Friday, December 28, 2012

Please help the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia continue to make a difference

Please click on an image to magnify it.

To download a PDF version of the above letter, please click here.

The Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia is featured in The Coast’s "Give Guide 2012"

To read the article, please click here. To view the entire Give Guide 2012, please click here.

To make an online donation to the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (SSNS), please click here. Tax receipts are immediately issued by email. Online contributions can be made using Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Interac, or PayPal, and there is also an option for monthly giving.

To donate by telephone using Visa or MasterCard, please contact the SSNS at (902) 465-2601 or 1-800-465-2601. You can also mail your donations to the SSNS at the address provided below. In order that your tax receipt can be provided to you, please include your mailing or email address with your contribution.
Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia
Room B-23, Purdy Building
P.O. Box 1004
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
B2Y 3Z9

Image courtesy of The Coast.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

211 Nova Scotia - Launching February 2013

A message from to all non-profit groups in Nova Scotia:
In Nova Scotia, a wide variety of human, social and health related services are offered by local community groups, non-profit agencies and government departments. Finding the right service at the right time though, can be a real challenge.

Beginning next February, a “211” service will provide Nova Scotians with a free, confidential information and referral program for the thousands of these services provided across the province. It will be available throughout the province, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by simply dialling “2-1-1” to speak to a helpful staff member, or by searching our on line database, which will be up and running when 211 launches.

To help Nova Scotians in every community and make good use of your services and programs, we need complete and accurate information. We want to ensure all services provided by community groups have been included for each and every community in Nova Scotia. 211 Nova Scotia is inviting all non-profit providers of human, social and health related services in communities throughout the province to contact us to confirm that the 211 database has the right information about your service. We are a non-profit association – there is no cost to any organization to have information included in our database. You can reach our team members by calling 902-466-5721 or emailing We welcome inquiries from the general public as well. Information about 211 is available on our website at This service is supported by the Province of Nova Scotia and the United Way.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Missed point of talk

A letter to the editor posted online today by
I wanted to acknowledge South Shore Now for reporting on an event held several weeks back — the AGM of the South Shore District Health Authority. At this event, I spoke about issues very close to my heart, and engaged in a lively discussion with some very caring and intelligent health-care workers and citizens.

Around the same time, I was asked to speak to a journalism class taught by a friend of mine at the Dartmouth Nova Scotia Community College. I was asked to speak on the representation of mental illness in the media. For this talk, I have chosen to highlight your article, entitled “Mental health advocate calls for collaborative approach to wellness.

In this article by Keith Corcoran, the credibility of the speaker (myself) is challenged from the very top of the article by the rather sensationalist and jarring placement of the first line, which refers to my contemplation of suicide as a preteen. If such a detail needs to be mentioned (which, given the context of the talk I gave, it doesn’t) it could be somehow contextualized, or even placed further down in the article. It also refers to my experience with schizophrenia in terms that are not the current way to define a person who has been given said diagnosis.

Mr. Corcoran decided to refer to me as a “schizophrenic with a history of anorexia, anxiety and depression.” Unlike the other experiences, the schizophrenia piece of my life was not delegated to my history, but was instead how I was principally defined. I am an artist, a registered counsellor and psychotherapist intern, a public speaker and a person with a lived experience of schizophrenia — not a “schizophrenic.”

Indeed, my mental illness was the gateway to my understanding the mental health system from the inside, and was the reason I decided to become a clinician myself, but it was not the point of my talk at the AGM that night. The point of my talk was to help clinicians to remember why they got into the helping profession in the first place, to give my humble perspective, and to think about some directions we might take to keep ourselves in touch with why we continue to choose to help others.

It was essentially about mindfulness for mental health professionals. And although I made a provocative joke in my speech hinging on a concept that was omitted from this article, I would be careful in the future about the paraphrasing of critical statements about persons’ experiences with mental health care.

By missing the point of my talk, and by defining me as an illness first, person second, you have not only hurt me, but have hurt all of the other people who fight against the stigma of mental illness every day in your area. And for those who are already prejudiced about those who experience mental illness, well, you have given them one more juicy tidbit to gossip about.



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Using Theatre to Illustrate and Explore Serious Mental Illness

A November 9th media advisory from the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia:
November 9, 2012
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Media Advisory

Living with serious mental illnesses featured in two original plays.


An Evening of Forum Theatre & Heartwood (by, Laura Burke)


Jill Rogers, Catriona Wallace, Stephen Ayer, and Courtney Siebring perform an interactive piece of theatre that explores what it is like to live with a serious mental illness. The audience is invited to enter the world of the play – one filled with discrimination, condescension, and injustice – and create change.

