NOTE: The following is an op-ed piece by Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey.
Mental health is an issue that’s important to all of us, as it touches so many of our families and friends. In fact, one in five Canadians is affected by mental illness. That’s why the government will keep looking for ways to improve how mental health care is delivered and how Nova Scotians access that care.
When an individual needs help, the last thing they should have to worry about is where to turn. That’s why we are creating a new central intake system that will make it much easier to access mental health support.
We also know the importance of community-based care. We are committed to enhancing community-based mental health supports across the province by adding 35 new mental health clinicians over the next four years.
For Nova Scotians who need more than community supports, or for those in need of urgent care, we have also committed to expanding crisis services in the province. Many go to their emergency departments when they are in crisis. We’ll continue to support those teams. The next step is to ensure patients get follow-up from mental health specialists for ongoing support and to develop a care plan.
Recently my colleague, Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Zach Churchill, and I announced more mental health services to help residents in Cape Breton. We will support the expansion of CaperBase, a mental health support and outreach program for youth, and are providing funding for the hiring of two guidance counsellors and a social worker on the island.
Experts say it’s important to be able to start treatment for mental illness early and that’s why the government has made youth mental health a priority. We also recognize the need to help parents support their children.
Through community mental health grants we’re supporting organizations like the Strongest Families Institute, a not-for-profit organization that provides supports to families on everything from dealing with challenging toddler behavior to managing teenage anxiety. There is no wait time, so families can begin intervention quickly. Visit strongestfamilies.com to see how the program works.
In addition to including mental health in the curriculum, many schools are staffed with guidance counsellors, social workers and SchoolsPlus mental health clinicians who offer support and counselling in relation to mental health and other issues. We will be expanding the SchoolsPlus program to all schools by 2019, hiring 51 new mental health clinicians, facilitators and community outreach workers.
Go-To Training is also offered in schools. It trains staff that students trust to identify mental health concerns, and supports them in helping students get access to the services they need. We’ve ensured that each school board has Go-To trainers, and we recommend that each high school have at least two staff members trained to offer this valuable service.
As Dr. Stan Kutcher, an expert in adolescent mental health, reminded us recently, there is always more we can do. I am committed to seeing that happen.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, our provincewide crisis line is available 24/7 by calling 1-888-429-8167. If you are a young person struggling with a problem big or small, visit kidshelpphone.ca to chat live, or call 1-800-668-6868.