home. It was a passion of my mom and my dad. It influenced me, and growing up, I graduated from Simon Fraser University as a teacher. I went into the teaching profession. I found the academic portion very simple and engaging with children, but the mental health aspect was the part that I felt needed so much help. It just motivated me to this day to identify mental health as a passion to make a difference for me.
Erin: I find it fascinating that with your father, as a psych nurse at Essondale, that you got to see what it looked like from the inside, and you've likened it to a castle.
Ron: Well, as a child, I remember in the Montreal Olympics my excitement was going into the kitchen at Essondale to see the cooks because they had little plastic men that were put in the Kellogg's cornflake boxes. Walking through, there was bars in the windows, there was patients in straight jackets. They used electric therapy. It was really more of a jail setting than it was a hospital.
Erin: It seems like this has informed you as you've moved forward, and we're looking forward to hearing about that. Conversations about mental health, just like we are having right now, they seem to have become more common over the last few years. If you stop and look at it, you wonder why the heightened awareness. Dr. Bhatla, your take on this?
Raj: Interesting. It's a fascinating phenomena and a very welcome one. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what's happened. However, it does appear that it's being taken on more in the public and by corporations and the sense that you can't do well in terms of your wellbeing by solely focusing on your physical health. We've seen an evolution. I know the Ottawa situation better than most, but where sports celebrities, in Ottawa's case, Daniel Alfredsson, one of our outstanding captains, took up the cause and then other high profile individuals, we had Margaret Trudeau, who came forth and talked about her journey when it comes to mental health.
Then we're also starting to see things like mental health-related research taking the fore. People are starting to understand the impact that mental health has on our overall wellbeing. All of those things put together as well as more media awareness in terms of how to report on it better and educating the public, have all contributed to a real understanding of its importance, and of course the pandemic has really added to that as well.
Erin: How so?
Raj: The pandemic, I think, has done a few things. We've been fascinated by the incredible ability to carry on the functioning of society through just incredible technology, the Zoom platforms, other video platforms, telephone usage, and healthcare in general has been able to carry on as multiple functions of society have been based on our technology. However, the other thing that the pandemic has revealed is that people really need people. We are social creatures, and if we've ever forgotten that, the pandemic has brought that back to the fore. The loneliness that some populations have felt, and all of us have felt a little bit disconnected, not having that personal face-to-face contact, including just physical contact, the handshakes, the hugs, all of that being so crucial.
Erin: You mentioned the technological advances, and certainly we are living proof of that even us and how we speak. Has that also helped to break down barriers like people who might not have gone into the hospital or gone into your office to sit and have a face-to-face with you, Dr. Bhatla, who actually feel more at home, more comfortable wrapped in their own blanket with a cat on their lap or a puppy at their feet and having a real heart-to-heart with you. Has that helped you in any way?
Raj: I think it has helped, especially when it comes to some populations that are more challenged to reach out for help. Because traditionally, in many aspects of mental health, we have people coming to us in a variety of settings in the community, in hospitals, doctors' offices, other types of settings. However, with the technology, we can actually reach out into people's homes. You can connect with a service provider, a professional, through video links of various platforms. It's allowed access to groups that may not have had it before, especially if you live more remotely in Canada. We're a vast country, so many of our population that would have to drive or spend a lot of time traveling to see someone, can now get some of that service right in the home. That part has been very welcome, I would say.
Erin: Service and home, of course, a perfect descriptor of you, Ron and part of what you do. You've mentioned that we likely wouldn't even be having this discussion that we're having with you and Dr. Bhatla, even 10 years ago. How have you personally seen the stigmas surrounding mental health evolve, Ron?
Ron: Well, I celebrate the amazing improvements that I see a couple measuring sticks. I've been on the Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation for 13 years. My son's graduating this year, grade 12 in high school — so even in that decade, significant difference in the school system, the university's real estate, even in the CFL, the NHL. I celebrate Carey Price coming back to playing between the posts and April. It's amazing to see player assistance program in the NHL. There's just so many amazing improvements that I think are helping our children, helping our communities, and the embarrassment, the stigma of mental health in my opinion, is well behind us, but it sure wasn't 10 years ago.
Erin: You've cited an example of a psychiatry unit that would not even have a name put on it because people were like, "That's not something I want to be." Particularly associated with and yet there's been a change, very positive change in that example.
