Saturday, May 31, 2008

The SSNS’s 20th Annual Conference - Held Friday, May 30th, 2008

Families as Partners in Mental Health Care

Plenary Speaker

Dr. Gráinne Fadden, Director of Meriden, the West Midlands Family Programme, UK

Developing Effective Partnerships with Families - Benefits and Challenges

To view Dr. Fadden's PowerPoint presentation, please click here (PDF).

Cyril Allan (right), president of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia, with Dr. Gráinne Fadden (please click on the photograph to enlarge it).

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Pamela Forsythe, President, Schizophrenia Society of Canada

"Prejudiced, who me? Are the attitudes of health care professionals contributing to stigma about schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses?"

To view Dr. Forsythe's PowerPoint presentation, please click here (PDF).

Additional Presentations

Ms. Jane Gillis, Pharm.D., Manager, Pharmacare Business Solutions, Nova Scotia Department of Health. An Overview of the Nova Scotia Family Pharmacare Program.

To view Dr. Gillis' PowerPoint presentation, please click here (PDF).

Ms. Patricia Murphy Cosgrove, MSW, RSW, Clinical Social Worker, Nova Scotia Early Psychosis Program. Families: PARTNERS IN RECOVERY (Not Just Rhetoric).

To view Ms. Murphy Cosgrove's PowerPoint presentation, please click here (PDF).

To view the PowerPoint presentation on Vincent van Gogh, please click here (PowerPoint file).

Conference Organizing Committee

Dr. Stephen Ayer, Executive Director, SSNS
Ms. Dachia Joudrey, Vice-President, SSNS

The Conference Brochure is available by clicking here (PDF).

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

"I'm Right, You're Wrong, Now What?"

Dear Friends and Readers,

My latest book, "I'm Right, You're Wrong, Now What?" (Hyperion, 2008) was just released last week. I thought you might be interested as it is my most in depth book on LEAP with many more tools and examples to help readers learn LEAP [Listen-Empathize-Agree-Partner] more easily in a wide range of situations. It grew out of 8 years of doing LEAP seminars and so the book is in many respects the result of a collaboration with thousands of readers and seminar attendees.

If you are interested it is available in bookstores or you can read more about it at (or purchase it there or on

All the best,

Xavier F. Amador, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor
Columbia University

Prisoners of their own worlds

Families need to be aware of schizophrenia as symptoms usually develop in teens

An article published in the May 27th edition of The Chronicle Herald:
By Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

Nigel Bart first had an inkling that something was different about him when on a trip to B.C. after high school graduation he tried to summon the wind.

His family had entered a sailboat race, but there was no wind that day.

"An urge in me thought that maybe if I prayed hard enough I could somehow make the wind blow and make our sailboat win the race," he says.

"So I closed my eyes and I started gesturing with my hands, kind of like making the wind blow, like conducting an orchestra. That was the first clue."

Bart, now 33 and working in Winnipeg, didn’t know anything about schizophrenia at the time. But looking back on events like this one about 15 years ago, there were subtle clues pointing to the onset of mental illness.

"Before a person has what we call a psychosis . . . people are going to have preliminary signs," says Chris Summerville, the interim CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada.

Some of the signs include: change in behaviour, change in sleep patterns, irritability, avoiding social activities, becoming reclusive, difficulty with studies and a change in appearance or hygiene.

"When a person does get a diagnosis of psychosis and schizophrenia, then people often say, ‘Well this is what I did see and I just thought it was adolescence and they were just going through a stressful time.’ "

But the teen years are exactly when the symptoms of schizophrenia can start to show up.

"It has often been called youth’s greatest disabler because with schizophrenia, along with all other major mental illnesses, its primary onset is during adolescence," Summerville says.

He says parents and people who work with adolescents should look for a cluster of symptoms over a period of time — not just somebody having a bad weekend.

Tammy Lambert, 25, started experiencing symptoms of what would later be diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder, which has components of both schizophrenia and mood disorders, when she was 14.

During manic highs she gets a sense of "heaven on Earth" and of prophecies. During periods of depression, a delusion of being under surveillance combines with the depression to make her feel like she’s a bad person and people are conspiring to kill her.