Written and performed by Laura Burke, Heartwood is a one woman play that illustrates a young woman's struggles with serious mental illness and explores how she begins to heal from its impact through the use of humour, and through the discovery that giving back to others is exactly how she will recover, and reinstate meaning in her life.


Friday, November 9, 2012
7:30 pm to 10:00 pm


5568 Cunard Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia

About the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia

The Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia works to improve the quality of life for those affected by schizophrenia through education, support programs, influencing public policy, and encouraging research.

In addition to the provincial office located in Dartmouth, the Society has chapters or support groups conducting monthly support group meetings in Cumberland County, Halifax Regional Municipality, Kings County, Lunenburg County, and Pictou County.

Media Contact

Dr. Stephen Ayer
Phone: (902) 465-2601

Friday, November 2, 2012


From the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University:
Voices of Recovery is a combination of stories and Photovoice, which includes a photograph and a short narrative explaining the personal meaning behind the picture from the photographer’s point of view.

Also see:


Sunday, October 28, 2012

PowerPoint Presentation Slides - Stigma: Not Here, Thank You

The Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia's

24th Annual Conference

Plenary Speaker

Beyond the Shadows of Psychiatric Prejudice and Discrimination

Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation
Boston University
Boston, Massachusetts

Keynote Speaker

Fighting Stigma
Founding Member
Stigma – Discrimination Working Group
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Ottawa, Ontario


Chief of Psychiatry
Cumberland Health District
Amherst, Nova Scotia

Additional Presentations

YOUth Against Stigma: It Starts With YOU
Stella Ducklow (second from right)
IWK Health Centre
Halifax, Nova Scotia

YOUth Against Stigma Video (to be uploaded)

Laing House & Youth Speak
Ron Patterson (centre), Robert Knockwood (second from left), Joel Maxuel (far left),
and Dan Peladeau (second from right)
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Laing House Video

Stigma and the Justice System
Constable David Fairfax (right), Bridgetown RCMP

PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

How Stigma Affects Families
Terri Vernon (right), Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia

PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

Conference Sponsors

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Media Advisory from the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia

Stigma: Not Here, Thank You

October 25, 2012
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Media Advisory – Photo and Interview Opportunity

Anti-stigma initiatives to be highlighted during the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia’s annual conference.

What: The Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia is holding its 24th annual conference.

Who: Dr. Zlatka Russinova of Boston University will speak on “Beyond the Shadows of Psychiatric Prejudice and Discrimination” and Dr. Pippa Moss, a founding member of the Canadian Psychiatric Association’s Stigma–Discrimination Working Group will present on “Fighting Stigma”. Other presentation topics include youth and stigma, stigma and the justice System, and how stigma affects families.

When: Friday, October 26, 2012, 9:00 am to 4:30 pm

Where: McInnes Room, Student Union Building, Dalhousie University, 6136 University Avenue, Halifax, Nova Scotia


About the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia

The Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia works to improve the quality of life for those affected by schizophrenia through education, support programs, influencing public policy, and encouraging research.

In addition to the provincial office located in Dartmouth, the Society has chapters or support groups conducting monthly support group meetings in Cumberland County, Halifax Regional Municipality, Kings County, Lunenburg County, and Pictou County.

Media Contact

Dr. Stephen Ayer
Phone: (902) 465-2601

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mental illness and addictions costing Ontarians years of life

An October 10th media advisory from Public Health Ontario:
First study of its kind opens eyes to the burden of mental illness and addictions in province

TORONTO, Oct. 10, 2012 /CNW/ - Mental illness and addictions are often misunderstood, misdiagnosed, or ignored by many, including those in the health care system. A groundbreaking report from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and Public Heath Ontario (PHO), Opening Eyes, Opening Minds, quantifies the burden of selected mental illnesses and addictions. The overall burden of mental illness and addictions is more than 1.5 times that of all cancers and more than seven times that of all infectious diseases.

"It is clear that Ontarians suffer a high burden of disease from mental illness and addictions," said Dr. Vivek Goel, President and CEO, Public Health Ontario. "This report gives decision-makers sound evidence to support what has been the experience of many: Mental illness and addictions carry a heavy burden on our society, one we can no longer afford to bear."

The report, supported by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and McMaster University, shows that the high burden is due largely to three factors: the emergence of these conditions early in life, the conditions' prolonged durations and their relatively high prevalence. The early onset of mental illness and addictions coincides with a time of major life transitions, such as completion of high school, transition to higher education, entry into the workforce, and marriage. The disruption of these transitions exacts a significant personal and social cost to individuals and society as a whole.