Ron: Yes. One of my biggest inspirations is the psychiatrist Dr. Biju Matthew practice in our community. Amazing gentleman and at the time, trying to essentially get Fraser Health to support the idea of a psychiatry unit at Ridge Meadows Hospital, led into success, amazing people around me like the ED, Laura Butler and my board. We ended up creating this psychiatry unit, however, naming, when they talked about it, my support financially was anonymous.
What motivated me to come out was if it was maternity or oncology, the donor community seemed to be very comfortable to do naming opportunities. That we use as a celebration of that, but it also is an inspiration tool to other donors. When the stigma of mental health and putting in name to the psychiatry unit, was something where most donors were not comfortable with, that motivated me to put the Antalek Family Psychiatry Unit name to it. Thank God, because in hindsight, it's inspired many, many donors, and I celebrate what difference that made.
Erin: You're also seeing differences in real estate boards everywhere. You've mentioned that and you're celebrating that as well. Can you talk a little bit about that, Ron?
Ron: Oh, there's many changes. Well, look at CREA. Today's conversation, this is all inspired by CREA, and kudos to them. They're amazing. They give the support to us nationally, which as REALTORS® we need, but even on the smaller levels of individual boards, provincial associations, we're seeing in all aspects of the real estate industry. I celebrate it because it is making a difference. It's helping REALTORS®. It's, in my opinion, saving lives.
Erin: Coming up, a rise in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and addiction.
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Now, back to our mental health week episode, focusing on Empathy. What are some of the most common mental health challenges that you are seeing in your day-to-day practice, Dr. Bhatla?
Raj: I see a variety of different types of challenges. My personal work tends to be with the operational stress injury clinic. I see a lot of veterans suffering from PTSD as well as depression. That's my personal work. What we're seeing across the board, however, is a real growth in challenges related to depression and anxiety in particular. We're seeing a lot more people reaching out with symptoms of anxiety and frank diagnoses of anxiety illnesses, as well as depression. Then the other thing that is becoming more and more common, and we're seeing that in things like LCBO data and opiate overuse and opiate deaths, frankly, is the substance use challenges.
If I had to pinpoint the ones that are even more of a challenge through the pandemic and hopefully not growing, but right now a big challenge are the anxiety-type symptoms and diagnoses depression, and then substance use. Those are the key areas where I think the public and individuals are struggling.
Erin: A particular part of the public that certainly my eyes were open to this in conversation with you being one, some groups are more vulnerable to anxiety and depression and they tend to be women. Can we talk about that a little bit?
Raj: Absolutely. We do know that from a population point of view, women are more prone to diagnoses of anxiety illnesses and diagnoses of depression. A troubling trend right now though is anxiety and depression for younger individuals. We are seeing in our emergency rooms, we do have a children's hospital in Ottawa, and the numbers there have grown substantially, and a lot of them end up being young women in particular, but also young men.
I think that's being fueled by some of the pandemic issues, also fueled by the challenges that social media poses. When you see posts in social media, you tend to see the nicer parts and the parts of people that they want to display publicly. You don't always hear as much about the struggles and challenges. When you compare yourself to perhaps your friends, colleagues, and others, your life may not seem quite as good as others, and sometimes it's a bit of a mirage. I think social media hasn't helped in that regard, especially for the younger generation.
Erin: It's very much a mirage, and it's not just the filters, but it's the metaphoric filters too, because you have a plain day, you have a bad day. How often are you going to post about it on Instagram? Yet when you have that extraordinary experience whether it's on a beach or in a mall, or you're in love, or you've got the perfect eyeliner, that's the stuff you put out there and that's the impossible metric that many are measuring themselves to. It's just not real.
Raj: Absolutely. Great point. That's what we see.
Erin: You've used a word that I love, symptomatology, and you've seen common themes, like for example, the pandemic and people's response to it, and that people are struggling in mood and anxiety. Let's talk about how we spend, they say a third of our lives, which theoretically and ideally should, be sleeping. Can we talk about sleep and the importance of it? We're wide-awake to listen to this, doctor.
Raj: Thanks. Sleep, absolutely crucial. When it comes to symptoms, perhaps not a diagnosis, think about your sleep. We spend a lot of time sleeping. We have various stages of sleep that restore and refresh us to deal with the next day, to consolidate memories, and to maintain our mental and physical health. When we get into sleep challenges, we end up having other symptoms.