"One time I had a friend over and we were watching television and I got a message from the television," Lambert says, remembering one of her first episodes when she was about 15 years old.

"I said to him, ‘Can you please get out. I don’t want you here right now.’ I thought that he was part of a conspiracy and the message on the television was telling me he was part of the conspiracy. I kicked him out and then I barricaded my doors."

Lambert calls the onset of her symptoms "a gradual process" that culminated in several sleepless nights in a row, a foggy feeling, distorted images in her mind and messages from the television and newspaper.

That’s when she sought help and eventually got her diagnosis, which she says was partly a relief.

"It made me feel good because I actually finally understood what was happening to my mind," she says.

"But then it made me feel bad because nobody wants to accept the fact that they have a mental illness. It’s very stigmatizing. Especially for somebody in high school."

For Bart, it was the time just after high school, when he started studying science at the University of Winnipeg, that his symptoms really started to appear.

"I knew I was different from people," he says.

He began to repress natural urges: hunger, thirst, urination and even sexual urges. He started looking for signs from God or signals in people’s coughs or subtle gestures.

"It was like I was on automatic override," he says.

"I wasn’t making any deliberate conscious movement. I was acting basically all out of what I believed was some kind of spiritual intuition."

Bart would get on the bus in the morning and find himself still riding the bus late into the night after following signals all day.

Bart also felt relieved at hearing a diagnosis, finally "an answer to all of this madness," he says. After that came what he calls his "convalescence period," when he got much-needed support from treatment and his family.

He got a degree in fine arts and now works at Art Beat Studio, which incorporates art with a mental health recovery program.

Lambert is now working toward a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Manitoba and hopes to become an occupational therapist. She also does presentations now on her experiences.

"There really does have to be more education, more understanding of what mental illnesses are and what they entail," she says.

"There is still tons of discrimination."

Up to 70 per cent of people with a mental illness recover, says Summerville, in that they learn how to manage their illness and live rich, full lives.

The major hurdle that still must be overcome is the stigma attached to schizophrenia and mental illness, he says.

"Families need to be just as literate . . . about mental health and mental illness as they are about physical health and physical illness."
Photograph of Nigel Bart by John Woods, The Canadian Press.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Exhibit raises awareness about schizophrenia

From the May 27th edition of the Lethbridge Herald:
By Caroline Boschman

A touring exhibit about people with schizophrenia and the issues they face in homelessness and communicating with medical professionals made its first stop in Lethbridge Monday.

The Hearing (our) Voices display started as a research project conducted by nine people diagnosed with schizophrenia, along with Barbara Schneider, a University of Calgary professor, several graduate students and a graphic artist. The data was obtained through interviews and focus groups with more than 30 people with schizophrenia in Calgary.
To read the entire article, click here.

Original art by Laurie Arney

The 7th Annual Psychiatrists in Blue Conference

Psychiatrists in Blue: Addressing the complexity of mental illness

The 2008 Conference will be held Sunday, November 2nd, to Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, in Edmonton, Alberta.

Call for Presentations...

In Adobe PDF format

In Microsoft Word format

Submission deadline for presentations is June 1st, 2008.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Walk the World for Schizophrenia: Lunenburg County Chapter

The Lunenburg County Chapter of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (LCC-SSNS) held its Walk the World for Schizophrenia event on Sunday, May 18th, in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.

The reception included prizes, draws for a smoker/barbecue and a photograph, a silent auction, food, and entertainment.

Clicking on any of the photographs below will enlarge them.

Ellen Balser, pictured above, was the top pledge gatherer for Walk The World for Schizophrenia in Bridgewater.

Carroll Publicover (above, right), Mayor of Bridgewater, congratulates Ellen Balser, winner of 1st Prize for Top Pledges.

Mayor Publicover congratulates Kay Joudrey (above, right), winner of 2nd Prize for Top Pledges.

Charlene Flint (pictured above) - one of our valuable volunteers!

Many thanks to Brenda Fitzpatrick, Ted Bent, and Eldon Cooper for the musical entertainment and dance lessons!