"We calculated the burden of selected mental illnesses and addictions in Ontario by looking at their impact on early deaths as well as on the quality of life. In many cases this burden is substantially more than that of other illnesses such as cancers and infectious diseases," said Sujitha Ratnasingham, lead author and epidemiologist at ICES.

Treatments for individuals suffering from these conditions are often underutilized, and an explicit population focus on mental health promotion, mental illness and substance misuse prevention is often lacking.

"However, there is hope and it's important to remember that these conditions are treatable. If we increase the likelihood that people seek and get timely access to treatments, the burden for individuals and the entire population will be reduced," said Dr. Paul Kurdyak, co-author, ICES Scientist and Chief, Division of General and Health Systems Psychiatry at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Public health is poised to address mental health and addictions at the population level. "The public health system strives to prevent chronic diseases, injuries and substance misuse. This report will be an important source of information to assist public health in planning and evaluating these local programs and services," said Dr. Robert Kyle, Commissioner and Medical Officer of Health, Durham Region Health Department.

"This report tells us that mental health and public health practitioners, policy-makers and researchers need to work together to identify and enhance health promotion and intervention strategies for the population at large, while improving access to treatment for those suffering from mental illness and addictions," said Dr. Goel.

Notable findings from Opening Eyes, Opening Minds: The Ontario Burden of Mental Illness and Addictions Report include:
  • The overall burden for selected mental illnesses and addictions was more than 1.5 times as much as all cancers and more than seven times as much as all infectious diseases.
  • These five conditions had the highest burden: depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol use disorders, social phobia, and schizophrenia.
  • Depression has the highest overall burden, accounting for a third of the total burden.
  • Alcohol use disorders accounted for 88 per cent of all deaths attributed to mental illness and addictions and 91 per cent of years lost due to early death.
  • In Ontario, new cases of mental illnesses and addictions in an average year lead to more than 600,000 future health-adjusted life years lost.
While staggering, this represents only a portion of the burden. The researchers were not able to incorporate suicides, co-morbidities, nor were all mental illnesses and addictions included.
Early detection and timely intervention are critical to reduce lifelong burden of disease.

Public Health Ontario is a Crown corporation dedicated to protecting and promoting the health of all Ontarians and reducing inequities in health. As a hub organization, Public Health Ontario links public health practitioners, front-line health workers and researchers to the best scientific intelligence and knowledge from around the world. For more information about Public Health Ontario, visit

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.

SOURCE: Public Health Ontario
For further information:

Nicole Helsberg, PHO, 647 260 7247,

Deborah Creatura, ICES, 416 480 4780,

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Canada Post Community Foundation 2012 Grant Recipients

Dalhousie University and the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia


Community Pharmacy Collaborative


Halifax, Nova Scotia


To promote collaborative relationships between those suffering from mental illness and community pharmacists. Mobilizing community pharmacists (an underutilized group of health professionals) for the benefit of clients suffering from mental illness, through “knowledge nodes” that team pharmacists with individuals living with mental illness. These “nodes” will develop material that pharmacists can use to provide support to clients with mental health issues.


Three knowledge nodes (total six pharmacists and six individuals experienced with mental illness) will be developed. In turn, each “node” will reach out to five additional pharmacists.

Source (and click on the Nova Scotia tab)

Photo credit

Friday, September 28, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

Leisure Helping Trees - Capital Health

A Leisure Helping Tree handed out by Bob Baird and Donna MacIntyre during the September 20th meeting of the From Recovery to Discovery Peer Support Group:

Please click on the image to magnify it.

To view other leisure resources in the Capital Health district provided by Mental Health Recreation Therapy Services, please click here.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Case for Funding Mental Health and Social Services in Canada

Please click on the image to magnify it.


To download the entire document (PDF), please click here.

Inside mental illness: Schizophrenia

From the YouTube posting:
Laura has taken everything she learnt from her diagnosis with schizophrenia to help others accept their own mental illness. In 2009, she was awarded with the Inspiring Lives Award from the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia for her advocacy and work with various mental health organizations. Laura is currently pursuing a Masters in Drama Therapy from Concordia University in Montreal.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Antigonish troupe wins national award

An article published in yesterday's edition of The Chronicle Herald:
By Aaron Beswick, Truro Bureau

ANTIGONISH — They’re not leaving anyone behind.

The Park Bench Players are going to Vancouver on Sept. 25 to receive a national award and they need help getting there.

The six Antigonish cast members aren’t your average theatre group.

They have all struggled with mental illness.

Their play, With a Little Help from Our Friends, tells their personal stories through humour and drama.

“The play has given us more meaning and purpose,” said Mike Martell, a member of the cast.