I don't know how many people in the audience have had periods in their lives where they're sleeping particularly poorly, but the next day you have challenges with your energy level, people tend to be more irritable. They don't concentrate as well. Their mood can be down.
All of those things, which are common symptoms of other mental health diagnoses, all can be contributed to by difficulty with sleep, and that's becoming an increased challenge. Pandemic again, hasn't helped because a lot of us aren't getting the general exercise we need, getting out as much as we need, and aren't getting ourselves set up for a good night sleep. It's been quite the challenge.
Erin: Ron, we're going to talk about this a little bit more in the minutes to come, but you are of course in a chosen field where working 24/7 seemingly is often perceived as a badge of honor, and of course sleep is one of the prices that someone pays for that, isn't it?
Ron: Absolutely. There is adverse effect on personal life as a result of that, with marriage, with children. Unfortunately, the job that a REALTOR® has is a challenge, it definitely does. I concur with the top three that I see in the industry is depression, anxiety, and substance use, are probably three of the mental health challenges that impact many REALTORS®, and a lot of that is a result of the job, the hours of work, and some REALTORS® essentially, like you said, it's 24/7, and unfortunately that has its adverse effects.
Erin: Ron, how do you think we can support our friends or loved ones if they're struggling?
Ron: Well, number one, I think is that we can educate ourselves. If we're aware of the resources that are out there, the crisis lines, also to depend on the age of the friend, the loved one, whoever that could be. Foundry, for example, is mental health support in our age group of 12 to 24. Here, we're locally blessed with a Foundry Ridge Meadows and we have a Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation with an adult psychiatry unit. I think if we all are aware of where the support can come from, that's how we can help.
I've had so many instances just of my passion in the community and one client called me. They have a daughter, they took her to which we have an amazing children's hospital. That is the center for all of BC, amazing children's hospitals, just like Ottawa. The daughter was doing self-harm. There was a huge concern for suicide. She was too old for children's, and they go, "Who do we even call?" They phoned me, on the line I got Dr. Matthew's, I link the two of them up, and to this day with Foundry's support and other people involved, they've made a difference and helped her. I think if we, as a community are aware of what supports are there, that we can help direct and help people better.
Erin: Being aware Dr. Bhatla, how do we recognize, or how can we learn to recognize the signs of mental illness either in ourselves or in others?
Raj: A great question. I always like to stress that the signs can be pretty ubiquitous and quite unique to individuals. I try not to get into broad, broad categories, but the things I tell people is, basically if you have a change in either behavior or the way you're feeling from how you usually are, that can be something that you should really be paying attention to. Some of the big things are things like, we've already talked about, sleep. A change your sleep pattern that's consistent is potentially quite troubling and may be a precursor to more serious concerns. Changes in sleep, changes in appetite, changes in mood that are pretty consistent. Mood is a funny thing. It's not just feeling depressed, changes in mood, like irritability, can be also a sign of something more serious.
It's that change in behavior, change in moods and feelings and emotions that are persistent, is particularly important. Interestingly, it's often not the individual who recognizes it first, but people around them. Their loved ones, they're at work or family or people that know them well. I always tell people, if you're concerned about someone and you see a change in them, always reach out and ask, "Everything okay? Anything I can do?" As long as it comes from a place of compassion and curiosity, it's often really well received, and someone will either talk about how they're feeling or recognize that something's changed and even monitor themselves a bit more carefully, because it's crucial to catch things early.
Erin: I think as Ron has pointed out too, in the example of the young woman who was having suicidal thoughts. It's also knowing what your abilities and limits are, but also knowing who to contact, right Ron? Knowing somebody in your contact list, or doing a little bit of legwork so that when someone says to you, "Yes, you know what? I am having a problem." Then you are able to take the next step and send them to the right person.
Ron: Absolutely, Erin. I totally agree with that and I think, again, I know my limits. Dr. Bhatla is educated in the medical field. I am not, I do not try to practice that, but I am highly, highly educated as to what resources are there to support even REALTORS®. I've made it in our office and everything else — I'm always willing to be empathetic. I also believe that I have tools and amazing people that when people are in need, they can direct them to the right source of support.