Denton Conrad, past president of the LCC-SSNS, thanks Stephen Ayer, executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia, for his participation in Walk The World for Schizophrenia 2008.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mental Disorders Cost Society Billions in Unearned Income

Press Release from the U.S. National Institutes of Health - May 7, 2008:
Major mental disorders cost the nation at least $193 billion annually in lost earnings alone, according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The study was published online ahead of print May 7, 2008, in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

“Lost earning potential, costs associated with treating coexisting conditions, Social Security payments, homelessness and incarceration are just some of the indirect costs associated with mental illnesses that have been difficult to quantify,” said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. “This study shows us that just one source of these indirect costs is staggeringly high.”

Direct costs associated with mental disorders like medication, clinic visits, and hospitalization are relatively easy to quantify, but they reveal only a small portion of the economic burden these illnesses place on society. Indirect costs like lost earnings likely account for enormous expenses, but they are very difficult to define and estimate.

In the new study, Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D., of Harvard University, and colleagues analyzed data from the 2002 National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R) , a nationally representative study of Americans age 18 to 64.

Using data from 4,982 respondents, the researchers calculated the amount of earnings lost in the year prior to the survey among people with serious mental illness (SMI). SMI is a broad category of illnesses that includes mood and anxiety disorders that have seriously impaired a person’s ability to function for at least 30 days in the year prior to the survey. It also includes cases of any mental disorder associated with life-threatening suicidal behaviors or repeated acts of violence.

Eighty-six percent of respondents reported earning income in the previous year. But those with SMI reported earning significantly less—around $22,545—than respondents without SMI, who averaged $38,852. Although men with SMI took a greater hit in earnings than women with SMI, men still earned more overall than women with and without SMI.

By extrapolating these results to the general population, the researchers calculated that SMI costs society $193.2 billion annually in lost earnings. The researchers attributed about 75 percent of this total to the reduced income that people with SMI likely earn, while 25 percent is attributed to the increased likelihood that people with SMI would have no earnings.

“The results of this study confirm the belief that mental disorders contribute to enormous losses of human productivity,” said Kessler. “Yet this estimate is probably conservative because the NCS-R did not assess people in hospitals or prisons, and included very few participants with autism, schizophrenia or other chronic illnesses that are known to greatly affect a person’s ability to work. The actual costs are probably higher than what we have estimated.”

The researchers concluded by recommending that future studies on the effectiveness of treatments should consider measuring employment status and earnings over the long term to document the effects of mental disorders on a person’s functioning and ability to remain productive.


Kessler, RC, Heeringa S, Lakoma MD, Petukhova M, Rupp AE, Schoenbaum M, Wang PS, Zaslavsky AM. The individual-level and societal-level effects of mental disorders on earnings in the United States: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. American Journal of Psychiatry, published online ahead of print May 7, 2008.


The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) mission is to reduce the burden of mental and behavioral disorders through research on mind, brain, and behavior. More information is available at the NIMH website.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation’s Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit the NIH website.

Lunenburg County Chapter of the SSNS: Featured Artist

Click on the images to enlarge them.

If you are interested in purchasing any of Richard Balsers' paintings, contact Janice House at (902) 527-1692 or by sending an email to; or call Carolyn Eisner at (902) 543-5418. All paintings are priced at $300 each.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Report highlights impact of future brain drugs on society

From the University of Cambridge:
22 May 2008

A report by the Academy of Medical Sciences which was led by Sir Gabriel Horn FRS FRCP, Emeritus Professor of Zoology at the University states that an increasing number and variety of psychoactive drugs - drugs that act on the brain - will emerge over the next few decades.

Some drugs could bring new treatments for addiction and mental ill health, but others could also increase the burden of drug misuse.
To read the entire article, click here.

Thanks go to John Devlin for bringing this article to my attention.

Overcoming the stigma

Group makes DVD about how mentally ill are treated

From the May 15th edition of The Chronicle Herald:
By Cathy von Kintzl (Truro Bureau)

TRURO — Joe was 15 and in high school when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

"There’s a stigma in high school without mental illness," the young man says on a recently released educational DVD entitled Labelled: Mentally ill.