“To see it appreciated and to be helping bring the issue of mental illness out from the darkness and into the light, it just feels good.”

Psychosocial Rehabilitation Canada will present its 2012 Recovery Excellence Award to the troupe at the Vancouver gala.

But first, the theatre troupe needs to raise about $10,000 to pay for the trip, enough to cover the cost of all six cast members, three assistants and money for three nights’ lodging.

“For us, it will be the trip of a lifetime,” said Jim Mulcahy, a retired Antigonish drama teacher who wrote and directed the play.

“For these people in rural Nova Scotia to receive this national award, that’s a big deal.”

As part of their fundraising effort, the troupe is selling T-shirts and is putting off their own gala performance at the Clare Marie Gathering Place in Antigonish on Sept. 9.

Music will be provided by the 16-piece Good Time Orchestra.

They’ve also set up a bank account and donations can be made to it through any Credit Union in the province by registering a cheque to the Park Bench Players.

Originally intended for one performance in front of invited guests, the Park Bench Players have performed their play in front of 13 audiences around Nova Scotia.

While the award is good news to cast member Stacey Septon, the true payoff has been hearing the stories from people in the audience after each performance.

“The audience has come up after every performance and told us about their own struggles with mental illness or those of someone they love,” said Septon.

“To be able to help, it’s just the best thing.”


Photograph by Stephen Ayer

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Family Education Group for Mood Disorders - Halifax

A poster photographed today at the Mood Disorders Program locaton in Halifax:

Please click on the photograph to magnify it.

From the website:
Mood Disorders Program

Often collaborating with family physicians, the Mood Disorders Program provides consultation, assessment, group therapy and follow up for people living with mood disorders, especially bipolar disorder. The program also provides services for people at high risk of developing a mood disorder as a result of family history, and focuses on mood disorder research and education.

Telephone: (902) 473-2585

Mood Disorders Program
QEII Health Sciences Centre
Abbie J. Lane Memorial Building, 3rd floor
5909 Veterans' Memorial Lane
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3H 3E2

Also see:

Research: Mood Disorders (Dalhousie University)

Mood Disorders Research Group Contact Page

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Province Celebrates the Opening of Community Living Units

A news advisory issued today by the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness:
Nova Scotians recovering from mental illness now have more support as they transition from inpatient care to living more independently in their communities.

Simpson Landing is a set of community living units on the Nova Scotia Hospital site. It is designed to support people who need more rehabilitation and skills development to safely transition back to their community. The government, Capital District Health Authority, and the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia officially opened the facility today, Aug. 1.

"The government is proud to provide better care and more opportunities for people with mental illness in Nova Scotia," said David Wilson, Minister of Health and Wellness. "Simpson Landing will make life better for Nova Scotians living with a mental illness, and we are pleased to have been a part of making this project happen."

Simpson Landing features four bungalows, each with 10 bedrooms and living space. The residential-style units create a community-focused living and care environment outside of the traditional hospital setting, to support patients, their families and staff.

"Transitioning from a fully-supported hospital environment back into the community can be a stressful experience for many individuals living with a mental illness," said Danny Chedrawe, chair of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia Board of Trustees.

"By contributing to this project, the foundation is ensuring critical mental health care needs are being met so that Nova Scotians experience smoother hospital-to-home transitions and improved recovery rates as they each make their unique journey home," said Mr. Chedrawe.

The $10.3-million project was cost-shared by the province, health authority and the mental health foundation. The provincial portion of the funding is $8.6, while the health authority and the mental health foundation contributed $1.7 million.

"This has truly been a collaboration. Capital Health engineers, the Department of Health and Wellness, the architectural firm, builders, and members of the Mental Health Program came together to complete this project,” said Barbara Hall, vice president of Person-Centred Health, Capital Health District Authority.

"They worked with individuals living with mental illness, family members, clinicians and managers who ensured the spirit of recovery and integration back into the community informed the look and feel of Simpson Landing." said Ms. Hall.

Construction of the units began in 2010. and The facility is a part of the Mental Health program's Recovery and Integration Strategy at Capital Health. The units were open to patients as of June 19.


Nova Scotians recovering from mental illness now have more support as they transition from inpatient care to living more independently in their communities.

Simpson Landing is a set of community living units on the Nova Scotia Hospital site. It is designed to support people who need more rehabilitation and skills development to safely transition back to their community.

It was officially opened today (August 1st), by the province, Capital District Health Authority, and the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia.
Health and Wellness Minister David Wilson says Simpson Landing will make life better for Nova Scotians living with a mental illness.


Media Contacts:
Patricia Jreige
Health and Wellness

Maureen Wheller
Mental Health Services
Capital Health District Authority

Image credit

To view photographs taken inside Simpson Landing, please click here.