Erin: Fantastic. Coming up: Helping the helpers, from relevant stories in the media to stats, trends, and so much more.
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Speaking of which, back to Ron Antalek, a second-generation BC REALTOR® and a medical health advocate in his community of Maple Ridge, and Dr. Raj Bhatla, Psychiatrist-in-Chief and Chief of Staff of the Royal Ottawa Healthcare Group. Dr. Bhatla, let's talk specifically about mental health in the workplace. Does one type of profession tend to be more vulnerable than others?
Raj: I always like to start out by pointing out that no profession and no one individual or group is immune from mental health illness. It does apply to everyone. Although in my experience there, there's a certain group that tends to either not recognize it in themselves and tends to be a bit more vulnerable. I refer to that group as, the helping professions. That can be the more obvious ones like individuals in healthcare, physicians, nurses, et cetera.
However, also in the professions that are there to help others and serve others. I speak a lot to the lawyers' groups, and they have clients and they're there to help, support, and often help people in difficult times. That's why you go to a lawyer. I would put REALTORS® in the same category. They're there to help their clients. As Ron pointed out, they're often there at all sorts of hours, seven days a week. They're there for their clients and they're there to help, and often for decisions and challenges that are the most important decisions of their lives.
Realtors are also very much a helping profession. When you see yourself as a profession and an individual who is there to help others, you often forget sometimes to take care of yourself and keep an eye on your own limits and your own challenges that may start to arise when it comes to mental health. It's those helping professions that seem to be challenged maybe a bit more than others.
Erin: I can almost envision people listening to this and nodding their heads in a sense. Ron, I know that you can elaborate on this a little bit about the REALTORS®, and not only their work schedules but the expectations and the fluctuations. Could we talk about that a little bit?
Ron: Yes. As previously discussed, the challenges to a REALTOR® 's career and the impact that has on their mental health, on their family, stems often to the instability of markets, income. The challenge of the industry is commission-based. It has those effects, and hence sometimes the first trigger of mental health weakness comes in the anxiety sector. That seems to just compound issues that can affect sleep. That compounds into a depression that comes to follow with substance use. I think really the conversation and speaking and talking about it and having the strength to do so, whether you're a Carey Price or a REALTOR®, is to open up to people around you, talk about it. Some basic things that I believe REALTORS® are doing differently today is, we see them taking time off.
Decades ago, I've been a REALTOR® for 33 years, and the concept of team was unheard of. We never, ever heard of REALTORS® on teams, when on earth was that? Hockey teams but not REALTOR® teams. The difference that I see is the industry is changing and evolving in a way that's fostering better mental health. One basic difference is that, even if REALTORS® are pairing up and they find somebody else in their office at a similar volume and et cetera.
Even if they don't exchange compensation, if they just exchange time and they trade off two days a week to each other and they have two days off, or they have their workday end at 5:00, instead of midnight. These are the changes that I think we need to do to be proactive and to ensure we do have good mental health, and taking time off eating well, exercising, being there for your families and your significant other, it's just important. That is one huge difference that I celebrate today. I hope moving forward, we just keep getting better and better as an industry.
Erin: Oh, every sign points to ‘yes’ and it's interesting. Dr. Bhatla, you have compared REALTORS® to therapists. Can you elaborate a little bit on that? Because I certainly understand that as having had wonderful REALTORS® through the years who have just the highs and the lows and the anticipation and the disappointment. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
Raj: Oh, absolutely. I think Ron will be able to speak very articulately about it because he is a REALTOR®. I actually remember personally, when we bought our first house, just the anxiety about, "Jeez, that's a fair amount of money. That is a real commitment. Is this something we should be doing now? Should we wait a little bit? Are we quite ready?" Sometimes I remember in our case, we had a growing family. We had other expenses, the financial side as well. All of those things start to really weigh on you, and you need to lean at times on your REALTOR®. I know we did on, "Jeez, is this the right decision?" You're going, "Boy, is that really their call?" You should know if it's the right decision.
I can't imagine that that is unique to me. That's got to be a conversation that you're having with your REALTOR®, and as Ron points out and there are market fluctuations, what if it goes up? What if it goes down? Is this the right time to buy? A lot of life decisions. You might even be thinking about your aging parents, are they going to move in with you? Are you getting to the stage you might need a bungalow instead of a two-story house? So many factors going into such an important decision. Having a REALTOR® who is a bit of a therapist, a little tongue in cheek, but I think is pretty important.