"It’s a hard place for a lot of kids. Throwing a severe bout of mania into that. . . . There was a lot of judgment from students and teachers. People thought I was on drugs or wanted attention. It was really difficult."

Experiences like Joe’s are reiterated time and again during the 30-minute documentary-style film created by five Colchester County residents who have experienced mental illness either personally, or through family or friends.

"Someone I knew approached me about four years ago with an idea for a video that addresses the stigma about mental illness," co-creator Geoff Alcock of Salmon River said in an interview Wednesday.

"People fear that if someone knows they have a mental illness, they’ll be discriminated against."

And sometimes they are discriminated against at work, in school, in social settings and beyond, he said.

Those situations drove the project team into action.

Mr. Alcock, Jane Bermingham of Truro, Christina Myhre of Central North River and Audrey Bailey and Belinda Meers of Bible Hill held their first meeting in 2005 and applied for funding from the provincial Health Department.

The team got $36,500 and spent three years and countless volunteer hours making the DVD with a professional production company, Densmore’s Video Presentations.

The result is a collection of testimonials from people, like Joe, who are living with mental illness and the health professionals who work with them.

For example, there is Ken, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 31.

"You don’t want to be mentally ill," he said on the DVD. "It’s a disability that we’ve got. It’s not our fault."

Ken blames the media for some public misconceptions he encounters, such as that mentally ill people are dangerous.

"People are unfortunately being educated by the TV and it doesn’t give a realistic portrayal."

Ms. Bermingham said during the same interview with Mr. Alcock that she’d like to see the DVD, which is available free of charge to organizations, in every school and library and in the hands of church, service and community groups so that people of all ages can see it.

"I think family and friends of people diagnosed with mental illness sometimes don’t know how to handle it, what to do," she said.

The group hopes the DVD will help, and members say it isn’t really about educating people about mental illnesses as much as better identifying and overcoming stigmas associated with them.

"I think we’ve come a long way, but we still have a way to go," Ms. Bailey said.

For information, Ms. Bermingham can be reached at 895-8947 and Ms. Bailey at 893-7636.

Audrey Bailey holds a copy of the DVD Labelled: Mentally ill. Other members of the project team are Geoff Alcock, Jane Bermingham and Christina Myhre. (Photograph by Cathy von Kintzel / Truro Bureau)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Canada Spends Less to Treat Mental Illness Than Most Developed Countries: Funding Uneven Across Provinces

Canadian Journal of Psychiatry - MEDIA ADVISORY - May 2008:
Canada lags behind most developed countries when it comes to mental health spending, an article in the May issue of The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found. Dr. Philip Jacobs and authors’ research shows that only 4.8% of total health care spending in Canada (or $197 annually per Canadian) goes to mental health, which is slightly below the 5% that the European Health Economics Network considers to be the minimum acceptable amount. Canada is at the bottom of the barrel along with Italy—almost 2.5% behind the United States. At 12.1%, the United Kingdom spends the largest proportion of its health budget on mental health, although that includes social services costs.

The research also shows significant differences in mental health spending between the provinces. These ranged from an average annual low of $146 per person in Saskatchewan (3.5% of total spending) to a high of $258 in British Columbia (6.4%). The other provinces were: Newfoundland and Labrador, $200 (4.8%); PEI, $231 (5.8%); Nova Scotia, $203 (4.9%); New Brunswick, $242 (6.0%); Quebec, $166 (4.5%); Ontario, $185 (4.3%); Manitoba, $219 (4.9%); and Alberta, $242 (5.6%).

The research also highlights the important need for clear reporting of a consistent set of public and private mental health care expenditures across the provinces, as well as Western countries, so that meaningful comparisons can be made.

Further information:

Expenditures on Mental Health and Addictions for Canadian Provinces in 2003/04 (PDF)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

From the street to Hollywood

Unlikely meeting between columnist, homeless musician results in movie

To read this entire article, written by Belinda Goldsmith and published in the May 13th edition of The Windsor Star, click here.

