Mental Health Resilience

Resources Prepared by Mr. J. Mitchell, 2021

As colleagues, we understand the pressures and exhaustion that comes with the pursuit of this profession. As an IMG, the barriers to residency and various medical career opportunities may seem monumentous. Mental health resilience is essential, though not often discussed openly in our community circles. 

During our recent workshop with Mr. Jake Mitchell, a community first responder and registered social service worker in the city of Toronto, and our founder, Dr. Adri-Anna Aloia, we were able to explore this concept of mental health resilience, what it means for the IMG physician community and how to achieve and nurture the development of mental health resilience. 

Rewatch Our Full Workshop Again Here


It is important to take time to recognize your needs, triggers and distress situations throughout your training in medicine. Your needs will change through time and depending on how well you attend to the various aspects of physical, mental, social and emotional self requirements. This brings into focus the concept of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs which all contribute towards optimal self satisfaction and optional function. 

Recognizing our moods and responses may be confusing to grasp at first, but, as presented in the workshop attached, here are some feelings that may give insight into your current environment and how it may affect your personal goals (as seen in workshop):

The human body is incredibly complex in that everything it does is with intent to protect YOU! While it doesn’t seem as such at times, there may be a “threat” to your comfort that you may not be recognizing in this moment which may be compromising your various needs described above. Having a plan of approach is a good way to ensure that you allow yourself to attend to an uncomfortable, stressful or upsetting situations. Use the ABCD approach when addressing these situations and/or asking for help:

Assess risk of harm to self or others

Build connection and understanding

Connect with appropriate resources

Discuss healthy self-care options


This will take time. And that’s okay. It is also okay to ask for help, confide in a colleague and seek professional support along the way - even if you may perceive your current situation as “not that bad”. We at the foundation recognize that many of our colleagues mask their mental health status for fear of judgement, stigma and perceptions of “weakness”. As your colleagues, we would like to encourage you to seek professional help and assistance throughout your training and career endeavours - because helping yourself allows you to effectively help others. 


Mental Health Statistics in Canada

Recognizing our moods and responses may be confusing to grasp at first, but, as presented in the workshop attached, here are some feelings that may give insight into your current environment and how it may affect your personal goals (as seen in workshop):

Eustress (Optimal Arousal)

Distress (Hyper-arousal)

Dysfunction (Hypo-arousal)

Cognitive flow


Radical acceptance

Increased potential

Normal mood fluctuations

Usual coping behaviours





Increased substance-use/gambling

Irritability or mood swings



Poor cognitive performance

Emotional crisis or shutdown

Unable to maintain daily routines

Impulsive behaviours and/or increased substance use issues

*Note that the chart above should be viewed as a continuum in that an individual may alter between states of arousal. 


Sometimes our dips may seem a little more constant. Recognizing the signs and seeking professional support can help bring you back to your optimal arousal and hopefully promote healthy development and coping mechanisms. 

What is Depression

Clinical Depression

Bipolar Disorder

Record Numbers of PTSD in First Responders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)


What is Addiction?

Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong

What Happens To Your Body And Brain If You Don't Get Sleep 

Not sure where to start? Take the moment and sit with it for a bit of time. Practicing mindfulness and self-awareness in your current circumstance will help you anticipate distress signs and plan how to move effectively from the moment of distress towards eustress, rather than progress towards dysfunction or a state of elongated distress. Recommended (as discussed in workshop) are the following steps for practicing mindfulness and body scanning: 

  1. Reset in a comfortable position
  2. Take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth
  3. Allow your muscles to relax head-to-toe (pay attention to each part of your body)
  4. Notice any physical sensations throughout your body
  5. Pay attention to areas where you feel tension, pressure, pain or other sensations
  6. Continue taking deep breaths as you become more aware of that feeling (these may be areas related to your psychological state and stress)


It is important to recognize that we are all colleagues and are able to help one another when in distress or states of dysfunction. Recognizing a colleague in distress, offering encouragement and recommendations towards positive support outlets within your institution and community, can create a fruitful work environment and better culture towards mental health empowerment. As colleagues, being able to respond to emotional crisis situations and employing harm reduction tactics is an essential skill. We hope that the following video will help empower you to respond and support a colleague appropriately. 


Harm Reduction Tactics