Also see:

Simpson Landing opens in Dartmouth after 5 year delay

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Media Advisory - The Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia's 30th Anniversary Celebration

June 14, 2012
Halifax, Nova Scotia


The Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia is hosting its 30th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, June 16th, 2012, from 12:30 pm to 4:00 pm at the NSCC Waterfront Campus, 80 Mawiomi Place, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The event is open to the public.

The 30th Anniversary Celebration will begin with a catered lunch at 12:30 pm, followed by speaker presentations at 1:30 pm, and a performance by the Park Bench Players at 2:30 pm.

The Park Bench Players are a group of adult residents from the Antigonish area, five of whom have lived with schizophrenia since late adolescence. Their play, entitled With a Little Help from My Friends, sets out to educate the public about mental illness and the worthwhile lives of those who are challenged by mental health issues. The six person cast has been performing in communities across Antigonish and Guysborough counties. This will be their first performance in Halifax Regional Municipality.


Cast and crew members of the Park Bench Players, Cecilia McRae, President of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia, and Stephen Ayer, Executive Director of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia, will be available for interviews during the event.

About the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia

The Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia is a community not-for-profit organization that was incorporated in 1982. We work to improve the quality of life for those affected by schizophrenia and psychosis—including families and friends—through education, support programs, influencing public policy, and encouraging research.


Dr. Stephen Ayer
Executive Director
Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia
Phone: (902) 465-2601

Friday, June 1, 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Mental Health Strategy for Canada

To download Changing Directions, Changing Lives: The Mental Health Strategy for Canada (PDF), please click here.

To download the Strategy Summary (PDF), please click here.

Recovery Quilt Raffle Winner

Please click on the photograph to magnify it.

The draw for the Recovery Quilt took place during the 4th Annual Road to Recovery Walk held on May 5th, 2012.  The winner was Angie Chasse-Naugler of Hebbs Cross, Nova Scotia.

The Recovery Quilt incorporates a tilted square design with an iris in the center of each square. The iris is a symbol of courage, wisdom, and hope, all of which aid in the recovery process. The numerous squares and winding path depict a journey to recovery that is not always straight and seldom accomplished without support. The hand-quilting was completed by the ladies of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church Guild in Merigomish, Nova Scotia.

Proceeds from the Recovery Quilt raffle will assist the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia in its work to improve the quality of life for those affected by schizophrenia and psychosis, including family members, friends, co-workers, and employers.

Nova Scotia Lottery Licence No.: AGD005716-11

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mental-health strategy calls for complete overhaul, $4-billion commitment

An article published in today's edition of The Globe and Mail:
By André Picard — Public Health Reporter

Canada’s mental-health system is underfunded and poorly co-ordinated and needs a complete overhaul to meet the needs of patients and their families, the Mental Health Commission says in its long-awaited national strategy.

The 152-page document recommends an immediate infusion of $4-billion annually for mental-health care; calls on employers to implement psychological health and safety standards to protect workers; says efforts to divert people with severe mental-health problems out of the justice system and into care need to be accelerated; and embraces a “housing first” philosophy to get homeless people suffering from mental illness off the streets.

The Globe and Mail obtained a copy of the strategy, entitled “Changing Direction, Changing Lives,” under embargo but is publishing before the Tuesday release date because of leaks to other media outlets.

Until now, Canada has had the dubious distinction of being the only G8 country without a mental-health strategy but the Mental Health Commission of Canada says it now has a “blueprint to translate aspiration for change into action.”

An estimated 6.7 million Canadians suffer from mental illness at any given time. Last year alone, spending on mental-health services totalled $42.3-billion and the impact on the economy was even greater.

“This is an ubiquitous Canadian problem and an ubiquitous global problem,” said David Goldbloom [pictured], a psychiatrist and chairman of the MHCC. “There are significant barriers – in the health-care system, in the workplace and in the community.”

To break down those barriers – and address the problem of stigma in particular – the strategy proposes six “strategic directions” that should be pursued, and makes numerous recommendations in each area:
  • Promoting mental health and prevention of mental illness;
  • Fostering recovery and upholding rights;
  • Providing access to the right services, treatments and supports;
  • Reducing disparity and addressing diversity and those suffering mental-health problems;
  • Working with first nations, Inuit and Métis, communities where addictions and suicide are major problems;
  • Mobilizing leadership and fostering collaboration.
Dr. Goldbloom stressed that the commission is not a funding agency so its role is to promote a vision and promote buy-in by putting forward good research, highlighting best practices and facilitating co-operation between various stakeholders.