Erin: Ron, what do you think of that?
Ron: Oh, I concur with everything that Dr. Bhatla said. I love the theme this year, we're saying Empathy. That's where I see some of the best REALTORS® are empathetic, and I watch how they care and they go beyond the focus of selling that house. If you care about people, they talk about the frontline workers, it's been talked about our physicians and our nurses, and these are the people caring. In job positions like teachers and REALTORS®, you are in that position of caring.
If you really do care, and you're effective in your job and you're empathetic, you'll go beyond the scope of just selling a house to somebody, because it is one of the biggest things that people do. It is often the most valuable asset that they own, and there's many emotions involved from changing schools, to losing friends, to come into a new community, to being in a new province, or a new country and wondering, "Oh my God, where do I start?" I think a REALTOR® really is a champion for mental health if they're effective and caring for people. It's sometimes way beyond selling a house.
Erin: Having the conversation, Ron, how important is that to striving or getting closer to a healthy work-life balance? Especially among the real estate boards, managers, leaders, everybody in your community?
Ron: I've seen a change locally here, as a real estate board, we would have our medallion gala and we'd have a table of the top five agents. Now the board is different. We do things differently; we honor people differently. We try to do a little better with people. We focus now rather than being money-based and commission-based, is that there is a focus very much on caring for people, working better with agents, and have just a better holistic industry. I really celebrate the direction we're going as an industry, and I think it's really more of a model of care-based action on REALTORS® and I love that.
Erin: We all do. When we return, what is burnout, and if there is one, what's the prescription? REALTOR.ca is Canada's most popular and trusted real estate platform developed and operated by CREA. REALTOR.ca helps REALTORS® and your listings achieve greater exposure while providing an easy, more accessible experience for property buyers, sellers, and renters.
Now back to Dr. Raj Bhatla, and 2020 REALTORS Care Award winner, Ron Antalek on REAL TIME. Dr. Bhatla, what advice would you give professionals, in general, to help them manage work-related stress or anxiety to avoid what we now know as burnout? Okay, so how do you define burnout and how do we deal?
Raj: Burnout is a fascinating topic. I'll give you some thoughts on that and also some thoughts on how you maintain your good mental health in the workplace. In terms of burnout, it's a fascinating word. We've alluded already to the badge of honor that people have in some industries. Ron's talked a little bit how it's changing in terms of REALTORS® and working in teams. In general, a lot of our professions see that burnout and working really hard, long hours, as a badge of honor. When they talk about burnouts, they talk about it in a way that, "Wow, I'm burnt out because I work so hard."
I think the challenge with that is, A, its not terribly good for your mental health in general, and B, the definition of burnout is pretty vague. The symptoms that go along with burnout are really similar to the symptoms that are pretty important when it comes to actual mental health diagnoses.
When you think burnout, you're thinking about, okay, I don't get enough sleep. I may rush through meals. I answer emails and phones at all hours. My mood is down. I'm burnt out because I suffer from pretty common term in the helping professions, compassion fatigue. So I'm not able to listen to my clients quite as well. I'm a little short with them. I am not as empathetic. That starts to get into the picture.
Instead of seeking help because it's just burnout, I emphasize the just burnout piece of this, you don't need help. It's something that you just do because it's important and you wear it as a badge of honor. I always tell people, careful, if you think you might be burning out, you might also be suffering from early signs of a mental illness, be it anxiety illness that needs some treatment, depression that needs some treatment, or potentially substance use, which actually just creeps up on you. You start using just a bit more of your substance of choice, for most people that's alcohol, and you start using more and more. You have to recognize the importance of burnout, and how it might be actually mental illness.
Now, when it comes more to the workplace, getting organizations to actually better understand and enact policies that are helpful for the employees, things such as limits on emails after hours, availability after hours, making sure there's a culture of taking your lunch breaks and connecting with others, having more face-to-face as opposed to too many just email exchanges, those types of things can be really important. Although companies tend to know that, they don't tend to always act in that way. Those actions can make a big difference to the health of the employees.
