Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Meet Halifax's Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team

An article posted on January 27th by CBC.ca:

Halifax's Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team is shrouded in secrecy.

They don't wear uniforms, they don't travel in marked vehicles and they keep the location of their headquarters a secret, to ensure the safety of the people working there.

Mary Pyche (pictured, centre), the program leader for crisis emergency services for the Capital District Health Authority, said the idea for a crisis team first started taking shape back in 2003.

"We started putting that proposal together to the department of health. Took a little while," she said.

"By 2006, we had the partnership up and running. We also included in the partnership the IWK as well, so that the service would offer crisis response in the community right across the age spectrum."

In a recent interview with CBC News, Pyche said the team handles about 1,000 cases a month. That's based on 300 to 350 people each making multiple calls for help to the team.

Pyche said 95 per cent of those calls are new — first-time callers or people who haven't called the crisis line for at least two months. That turnover is proof the team is successful, she said.

Mary-Beth Flory (pictured, right), a registered nurse and the clinical practice leader for the crisis team, spends her mornings preparing for when the team hits the road in the afternoon and evenings.

"Come 1 o'clock in the afternoon, the team sits down," Flory said.

"That's three clinicians and our two officers who are on for those hours. And we triage again where we're going to be going throughout the day — where we need to go first, what kind of supports do we believe the team is going to be needing to provide."

Halifax Regional Police support

Four members of Halifax Regional Police are assigned to the team. They work in plain clothes.

Const. Angela Balcolm (pictured, left), one of those officers, said a uniform wouldn't work in her job.

"We try to make people as comfortable as we can and of course, decriminalize mental illness," she said.

"We're there for the person's safety, not to look into any criminal matters."

Balcolm said officers operate under a memorandum of understanding, so they don't share what they hear on the crisis team with other police officers.

Pyche said the police officers give the team extra power.

"We knew if we could partner with police, that they had the authority to do wellness checks and we could go along with them," she said.

That police presence allows the team to respond when friends or family members warn about a person's deteriorating mental condition.

Not all 'lights and sirens'

Mary-Beth Flory said the team doesn't require family intervention to act.

"A person can refer themselves," Flory said.

"It's very easy access. It can simply be a phone call. A person does not need a referral from a physician or from a psychologist to access support, and that it is a wide range of intervention and services that can be provided."

For Angela Balcolm, working with the crisis team offers a different facet to police work.

"People watch TV and they see all the shows like Cops and all that," she said.

"Is that a reality in our work? Absolutely. Sometimes."

Balcolm said her work isn't all "lights and sirens."

"I think it's huge to see this program that is assisting people because the police role in this is huge — getting people, detaining people and taking individuals into hospital, if that's what needs to happen," she said.

Photograph by Blair Rhodes / CBC

Also see:

Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team

Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team (PDF)

Emergency Crisis Services - Mental Health Services - Cape Breton District Health Authority - Call (902) 567-7767

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mental Health for All Coffee House

Every Saturday, 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm!

Bloomfield Centre, Rm 114, 2786 Agricola Street, Halifax

Please click on the image to magnify it.

Also see:

CMHA Halifax-Dartmouth Branch

NAMI Principles of Support

National Alliance on Mental Illness (United States)

Principles of Support
  • We will see the individual first, not the illness.
  • We recognize that mental illnesses are medical illnesses that may have environmental triggers.
  • We understand that mental illnesses are traumatic events.
  • We aim for better coping skills.
  • We find strength in sharing experiences.
  • We reject stigma and do not tolerate discrimination.
  • We won’t judge anyone’s pain as less than our own.
  • We forgive ourselves and reject guilt.
  • We embrace humor as healthy.
  • We accept we cannot solve all problems.
  • We expect a better future in a realistic way.
  • We will never give up hope.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Yarmouth area attracts MDs

An article published in the January 3rd edition of The Chronicle Herald:
By Brian Medel, Yarmouth Bureau

YARMOUTH — Several physicians, including a number of psychiatrists, began practising in southwestern Nova Scotia during the summer and fall of 2011.

Three psychiatrists joined Southwest Health recently, bringing the number of psychiatrists to six in Nova Scotia’s westernmost health district.

All psychiatrist vacancies for the district are filled for the first time in more than 10 years, Southwest Health said in a news release.

Dr. Olufemi Banjo came in August, followed by Dr. Razi Hemani in September and Dr. Lourdes Soto-Moreno (pictured) in October.

"It certainly is good news, and hopefully we’ll hold on to them; there’s certainly the need," said John Roswell, a Digby Clare Mental Health Volunteers co-ordinator, on Sunday.

"It’s terrific if we have the full complement. Hopefully, it will mean that people get to see a psychiatrist and eliminate the lengthy wait process.

"It has been practically impossible to get to see a psychiatrist within six months, and it’s very heartening to hope that wait times may be decreased somewhat because of this."

The common wisdom is that 20 per cent of people will require psychiatric services or will experience a mental illness at some point during their lifetime, said Roswell.

The reporting of mental illness and the number of people seeking help has increased, he said.

Dr. Faten Germanus began working at a family medical practice in Barrington Passage in December. She is not yet accepting patients but an announcement will be made soon when she is ready to take on new patients, according to a news release.

Dr. Navdeep Mangat also began working in Digby General Hospital’s emergency department in December and will provide services at the Digby Well Womens Clinic starting this month.

And southwestern Nova Scotia residents with no family doctor but who have high blood pressure may take advantage of a new cardiovascular program at Yarmouth Regional Hospital, to be based in the facility’s wellness centre.


Photo credit