“We’re not an advocacy organization, we’re a catalyst,” Dr. Goldbloom said.

To underscore the approach, the strategy is peppered with examples of successful mental-health programs from around the country, such as Partners For Life, an innovative suicide prevention program that has reached 750,000 high-school students in Quebec, and the Seniors Mental Health Outreach Team that follow up on referrals from police, social services and physicians to ensure seniors with mental-health problems get follow-up care.

The strategy does not deal much with monetary issues, with one exception; it says that, currently, 7 per cent of health dollars in Canada ($14-billion) are spent on mental-health care and recommends that be increased to 9 per cent ($18-billion).

“We need more money for mental health, but we also need to spend it more wisely,” said Louise Bradley, the chief operating officer of the MHCC and a psychiatric nurse by training.

She stressed too that the needs of mental-health patients cannot be met exclusively by the health system, that changes are required in social services, education, housing and corrections.

A draft of the strategy, released in 2009, was met with sharp criticism, particularly from families of people living with severe mental illness. They complained that too little attention was paid to neuroscience and the right to treatment, and too much credence given to the civil libertarians and anti-psychiatry activists.

Dr. Goldbloom said that the final version of the strategy is very different and, in particular, pays far more attention to the needs of those with severe mental illness and their families. The report states that “treatment of people with severe illness is a gauge of system success.”

The MHCC chairman conceded, however, that it is impossible to create a blueprint for change that will please everyone. “My hope is that everyone will see they like 80 per cent of the strategy and support the overall thrust. That’s the only way we’ll be able to mobilize and move forward.”

The Mental Health Commission of Canada was created in 2007 in response to a damning Senate report on the state of mental-health care entitled “Out of the Shadows at Last – Transforming Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Services in Canada.”

The MHCC has an annual budget of $15-million.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Panel: Trim mental health wait times

Health and Wellness Minister Maureen MacDonald (right) greets Dr. Ajantha Jayabarathan, a member of the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy Advisory Committee, at Province House on April 23rd.

An article published in today's edition of The Chronicle Herald:
By Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

An expert panel is calling on Nova Scotia to shorten wait times for children and youths who have been referred for a mental health assessment, but the health minister says the province is already having a tough time meeting existing standards.

Maureen MacDonald was responding Monday to the release of a report from a 12-member advisory committee that produced 61 recommendations for creating the province’s first comprehensive mental health strategy.

The report highlights the fact that most mental health disorders — an estimated 70 per cent — begin to appear before age 25. However, the committee found that “long wait times for children and youth with symptoms of mental illness was a particular concern.”

As a result, the report recommends reducing wait times for children and youths beyond the existing provincial standards.

The committee says urgent cases should be offered an assessment within a week instead of 10 days, semi-urgent referrals should be offered an appointment within two weeks instead of four weeks, and regular cases should be seen within 21 days.

“We heard throughout the province that you have to get people early,” said committee co-chairman Michael Ungar, a professor at the School of Social Work at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

“We know that if we can catch kids as they begin to show some of the signs related to mental illness and addictions problems … the less likely those conditions are to become chronic.”

But the province isn’t even meeting the existing standards, despite being admonished for lengthy wait times by the province’s auditor general in 2010.

“We’re the only province in the country that has mental health standards, (but) we haven’t been able to meet them and we need to do the work to get us there,” MacDonald said outside the legislature.

She said the province plans to release its mental health strategy some time this spring.

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said the contents of the report merely restate was is already known about the system. “It could have been said two years ago,” he said in an interview.

“Anyone … would have recognized we had to deal with the gaps, we had to invest in early intervention. To wait this length of time to receive that report is disappointing. We should have had a mental health strategy on where we’re going next.”

Dr. Stephen Ayer, executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia, said the government must now take action.

“The important thing is that the committee has completed its work and now we can move on to the actual development of the strategy,” he said. “What’s more critical is what the government does with this document.”

The committee’s report — almost a year overdue — says that virtually everyone consulted for the study said there were problems with wait times and after-hours services.

The report also says there are too many gaps in the system, particularly when it comes to transitions from one service to another.

The Health Department and Community Services Department, for example, consider the transition from youth to adult at different ages, said Ungar.

Among other measures, the committee recommends expanding telephone crisis intervention services across the province, improving mental health awareness among health professionals and expanding housing options.

The committee does not say how much it would cost to implement its recommendations, saying it did not have a mandate to calculate expenses.

It is estimated that about 180,000 people in the province are affected by mental illness — that’s about one in every five.

The provincial government announced it would draft a new mental health strategy in March 2010.

