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Communities need to work together to combat mental health problems: CMHA-NL

CMHA-NL CEO Dan Goodyear at the vigil for Victoria Best in Clarenville in December.
CMHA-NL CEO Dan Goodyear at the vigil for Victoria Best in Clarenville in December. - Katherine Simmons photo

ST. JOHN’S, NL — Better communication about mental health is exactly what communities need more of, according Dan Goodyear, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association NL (CMHA-NL).

People across Canada are encouraged to talk about mental health on Bell Let’s Talk Day, Wednesday, Jan. 31.

As Goodyear told the Packet earlier in January, better mental health services need to be wholly supported by local communities as well.

Goodyear says services relating to response and treatment for mental health concerns should be more accessible — but that has to come from many organizations, not just CMHA or Eastern Health.

“There are many good organizations in the community that I think, through a collective and collaborative approach, we can certainly help meet the needs of a lot of people.”

Goodyear says while awareness of mental health “has never been better,” this comes with the expectation of a broader range of services with easy access for individuals.

“We need for people to access resources in the community when they need it, and in an efficient and effective manner,” he said. “And in a manner that’s not going to be costly for them to get to that service, or costly in a time perspective, where they have to wait three weeks to see someone, or three months, or 36 months,” said Goodyear.

Various levels of government have already taken steps to help improve access to resources.

At a recent council meeting, the Town of Clarenville pledged to help organize and participate in mental health initiatives in the community.

On Tuesday, they furthered that plan and named Coun. John Pickett as council’s representative on a planned community coalition for mental health.

Goodyear says instances like these are good first steps.

“(It would be ideal) if we all sat around the table and said, ‘This is our community. How can we best address the needs?’

“If we work together, we can provide a better system.”

He added community groups should include people with lived experience, including those living with mental illness, high school mental health committees and other organizations.

In January, the provincial government endorsed a plan to further regional mental health initiatives in health care across Atlantic Canada. The province has also partnered with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, a community coalition and Eastern Health to launch a suicide prevention project called “Roots of Hope” on the Burin Peninsula.

This week, the provincial government announced “DoorWays” went province-wide after previously being available only in Eastern Health. DoorWays is a single-session walk-in mental health and addictions service.

The CMHA is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Goodyear says the organization has had a framework with resources for many years.
Now, it needs more focus on prevention and awareness, and further community cooperation.

He can remember that even in the last 15 to 25 years, mental health problems were once considered a joke. Now, “we are closer than ever to where we need to be.

“To capitalize on that … it’s up to us to come together as a collective group … and say ‘What are things that we have? How can we do things differently?’”

Eastern Health’s community services centre on Coish Place.
Eastern Health’s community services centre on Coish Place.

Eastern Health’s protocol on mental health crisis treatment

So what happens when someone experiencing a mental health crisis needs help?

The Packet reached out to Eastern Health to better understand the protocol when someone in this situation comes to a health care facility.

In a release sent to the Packet, Eastern Health outlined its methods of response to mental health crises.

The release detailed Eastern Health’s “stepped care” approach, which involves matching individuals to the most appropriate level of care based on their specific needs; an approach implemented in all community services in the region.

The stepped care approach includes levels ranging from self-managed care to therapist-assisted care, skill-based groups, intensive group therapy, individual therapy and specialized services.

For first response in an emergency department, Eastern Health states in the release that when an individual presents to an E.R. with mental health concerns, they are first triaged by a nurse, who assesses the patient’s overall health — including mental health.

After undergoing a psychiatric assessment, the person is seen by a physician who may consult psychiatry for further assessment.

Depending on the outcome of the assessment, the individual may either be admitted to hospital or discharged home with a follow-up plan. The plan includes a possible referral to community mental health and addictions services, or other health care clinician.

This is where the stepped care approach comes in for further care.

Eastern Health also referenced the 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Line — 709-737-4668, or toll free at 1-888-737-4668 — as a service available to the public that can lead to recommended emergency services.

The release also detailed the new “Doorways” initiative, a mental health and addictions walk-in counselling service offered at a number of sites throughout the region. Health-care professionals, including psychologists, nurses, addictions counselors and social workers offer single-session therapy services on a first-come, first-served basis to those who feel they need to speak to someone right away.

Walk-in clinics are available in Clarenville, Ferryland, Harbour Grace, Holyrood, Whitbourne, Marystown and St. John’s. The clinics are open to men, women and children over the age of 12.
For the Doorways schedule and more information on community-based services, go to

Twitter: @jejparsons

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