Also see:

Los Angeles Schizophrenia Story - Juilliard Musician Becomes Homeless

Friday, May 16, 2008

Downloading PDF's from this weblog

Opera has changed the way PDF files are downloaded from their website. All of the PDF files on this weblog were uploaded to Opera (a free service) for downloading by users of this weblog. You will now see the following page when you click to download a PDF file from this weblog:

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Simply click on the "Download file" button to download the PDF file.

I have noticed, however, that in some cases attempting to download a PDF file from this weblog now gives an error message in Adobe Reader. I will try to get an answer from Opera as to why this is happening. I will attempt to resolve this situation as soon as possible. Sorry for the inconvenience.

All PDF files on this weblog are readily accessible if you are using Opera as your web browser.

UPDATE - There is a solution:

To set Adobe Reader as the default program for a PDF download link when clicked in any web browser, follow these instructions:
  1. Run your installed Adobe Reader program by clicking on its icon.
  2. Click on Edit in the menu bar.
  3. Then click on Preferences in the drop-down menu list.
  4. Click on the Internet category on the left pane.
  5. Uncheck / untick the check box for Display PDF in Browser (see image below).
  6. Click OK when done.
  7. Restart your computer.
The next time you download a PDF file, it will automatically open in Adobe Reader instead of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Safari or any other web browser.

Click on the above image to enlarge it.

If you need help, call the SSNS office at 465-2601 or toll-free in Nova Scotia at 1-800-465-2601.

Thanks go to My Digital Life for providing this solution.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Psychiatrist Daniel Fisher Talks About Hope and Recovery

Click on an arrow to start the video.

To visit the National Empowerment Center website, click here.

‘Mad Pride’ Fights a Stigma

To read this article in today's issue of The New Your Times, click here.

Photograph of Liz Spikol by Shea Roggio for The New York Times.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Jane Pauley to accept award

From the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
TV Journalist Jane Pauley (pictured) will be honored at NAMI's National Convention in Orlando for her significant national contributions in the fight against stigma and discrimination. She is the author of Skywriting: A Life out of the Blue, in which she shared her personal experience with bipolar disorder. This month she will moderate a PBS panel discussion in conjunction with the premiere of the documentary, Depression: Out of the Shadows (May 21 at 9:00 p.m.).

New study measures links between mental health, youth delinquency and criminal behaviour

From the Canadian Institute for Health Information:
Hyperactivity, depression, harsh parenting linked to aggression and property delinquency among youth

What: Improving the Health of Canadians: Mental Health, Delinquency and Criminal Activity

April 29, 2008 — Mental health factors, such as one’s level of self-esteem or ability to handle stress, are linked to whether or not a young Canadian will display delinquent behaviour or become involved in criminal activity. According to a new study from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), youth aged 12 to 13 who reported hyperactivity and depression were more likely to report high levels of aggressive behaviour, as well as high levels of delinquent acts involving property. In contrast, new analyses show that youth aged 12 to 15 with high levels of self-esteem, good stress management and self-motivation are more likely to report never engaging in aggressive behaviour.

The study, Improving the Health of Canadians: Mental Health, Delinquency and Criminal Activity, presents new analyses of the latest research, surveys and policy initiatives across Canada related to mental health and criminal behaviour among youth and adults.

“Understanding the links between mental health, mental illness, delinquency and criminal activity requires consideration of both risk and protective factors,” says Jean Harvey, Director of the Canadian Population Health Initiative (CPHI), a CIHI program. “With this understanding, there is greater opportunity for interventions and policies that may be effective at promoting mental health, preventing crime and reducing the risk of repeat offending among those with a mental illness.”

Parenting style and factors at the school and community levels also linked to delinquent and aggressive behaviour

At the school and community levels, feeling connected to one’s school and feeling a positive bond with society are linked to reduced delinquency. In contrast, feeling excluded and isolated can lead to involvement in criminal or delinquent behaviour. For example:
  • 65% of youth who reported being highly involved with their school reported no aggression, compared to 47% of those not as involved; similarly, 66% of youth who said they liked school reported no aggression, compared to 47% of youth who said they did not like school that much.

