GRAND BANK, NL — “It couldn’t come at a better time for the region.”
That’s what Grand Bank Mayor Rex Matthews had to say following Premier Dwight Ball’s announcement in Grand Bank earlier today, Jan. 22, of more mental health services for the region through a “Roots of Hope” project.
“We lost a lot of our good people through suicide," said Matthews. “We have an opportunity now, over the next three or four years, to make a big difference in mental health issues on the Burin Peninsula and elsewhere.”
During the morning event the premier announced the province would be partnering with the Mental Health Commission of Canada on the project.
The project is a national initiative and one of its creators is a well-known Newfoundlander, Louise Bradley, who works with the Mental Health Commission.
“It’s through their leadership and our partnership that we will see the enhancement of supports that come to our communities. It’s about awareness, it’s about education, it’s giving the peer support for people that find themselves thinking of suicide, thinking about how to deal with mental health and those supports are in the community,” said Ball.
Matthews added the things learned by the people of the Burin Peninsula through this project can then be shared with other parts of Newfoundland and Labrador.
He says the town has seen its share of challenging times over the last number of years, adding mental illness is a complex issue that affects anyone, and sometime there may not be any visible signs.
Valerie Peach, of Grand Bank, is one of those who knows only too well the grief caused by suicide. She lost her husband Leonard to suicide last year.
She told the Southern Gazette she hopes this new program will make a difference for others.
"I was impressed this morning to hear about all the ... programs that are coming with this Roots of Hope (project); I think it's going to make a huge difference not just in Grand Bank, and the Burin Peninsula, but in the province and country as a whole," she said.
"It will take some time, but I'm sure that with all our communities sticking together and helping each other, we can help those that are suffering in our communities and give them the supports that they need."
Ball was joined for the announcement by provincial Health Minister John Haggie; Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada; David Diamond, president and CEO of Eastern Health, and local MHAs.
Eastern Health is also a partner in the project.
The goal of the Roots of Hope project is to reduce the impacts of suicide, as well as bringing new mental health services and supports to the Burin Peninsula.
According to Premier Ball, enhancements that have already been made to mental health services are resulting in a reduction in wait times for people seeking services.
“There has already progress been made and this will take some time,” he said.
In November Eastern Health announced it would offer drop-in mental health and addictions services on the Burin Peninsula, including walk-in clinics in Grand Bank, Marystown and St. Lawrence.
The Roots of Hope project has five primary focus areas:
Specialized supports – a range of prevention, crisis, and postvention services such as crisis lines and support groups;
Training and networks – access to training and learning opportunities to better equip professionals in the community such as physicians, first responders, nurses, human resource staff and teachers;
Public awareness – local information campaigns to promote mental health awareness;
Means restriction – identify the methods or places where a high number of suicides occur and implement measures to restrict access to these methods; and
Research – increase the suicide prevention evidence base.
The project will roll out over the next five years and will cost nearly $2 million.
It is a plan for prevention, explained Haggie, and to change the conversation in the community.
“The stigma is still a real problem, not just for suicide but for mental health in general, that’s going to be addressed through part of this campaign,” he said.
The investment will also mean week-long drop-in mental health services, as well as training and education opportunities for health care professionals and local community leaders, Haggie added.