SYDNEY — For the past few weeks, Linda Alderson [pictured] has been working long hours to make sure an international conference on mental health goes off without a hitch.
Psychosocial Rehabilitation Canada, a national association of individuals and organizations committed to the provision and growth of psychosocial rehabilitation services to support the recovery of persons with serious mental health issues.
Enhancing Recovery: Community, Culture and Family is the theme of the conference, which takes place from today until Thursday at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre. Participants from across Canada as well as the United States, Sweden, United Arab Emirates and Singapore are taking part in the conference.
“The conference is not only a wonderful opportunity to network and share information,” says Alderson, “but it also allows people from Cape Breton to attend a high-quality event that features the latest research and advancements in the field.”
The conference is open to Cape Breton District Health Authority staff, anyone with mental illness and their families, community agencies and employers who have staff with mental illness.
Bursaries to help with registration are available for district staff, people with mental illness and/or their families. So far, fundraising efforts have managed to raise enough money to allow more than 30 Cape Bretoners to attend the conference who normally wouldn’t have the resources to pay the $350 needed for the entire registration package.
“We are really good at fundraising,” she says. “We were committed to giving the general public a chance to attend the conference.”
About 250 people are expected to take in the conference, a number which Alderson says reflects well on Cape Bretoners.
“That’s a statement in itself,” she says. “At last year’s conference in Ottawa, they had the same number of participants. Here we are, attracting the same number as in a major centre.”
The first full day of sessions on Tuesday begins with a presentation from Keith Anderson, a local lawyer who will discuss his journey through depression. Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, will give an update on the commission. Concurrent presentations and workshops will take place throughout the afternoon.
Ambassador Awards will also be given out that day, including one to Alderson herself. Alderson will receive an Ambassador Award for making Cape Breton a leader in psychosocial rehabilitation in Nova Scotia. She is founding member of PSR Canada, past member of PSR Canada’s board of directors and past-president of PSR Nova Scotia. Alderson also currently sits on the PSR policy committee as well as several other committees and boards, locally, provincially and nationally.
“I’m quite humbled to be receiving this award,” she says. “I’ve been in the the mental health field for more than 30 years. My passion is in supporting people to live better and have more fulfilling lives. To receive an award like this is fabulous.”
Dr. John Higenbottam, clinical associate professor in the schizophrenia division of the University of British Columbia, will receive the other Ambassador Award.
The second day of the conference on Wednesday features presentations, concurrent sessions and workshops.
The final day of the conference on Thursday is a half-day session that features Sheila Morrison’s presentation “Lessons I Have Learned — A Mother’s Story.” In her presentation, Morrison will talk about how she helped and encouraged her daughter to move forward following treatment for a difficult psychosis. Jocelyn Greene from St John’s, N.L., will discuss social enterprise and building a community where those with mental illness are included. There will also be a presentation from the First Nations culture perspective.
Conference sponsors are include Addiction Services, Mental Health Services, Department of Psychiatry-Cape Breton District Health Authority, Family Working Group and the Department of Psychiatry-Capital Health/Dalhousie University.
If you are attending this conference, be sure to visit the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia's Information Booth!