  • At the community level, risk factors for delinquent or violent behaviour include living in neighbourhoods with a high turnover of residents and high rates of violent crime, and feelings of hopelessness.
More than one in four patients hospitalized for mental illness have a history of criminal behaviour

Almost 10% of the more than 30,000 patients admitted to hospital for a mental illness in Ontario in 2006–2007 had either been charged with, or were involved in, a crime. More than one in four (28%) of these patients were reported to have some history of participation in a criminal act that resulted in police intervention.

“Mental illness affects many Canadians across a broad spectrum of the population, and most of them are not involved with the criminal justice system,” says Dr. Elizabeth Votta, CPHI Program Lead. “However, the numbers show that youth and adults with diagnosed mental illnesses are over-represented in Canada’s correctional facilities.”

Patients with a history of criminal behaviour had significantly more risk factors before their admission to hospital than patients with no criminal history. Most (70%) had been admitted to hospital for mental illness at least once before, just more than 40% had failed or dropped out of an education program and 44% were reported to have a dysfunctional relationship with their immediate family. At discharge, more than 1 in 10 did not expect to have supervision in place for personal safety, 4% expected to be homeless and 3% expected to return to a correctional facility.

Canadian Population Health Initiative

The Canadian Population Health Initiative (CPHI) is part of the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). CPHI conducts and supports research to foster a better understanding of factors that affect the health of individuals and communities; and to contribute to the development of policies that reduce inequities and improve the health and well-being of Canadians.

About CIHI

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) collects and analyzes information on health and health care in Canada and makes it publicly available. Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments created CIHI as a not-for-profit, independent organization dedicated to forging a common approach to Canadian health information. CIHI’s goal: to provide timely, accurate and comparable information. CIHI’s data and reports inform health policies, support the effective delivery of health services and raise awareness among Canadians of the factors that contribute to good health.

Media contacts:

Jennie Hoekstra
cell: 613-725-4097

Holly Lake
613-241-7860 ext. 4066
I highly recommend listening to the webcast about this report available by clicking here.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Letter to the Editor from the SSNS

A letter to the editor published in today's edition of The Chronicle Herald:
Re-engage society

In response to Ainslie MacDougal and Stanley Kutcher’s April 23 opinion piece, a mental health court will better serve the mentally ill by introducing, and sometimes re-introducing, a certain population of these individuals to much needed mental health care. The cost-effectiveness of these courts compared to the traditional means of incarceration is just another indicator of how beneficial these courts will be for everyone.

Our everyday involvement with people who live with schizophrenia/psychosis, as well as their family members and friends, and our expertise with the many issues all of these individuals encounter make the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia a logical collaborator in the mental health court planning process. When the idea was conceived, we were asked to participate in preliminary talks. However, at this point, we have been left out of the planning process. We remain hopeful that the provincial government will re-engage the society as it moves forward with developing a mental health court.

Matthew H.W. Jack, policy adviser, Schizophrenia Society of N.S.

Inspiring Lives Awards

Ms. Gladys R. Wagner was nominated for an Inspiring Lives Award by Dr. Roger Cann and the Kings County Chapter of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia. The photographs below are from the Inspiring Lives Awards Luncheon held yesterday, May 7th.

Gladys Wagner

Gladys Wagner

Cyril Allan, president of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia

Stephen Ayer, executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia

Rick Merrill

Photograph of the screen as Gladys is awarded her Inspiring Lives Award Nomination Plaque

Gladys goes to the podium to accept her Inspiring Lives Award Nomination Plaque.

Myrtle Corkum, executive director of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia, at the podium microphone.

Gladys with her Inspiring Lives Award Nomination Plaque.

Gladys admires her Inspiring Lives Award Nomination Plaque.

Pat MacLean, Rick Merrill, and Gladys Wagner (left to right) after the Inspiring Lives Awards luncheon.

Click on the photographs to enlarge them.