Erin: Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Ron, I'm sure that this relates to your experiences where you figure, "Well, if I don't take that call, or answer that text at whatever time o'clock at night, somebody else is going to get that." Or, "This client is really, really anxious about losing their 10th bid on a house. What am I going to do?" You're between a rock and a hard place. Do you go back to that idea of a team and somebody else to spell you off, and to have the vulnerability to say, "I need help, I need space, I need time"?
Ron: Absolutely, Erin. I think really, in simplistic terms, if it isn't a team, is to identify a REALTOR® that is similar to you, and just do a trade-off. It wouldn't cost you any money to trade off, but you would give yourself that timeout, you would take a break. You will be a more effective REALTOR® in the long run and you will not not service your clients. Your clients when they call you in that sense of urgency, somebody will be there because they deserve that and they need that, and we as a profession can provide that. It's just, how do we deliver that service? I think that we are able to do it in a way that improves our mental health, makes us happier, and doesn't let down our clients.
Erin: Speaking of delivering services to the community in this case, Ron, how can REALTORS® use your position to support mental health initiatives right there in your own home communities?
Ron: That I think is available to us everywhere. I celebrate the Antalek Family Psychiatry Unit, and I talk about it because that evolution, it has inspired people across Canada. The only thing I want to elaborate on is, it wasn't me that did that. I was surrounded by amazing people. The differences on our board, even at the time was Dr. Biju Matthew, had inspired me greatly. We had ED, Laura Butler that would make it happen, and I had a board of directors that had a similar vision.
I celebrate surrounding yourself by influential, amazing people. It makes us stronger. You might have a passion, but it isn't me. It's me being blessed to be surrounded by these people. These opportunities are in every community. If you follow your passion, volunteer, participate in aboard. The biggest thing for me is it's made my life so complete and so happy.
I've been on the hospital foundation for 13 years. I've been the Chair for 10 years. The biggest challenge we've had to do is due to strategic plans, reach out to our donor community and ensure that me being there that long is what the donor community supports, and is it the board that supports that? I celebrate it.
I think for other agents that even to start off is they could reach out. Whether you're in Ottawa, you're in Victoria, you're in Halifax. You can reach out to your local hospital. You can go to that hospital foundation and you can say, "You know what? I want to support making a difference in our community. I want to do a third-party event. I want the proceeds to go to mental health in our community."
Those third-party initiatives can be donor-driven and you can direct where it is. It's just like me. My passion was mental health, but without others around me, with Dr. Matthew Chao, with Dr. Britt Bright, these things can't happen, you need to surround yourself around amazing people and your contribution as small as you think it's going to be, it can make a major difference.
Erin: It absolutely can. Volunteer Week in Canada this year the theme was Empathy, which of course is our theme today. Dr. Bhatla, tell us what volunteering does for the individual, for your own mental health?
Raj: First off, I just loved Ron's comment. Thanks, Ron, for that, so well put.
Ron: Thank you, Dr. Bhatla.
Raj: I think you used the words: it's helped make your life so complete and so happy. It just speaks to how much it can affect the individual. I have a lot of patients who come seeking to feel better, to improve their feelings of self-worth, their self-esteem, sometimes they just don't have that type of meaning that they need in their lives, which is just so important for everyone. One of the best ways to provide that meaning in your own life and to help your own happiness and your own sense of self-worth is actually the volunteering, as Ron described.
It doesn't have to be volunteering for mental health per se. Pick your passion. What is it that really floats your boat, if I may use that term? Volunteer to food bank, homeless shelter, read to seniors, help out with kids, if that's your passion, mental health, of course, if that's part of your passion, that would be fantastic as well. Reach out. Volunteer. It's not just to help others. It does tremendous amounts to help the individual. Help yourself.
Erin: Absolutely. It was Gandhi who said, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
Raj: Beautifully put.
Erin: More wise words. When we come back and wrap up, including an optimistic outlook on where we're going in our mental health journey, how doing good is good for you, and it feels good too.
Realtors know that by volunteering and raising funds, you play really truly meaningful roles right across the country, in the community where you work and live. Check out REALTORSCare.ca and share your own story.
Until the Antalek Family Psychiatry Unit was established, Ron, your community was lacking in mental health services. You think overall that mental health support, in general, is becoming more widely available.