At the time, a group of mental health advocates complained the mental health system was in chaos, plagued by long waiting lists and a lack of funding.
Photograph by Tim Krochak, The Chronicle Herald

Also see:

Come Together: Report & Recommendations of the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy Advisory Committee - March 2012

Come Together: Report & Recommendations of the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy Advisory Committee - Summary - March 2012

Mental Health and Addictions Strategy Advisory Committee Releases Report

Child Medication Guide Stresses Need for Team Effort

To download the entire guide (PDF), please click here.

Also see:

Child Medication Guide Stresses Need for Team Effort

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Monday, April 23, 2012

Superhero - A Visual Poem

One of the many comments posted on YouTube about this video:
Mental health is so hard to understand, so hard to grasp for everyone ... finally a short film, a beautiful poem, a true piece of art that can connect people with with the words and the feelings that are oh so hard to share. Thank you Hachey. Thank you Laura. You've done it right.

Posted by emptypink

Also visit:

Mark Vonnegut: "Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So" (Rebroadcast)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia on Mental Illness

Stephen Ayer of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia talks the perceptions of mental illness following the death of Raymond Taavel.

Also see:

Stephen Ayer interviewed on Information Morning

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Strengthening Families Together delivered in Pictou County

Pictured from left to right are Dr. Ian Slayter, Sheila Chisholm, a program participant, and Cecilia McRae, program facilitator.

On April 3rd, the Pictou County Family Support Group delivered Sessions #1 & #2 of Strengthening Families Together, a free ten-session educational program for families affected by serious mental illness. The guest speaker for the evening was Dr. Ian Slayter, a clinical psychiatrist working with GASHA at St. Martha's Hospital in Antigonish. Dr. Slayter’s interactive presentation focused on psychosis. Session #3, with an interactive presentation on treatment and medications by Bill Skinner, a pharmacist with Lawtons Drugs in New Glasgow, was held on April 10th.

Funding for the program has been provided by the Pictou County Health Authority Wellness Fund, with meeting space and technical support supplied by the Nova Scotia Community College - Pictou Campus.

The Pictou County Family Support Group is new to Pictou County and was established to meet a need in the county. The group was developed with the assistance of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia and with funding from the Canada Post Foundation for Mental Illness and Mental Health. The support group meets every second Tuesday of each month, except for July and August, and is open to family members, care providers, and community partners.

Information for both the Pictou County Family Support Group and future sessions of the Strengthening Families Together program can be found in the Community Happenings section of The News.

Also see:

Strengthening Families Together - Pictou County

Support the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia by purchasing a handcrafted birdhouse!

$40.00 each!

Please click on the photograph to enlarge it.

A member has donated handcrafted bird houses to the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia. The bird houses are available for purchase for $40.00 (plus shipping) by contacting the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia at (902) 465-2601 or 1-800-465-2601 (toll-free in Nova Scotia) or by sending an email to

Stop Blaming Me for my Daughter's Mental Illness

An article posted on April 12th by The Huffington Post - Canada:
By Susan Inman (pictured)

As the parent of someone with a severe schizoaffective disorder, I'm used to being viewed with suspicion. Sometimes the pathologizing gaze occurs in unexpected places. Following the publication of an article I wrote for B.C. Teacher about the importance of educating staff in schools about mental disorders, a fellow teacher asked me if I knew what we'd done to cause my daughter's illness.

The unjustified suspicion of mental health professionals can be even more damaging. When we took our floundering teenage daughter to a credentialed counseling psychologist, we knew nothing about severe mental illnesses. As it turned out, neither did she. Her training included no material on psychotic disorders. Instead, it focused on psychodynamic theories, which look for the causes of current problems in people's early childhood experiences. Her misguided assumptions, fed by her training, led to chaos in the early years of our daughter's illness and to an unnecessarily long and dangerous psychotic episode.

Even with recent decades of robust research in neuroscience, parental caregivers of people with psychotic disorders soon learn that their interactions with the mental health system will be filled with blame. Many mental health clinicians in Canada, like our daughter's counselor, have had no science-based training on schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Too often their interactions with families weaken the bonds that the illnesses have already frayed.

Psychiatry, for most of the 20th century, used the theories of Freud, which were never based on evidence-based research, to develop elaborate ways of blaming parents for schizophrenia. The Canadian Psychiatric Association now explicitly describes schizophrenia as a treatable brain disorder that is not caused by poor parenting.

Our relationship with our daughter's psychiatrist has been extraordinary. I believe it is responsible for her unexpected recovery. When the psychiatric team at Vancouver's St. Paul's Hospital first met her, she was one of the most severely psychotic teenagers they had ever seen. From the time that one member of this team, our daughter's current psychiatrist, began to work with her, he listened carefully to our input as we navigated the arduous path to her stability.

