Don't worry, be happy.
That's the gist of what will be taught in a new course being offered by the Canadian Mental Health Association in New Westminster.
Starting next month, the eight-week Living Life to the Full program will show people how to deal with negative thoughts that can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.
Using easy-to-read booklets with titles like, The Things You Do That Mess You Up, and 10 Things You Can Do To Feel Happier Straight Away, the idea is to help anyone of any age with the most common struggles.
"It's 12 hours that can change your life," said Eric Sault, community support worker and co-facilitator of the program. "It really gives people the opportunity to take care of their own mental health. I think it was a former participant who said, 'It's skills versus pills.'"
Developed by a psychiatrist in the U.K., the course is based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which is a goal-based psychotherapy that addresses the way thoughts can affect feelings and behaviour.
So far, the course has proven its worth.
Of a group of 480 people in Northern Ireland who took the program, 80 per cent were depressed and only 20 per cent were either happy or not depressed at the start. At the end of the program, the numbers were reversed, with 83.3 per cent reporting they were happy or not depressed, and only 16 per cent saying they were depressed.
Here in New Westminster, anyone is welcome to sign up for the course, and they do not need to have a referral or a pre-existing mental health concern.
It's an education program, not group therapy, Sault noted.
"It's geared for everybody," he said. "I mean, everybody has things they'd like to improve, and everybody can think negatively at times, right?"
In B.C., the course has been offered 29 times to more than 380 people during a pilot program from April 2010 through March 2011.
Of the 228 people who completed the evaluation, 85 per cent said the course was either useful or very useful and 91 per cent said they would recommend the course to their family and friends, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association B.C. branch.
Sault said the association hopes to run the program on an on-going basis, with another session in New Westminster likely beginning in January.
The Living Life to the Full course is running for eight Saturdays, from Nov. 3 to Dec. 22 from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in Room 1811 at Douglas College at 700 Royal Ave. in New Westminster. Cost per person is $150.
Register by email at email@example.com or by phone at 604-516-8080, ext. 31.
For more information about the course, visit www.llttf.ca.