Friday, March 12, 2010


From the March 8th edition of The Chronicle Herald:

Is the mental health system broken? Find out, starting in Tuesday’s edition of The Chronicle Herald.

The Articles and Videos

Addressing mental health malaise difficult in tough times, but necessary (March 12th)

Desperate measures (March 12th)

Reaching the breaking point (March 12th)

Getting help instead of being put behind bars (March 12th)

Taking treatment to kids (March 11th)

Payment scheme keeps patient numbers down (March 11th)

Balancing treatment, research (March 11th)

Much work to do (March 10th)

VIDEO: Health Minister Maureen MacDonald says mental health care is a priority (March 10th)

Real success or just a mirage? (March 10th)

Integrated care in community best, cheapest (March 10th)

Help just down the hallway (March 10th)

When an option is denied (March 10th)

Mental health: Is our province’s system hurting or helping? (March 9th)

Desperately seeking help for Donnie (March 9th)

The long road to mental health (March 9th)

Mental illness problems common among homeless (March 9th)

Also see:

Success stories

Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act (Nova Scotia)

Nova Scotia's Mental Health Court Program

Spring Lake Ranch

Home on the farm: Working therapeutic farm communities (An article from the fall 2007 edition of Schizophrenia Magazine, PDF)

Letters to the editor:

March 24th
Mental health clinics work

Awareness key

I would like to thank The Chronicle Herald for exploring the challenges facing mental health services in Nova Scotia. It is a difficult topic to cover thoroughly, as issues of confidentiality often prevent mental health professionals from disclosing details of illness and treatment in specific cases. Mental illness is difficult for patients and families, as well as for treating physicians. As in other medical conditions, many psychiatric illnesses have poor prognosis and the best treatments sometimes prove ineffective.

As a medical student, I am learning the importance of advocating for patients. Treatments available in Nova Scotia are top-notch but most mental illnesses are chronic conditions requiring many resources to optimize outcomes. Growing strains on the health-care system and limited resources add another dimension to the challenges of treatment. I am in the process of completing a six-week psychiatry rotation at the QEII and have seen first-hand both the difficulties faced by patients as well as the dedication and compassion of members of the mental health team.

Increased public awareness of the need for further supports is a great step toward ensuring these patients have the necessary resources.

Blair Williams, Halifax

March 19th
Don’t discount positives

In response to the March 12 article "Reaching the breaking point," I would like to share that I have been a mental health consumer under the care of Dr. David Mulhall since 1997. The care I have received from Valley Regional Hospital’s mental health unit and its staff has been paramount in my recovery. Please don’t discount the fact that numerous consumers have received and are receiving proper care from the hospital and its range of services.

It may not be a perfect system, and it’s not black and white, but I agree with Dr. John Campbell, who says he has "confidence in the people who work within our system."

Barbara Martin, Wolfville

Research topics

Regarding the Capital District Health Authority: Hats off to Dr. William O. McCormick, psychiatrist, for his March 12 letter "Hospital open and active." He stated the facts about the Nova Scotia Hospital not being closed, and about its Allied Sites.

People should not comment in public before they fully research their topics.

Emmalee Hopkins, Halifax

March 18th

Troubled times for mental health: What can we do right now?

March 17th
Unique contribution

Mental health is certainly everybody’s business and it is imperative that the public has adequate knowledge and education in order to make informed decisions about individual needs.

The March 10 article "Real success or just a mirage?" contains some comments that could lead to a misconception about the qualifications of psychologists and their role in mental health. An understanding of the unique contribution that psychologists make in the provision of mental health services plays an integral part of public education and informed decision-making.

Registered psychologists in Nova Scotia are uniquely qualified to diagnose and provide treatment for a spectrum of mental health disorders. Psychologists are involved across the continuum of care — from prevention, diagnosis and intervention to the treatment of acutely ill individuals. Ultimately, working toward an environment where individuals can be offered services from an interdisciplinary team of professionals is an advantage to the client or patient.

On another note, it was wrong for the title of your series on mental health services in Nova Scotia to contain the words "Broken minds," with a graphic of a head with a shattered hole in it against a backdrop of machine cogs. This image promotes a stereotype of mental illness.

Dean Perry, R.Psych., Public Education Co-ordinator,
Association of Psychologists of N.S.

March 14th
Real progress made every day

IN LIGHT of The Chronicle Herald’s special report on mental health last week, I thought it was the right opportunity to shine a light on some of the positive work being done for mental health care right here in our community.

This past week, we have heard about the holes in the province’s health care system, the disparity of funding allocated to mental health care and heart-wrenching stories of families and individuals affected by mental illness.

While these are all important stories to tell, perhaps the real message here is about awareness.

In last Wednesday’s article titled "Much work to do," Health Minister Maureen MacDonald was quoted as saying, "We won’t fix the mental health system, but we will make some real progress."

Let us be reminded that real progress is being made every day.

Yes, there are funding limitations, a provincial deficit and poor distribution of health care funds. But each day, we are more impressed by our community’s willingness to give their time and effort to help raise awareness about the prevalence of mental illness.

In April, the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia will launch our first-ever capital campaign in support of mental health, Opening Minds. This groundbreaking campaign aims to raise $3 million to improve mental health care services for individuals who are affected by mental illness.

Anyone can support this campaign, whether it’s by making a financial contribution, volunteering their time or spreading the word throughout their community about the need for support.

While there is still much work to be done, the Foundation has made major strides in changing the way people think about mental illness — and you, too, can help make a difference.

Fred MacGillivray, Chair, Board of Trustees, Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia

March 12th
Hospital open and active

We who are mental health professionals are following with interest the articles this week. It is very disappointing that the March 10 front-page article "Much work to do" contained misleading information. Outlining our health minister’s experience, the article stated: "She … worked at Dalhousie Legal Aid and the Nova Scotia Hospital before it was closed in favour of a community-based mental health model."

It is no more true that the Nova Scotia Hospital has been closed than to say that the Victoria General Hospital or the Halifax Infirmary has been closed because they are now part of the Capital District Health Authority (CDHA). At the Nova Scotia Hospital, we have the following: the only in-patient unit for the seniors’ mental health service of CDHA; the only in-patient unit in the province for those with dual diagnoses of mental illness and developmental delay; two rehabilitation units for persons with very severe and persistent mental illness; one of the three acute in-patient units in CDHA mental health program.

A number of other programs which, along with the parent hospital, we refer to as "the Nova Scotia Hospital and Allied Sites" are, indeed, community-based, including three of the five out-patient clinics in CDHA.

I am proud to be just three weeks short of completing 21 years association with this important Dalhousie University department of psychiatry teaching hospital.

William O. McCormick, psychiatrist, Mental Health Services

March 10th
Signs of hope

We appreciate the initiative you have taken in focusing on mental health in Nova Scotia. In Tuesday’s paper, you highlight a few shortcomings. There are also signs of hope. More staff and money may not be the total solution.

First: There are talented and committed professionals seeking to make a difference. There is the early intervention program, with mental health professionals working with school staff to identify young people who could develop mental illness. We could back them up with volunteers for support groups and provide activities for those at risk.

Second: Family members are available to supplement professional treatment. In many instances, they provide the majority of the care, at no cost to the Department of Health. They need to be welcomed, valued and integrated into the total package.

Third: Those who "consume" mental health services for themselves and who are on the recovery journey from their illness are a valuable resource. They can be the sympathetic ear and a model/partner for others who are ill.

We shall read the subsequent issues of The Chronicle Herald with interest.

Rev. Roger Cann, New Minas

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