Strategy Addressing Mental Illness, Op-Ed
Many people have been touched by mental illness, either personally, or through a family member, friend or colleague.
It doesn't discriminate. Mental illness affects people of all ages, from all walks of life. As a former paramedic, I witnessed first-hand the effects that untreated and neglected mental health issues have on Nova Scotians', their families and communities.
I was called to homes on several occasions to bring children struggling with mental illness to the hospital for treatment. My thoughts were always the same: if these children had access to mental health treatment sooner, they would never have gotten to this point.
As Minister of Health and Wellness, I am drawing upon those experiences to make significant and positive changes to the mental health services Nova Scotians receive. Earlier this year, the province issued its first mental health and addictions strategy, called Together We Can. The plan was developed with help from people who shared their personal experiences with mental health and addiction, family members of people with a mental illness and health care providers. Through this strategy, we will address the needs of all Nova Scotians, and implement services that will improve their quality of life.
We know that all of the goals in the mental health and addictions strategy can't be achieved overnight. But I am very proud to say that after only five months, we have begun to work on many of the strategy's commitments.
This month, the province is celebrating key milestones in our movement to strengthen mental health services across the province. We've added four health counselors and two mental health clinicians to every junior and senior high school in the South Shore board, and a new anti-bullying co-ordinator for schools across the province.
This winter we look forward to:
- Putting mental health clinicians in SchoolsPlus families of schools across Nova Scotia to identify and treat mental health problems of children and youth earlier
- Expanding the Strongest Families program provincewide to provide telephone coaching to families that have children with behavioural and anxiety difficulties
- Reducing mental health service wait times to meet standards through new approaches
- Expanding the 1-800 toll-free crisis line across the province to ensure that people with mental health and addiction concerns can talk to someone immediately
- Expanding peer support to help people with mental illness transition successfully from the hospital to their community;
- Funding community agency projects that help Nova Scotians of all ages living with mental illness and addictions
- Working to remove the stigma associated with mental health disorders.
I encourage all Nova Scotians to challenge the common myths and misconceptions surrounding mental health. Reaching out to a member of your community who lives with a mental illness is a great way to begin breaking down those barriers and learning more about the many facets of mental health.