Ron: Absolutely. Thank you for bringing that up, Erin, because it's changed so much for the better. Before 2009, before we had a psychiatry unit, 30% of the emergency was for mental health. It put stresses on our emergency, on the healthcare workers, the nurses, the doctors, overflow into hallways, often was a result of that. Locally here now, and since 2009, our community, which is a suburb of Vancouver, was underserviced greatly, but we had such a significant need. It is amazing a decade later to celebrate on a today like our conversation as to how much service we have in our community with Foundry Ridge Meadows and the Antalek Family Psychiatry Unit. Kudos and thank you to all those amazing people that made it happen.
Erin: Absolutely. Congratulations to you. Dr. Bhatla, for those who wish to seek help and don't have immediate access to a place like the Antalek Family Psychiatry Unit, where's a good place to start if maybe they can't afford a therapist, what do you recommend?
Raj: There are a lot of good resources now and certainly much better than we were 10, 20 years ago. There really has been a bit of a sea change, although there's still ways to go. I would say some of the types of things that are more available now, things like crisis lines in all communities in Canada, I believe, there are crisis lines and you're not far away from help in that area. There are always things like emergency rooms for real crisis emergencies. However, you also have places to go prior to things becoming too urgent or emergent.
The primary care provider community is increasingly well versed in mental health diagnoses and symptoms. Your nurse practitioner, your family physician is excellent for those types of things.
We have more resources online. We have things like cognitive behavioral therapy. We have apps for that. There's a specific app for cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. That's well regarded. You have the online availability.
In most communities, there are growing resources. Ron talks about it in his community, and I think that community is not completely unique. There are other situations in Canada where services are improving.
Provincial governments are stepping up to the plate. In Ontario, we have more access now to free structured psychotherapy. That's relatively new in Ontario. I think that's a trend that's growing throughout the country.
You have other types of supports that are there that people sometimes forget in terms of your wellness, even things like your smart watch, if you are able to get one of those, Apple, Fitbit, et cetera, a lot more available than there used to be. We're trending in the right direction.
Erin: Gosh, I hope so. Well, as we wrap up this conversation with gratitude and of course so much empathy, which is the theme today; I wonder if I could ask each of you to pinpoint one thing that you would suggest people do to prioritize their mental health. Ron, we'll start with you.
Ron: Oh, Erin, limit to me to one. How about one sentence? How about exercise, sleep well, eat well, drink water, take a break, ask for help, and give a hug. Is that okay?
Erin: Absolutely. I've got lots of room on this t-shirt. Don't you worry. Don't you worry. Okay. Dr. Bhatla, please.
Raj: Oh, thanks, Erin. I noticed Ron cheated a little bit, but he used one sentence but gave us multiple things. Well played, Ron.
Erin: Yes, but he used semicolons. It's okay.
Erin: It's okay. We'll give him a break.
Raj: Absolutely. I'm going to maybe focus on your comment that, pick one thing. I'm not too concerned what you pick as an individual, but I would say it's a lovely idea to pick one thing because we tend, in general, to pick too many things. The old New Year's resolution, let's lose weight, live better, eat better, be more work-life balance, et cetera, et cetera. I don't know too many people who succeeded all of those things.
I would say, whatever is right for you, pick something that will make a difference, and pick only one thing if you can. Really try to stick to that. The big three are pick from sleep, exercise, or diet if those things are a challenge. But other than that, you can pick something else. If it's more meditation, taking a lunch break, make sure it's something that's achievable. It doesn't have to be massive, but a small change can make a big difference. Pick the thing that matters most to you, and stick to that.
Erin: Thank you. What a great, great prescription, and I think one that we can all take. I'm glad we didn't have to pick just one guest, because you were both amazing. We are so grateful to you both for joining us here today.
Ron: Thank you, Erin, and also thank you, Dr. Bhatla for what you do every day. It's people like you that are making a difference in our community, and we're very grateful for what you do. Thank you.
Raj: Well, thank you, Ron. It's been an absolute pleasure, Erin. Thanks so much for hosting us. Much appreciated.
Erin: My pleasure. Thank you, gentlemen. As always, we are grateful to you for joining us for this 26th episode of REAL TIME from the Canadian Real Estate Association. We know your time is precious, and we thank you for spending some of it with us.
Be sure to hit that subscribe button and don't miss an episode of REAL TIME, a production of Real Family and Rob Whitehead and Alphabet® Creative. I'm Erin Davis, and we'll talk to you here next time on REAL TIME.