All photographs by Harold Porter.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Recognizing the priority of child and youth mental health

From today's edition of The Chronicle Herald:
Canada celebrates its second National Child and Youth Mental Health Day today, during Mental Health Week (May 5-11), to increase awareness about mental health issues facing young people.

The adolescent years are a critical period of adjustment for both youth and families. Young people go through many physical, mental and emotional changes during adolescence. According to the World Health Organization, mental disorders account for almost one-third of diseases among adolescents worldwide. In Canada, between 15 and 20 per cent of youth suffer from a mental disorder that would benefit from appropriate care. However, accurate and up-to-date information on the scope of this issue is lacking in Canada.

Early, effective identification and intervention for young people suffering from mental illness is essential. Half of all lifelong mental disorders onset before 14 years of age and 70 per cent by age 24. Although effective treatments for many of these disorders are known, for a variety of reasons they are often not readily accessible to or accessed by young people who need them.

As parents and community members, it is important to be aware and understand how youth develop, the challenges they face, and the ways we can help them stay as physically and mentally healthy as possible. Parents are usually the first to notice the symptoms of a mental disorder in their child. But frequently they do not know what the problem is or what to do about it. Often, parents are struggling with their own mental health concerns that further tax their ability to help their child.

So figuring out what the problem is and getting the right kind of help in an effective and timely manner would be of value not only to the young people, but also to their parents and family. Talking to youth about the issue of mental health can be difficult, but it is the best way to understand what they are going through and if they need to get help.

At school, mental health problems can be equally challenging for children and adolescents. For many youth, the transition to new academic and social environments can be difficult and create stress that they are ill-equipped to deal with. Additionally, young adolescents may be experimenting with drugs and alcohol and beginning to engage in other risk-taking activity.

Learning to cope with these changes and build resilience is an important part of being successful in school, especially given that some of the most serious forms of mental illness emerge early in adolescence. Most schools do not supply students with the necessary support to help them address this transitional stage. Strong partnerships between schools and service providers can help educators identify and appropriately refer students who may be experiencing mental health problems.

The workplace is another area where the working parent, the parent’s child/family and the employer can contribute to mental health awareness. It is important for working parents to be well informed about mental disorders and treatments so they can advocate for their children and themselves. Enhancing mental health awareness of working parents and their children may promote mental health and well-being, improve early recognition of mental disorders, enhance appropriate early use of health services and lead to better health, social and economic outcomes for all.

The home, school and workplace are all important environments for advancing youth mental health, but none of these environments can hope to succeed without federal and provincial support. The recent establishment of the Mental Health Commission of Canada is a step in the right direction, as is the recent report Reaching for the Top by Dr. Kellie Leitch, which establishes a blueprint of recommendations for child and youth mental health care. But despite these advances, child and youth mental health care is still not high on many provincial or federal government agendas.

In Canada, only four of 10 provinces have created child and youth mental health policies/plans and there is no national child and youth mental health policy. Furthermore, only one in five of Canadian young people requiring mental health care receive it. Clearly the situation must change.

Mental health care for young Canadians is a right, not a privilege. What would happen in this country if only one in five adults needing hip replacements received them? Or how would we react if 15 to 20 percent of our young people suffered from cardiac disease? The access to mental health services and treatment should be no different for children and youth with mental health problems! The time has come to explore legislating access to timely mental health assessment and care based on the rights of children and youth.

Dr. Stan Kutcher is Sun Life Financial chair in adolescent mental health, director WHO Collaborating Center in Mental Health, Dalhousie University and IWK Health Centre. Dr. Simon Davidson and Dr. Ian Manion are on the executive, Provincial Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Rescuing ‘the Castle’ From Some Dark Days, Architecturally and Medically

From the April 29th edition of The New York Times:
The New York State Inebriate Asylum in Binghamton, N.Y. was built in 1858. Its original purpose was stark: to serve as a government-run treatment center for alcoholics and later "the chronic insane." The vast stone building, one of the early works of Isaac Perry, a prominent New York architect, had been abandoned since 1993. It is known to locals as "the Castle."
To read the entire article, click here.

Thanks go to John Devlin for bring this article to my attention.

Photography by Andrew Henderson for The New York Times.