Even with this history of mutual respect, my husband and I were stunned recently when we were discussing strategies for managing any difficulties that might emerge during an upcoming trip. He stopped the discussion, looked at us, and said, "You guys are such great parents!"

I'm immersed in a community of parental caregivers in Vancouver and have been asking if anyone has ever been told anything like this. The answer is, "Never." These friends, who constantly inspire me with their energy, dedication and resourcefulness in advocating for their struggling children, find it hard to imagine hearing this kind of supportive response. Instead, my question is usually greeted with yet another account of the wounding of families by the mental health system.

Some parents do receive much-needed support from their own family physicians, who also provide primary healthcare to their often unstable sons and daughters. For many years, both my husband and I have freely vented, grieved, and tried to problem solve with the informed and compassionate help of our family doctor.

In recent years, the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the College of Family Physicians of Canada have begun an active collaboration including an annual Shared-Care conference. Much of the focus has been on helping family physicians become more knowledgeable in responding to the serious mental illnesses they are increasingly being asked to manage.

The upcoming Shared-Care conference in Vancouver offers richly informative sessions for family physicians. However, I don't see any sessions that provide family physicians opportunities to share their often considerable expertise in helping parents survive their daunting tasks. Fortunately, this kind of conference does invite informal communication on just these kinds of overlooked topics. Since family caregivers for people with severe mental illnesses save the healthcare system money, new ways of supporting them are well worth considering.
Photo credit

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Support the SSNS by purchasing all occasion cards!

$1.00 each!

Mary Ellen McMurtry, a Maritime artist, has donated a collection of original and one-of-a-kind greeting cards to assist the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia in fundraising.

Two sizes of cards are available to purchase from the SSNS, 7" x 5" and 8.5" x 5.5".

All cards cost $1.00 each (no HST), do not have the watermark or title, are blank inside, and include a mailing envelope.


Other examples of the many cards available for purchase are:

If you are interested in viewing further examples of the greeting cards available for purchase, please contact the SSNS at (902) 465-2601 or 1-800-465-2601 or by sending an email to

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fear for kids’ future

A letter to the editor published in today's edition of The Chronicle Herald:
Re: "A cry from the heart: Save our mental health staff." Kudos to Ally Dawson, the 16-year-old who is gave us the perspective from an (Adolescent Centre for Treatment) client. ACT is a 24 / 7 operation, and is being changed by the IWK to a 24 / 5 operation.

Ally spoke articulately from her heart in support of the program and the youth care workers, whom she has dealt with first-hand.

Why is it that when ever there are budget restraints, it is always the most vulnerable that get affected? Why is it that "top heavy" management is never affected by these decisions, or at the very minimum, equally affected? Although according to a response I received from Premier Darrell Dexter’s office, "there is no budget cut involved with this decision. In fact, mental health services are exempt from the restraint targets in the province’s multi-year plan to get back to balance."

Mr. Dexter [pictured], himself, states "…the design and delivery of mental health services are done by professionals in the field. As you would expect, we fund the DHAs (District Health Authorities) who make the decisions on the best mix of these services, based on knowledge, skill and advice. Over many years, this model has proved successful. I trust and expect that it will continue to do so."

I certainly hope he is right. The public needs an explanation as to what this proven successful model is.

What will this do to the kids in these programs? How many of them will fall through the cracks as a result of this decision? How many youth suicides will we have to deal with, and how many have to land in jail before we realize that this is a mistake?

My heart goes out to Ally and all the clients of the ACT and Compass programs and to the youth care workers who work with them because they love to. It takes special people to do these jobs, and they don’t have to have half a dozen initials after their names to be qualified, professional and do an "amazing" job.

M.L. (Speranza) Anstey, Antigonish
Photo credit

Also see:

Adolescent Centre for Treatment (PDF)

Compass, Centre for Collaborative Child and Family Treatment

Friday, March 23, 2012

The benefits of full time mental health support

Audio clip from the March 22nd edition of the CBC Radio One's (Nova Scotia) Information Morning:
As the IWK changes its mental health care facilities for children and teenagers, we find out how youth care workers and in-patient treatment at the IWK allowed a young man to tackle his anxiety disorder.

Connor MacLellan and his mother Susan say he would not have recovered from his anxiety and depression without the care he received as an in-patient.
To listen, please click here.

Image credit

Also see:

Realigning IWK mental health: ‘This is the right thing to do’

IWK explains why its making cuts to in-patient care for youth with mental illness

Nova Scotia can’t even meet its own ridiculous mental health standards

Assistance with navigating mental health services in the Capital Health district