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

Friday, March 16, 2012

IWK cuts waiting list by deleting names

An article published in today's edition of The Chronicle Herald:
1,100 child mental health patients affected

By Selena Ross

What does it take to get off a waiting list?

Of the 1,100 children removed since November from the IWK Health Centre’s waiting list for mental health services — an astonishing statistic the Halifax children’s hospital released widely on Monday — about half weren’t treated, and the hospital removed many of those without directly contacting them.

That’s because the IWK sent a letter to all families on the waiting list in September or October asking them to call back if they still wanted service.

Many didn’t call back. The list was instantly cut back by about half, the vice-president of patient care, Jocelyn Vine [pictured], said Thursday.

Since then, the hospital has screened hundreds of children for the first time, leaving 70 on the waiting list. But on Tuesday, Vine described that overall 94 per cent reduction as a "really very profound improvement in access to care" without explaining that hundreds of names had simply been deleted.

The hospital used the numbers this week to show its success under a reorganization that included the layoff of 22 youth-care workers.

Parents and mental health advocates challenged the math after reading about the hospital’s announcement this week.

"I had a feeling . . . I just wondered what had happened to that 1,030 people," said John Roswell of the Digby Clare Mental Health Volunteers Association.

"If they could see 1,100 people in three months, we could clean up the mental health waiting lists throughout the province in a big hurry."

Roswell said he called Vine on Wednesday to ask how the hospital came up with the numbers, and she explained the mass mail-out.

"I couldn’t believe what she said," he said. "I just thought it was a terrible misrepresentation of the facts.

"I understand their point about improving patient care and decreasing wait times. I mean, that’s all very applaudable, but I think we need to be upfront about it."

The mother of a 10-year-old Dartmouth boy who waited 14 months for a first appointment said she responded to several surveys the hospital mailed out during that time to reaffirm that the family still wanted care.

Last fall, the letter contained a deadline, said Carol Mack, whose son suffers from anxiety-related problems.

"It was something about how they were reorganizing their wait times . . . then you had to call this phone number, which is the Dartmouth clinic, I believe. (It said) if you are still requiring services, you have to call it by this certain date. Otherwise you’ll be removed from the wait list."

As Mack remembers it, she had about a month to call.

"But if they didn’t have the current phone number or address for someone, you were out of luck. Or, say, someone just missed it, you’d be totally kicked off the list."

Vine said Thursday that the hospital made extra efforts to get in touch with families who didn’t respond. Some also phoned to say they no longer needed care, she said.

Those who didn’t speak to the hospital were taken off the list, but they’re free to call and re-add their names any time they want, she said.

"Some chose to call in. Some didn’t," she said. "It’s totally up to them."

The numbers on the waiting list are not misleading, Vine said. Services were offered to all 1,100 families.

"We can only go by the data that we have. It’s a completely accurate number, based on the information that we had. We went back and re-engaged with people. . . . Based on their answer, we’re moving forward accordingly."

The hospital’s overall progress in the mental health unit is not in doubt, Vine said. Since November, the unit has sped up the rate at which it handles new patients and is seeing more children per week than previously.

She said she had no statistics showing that change.
Image credit

Also see:

Wait times too long for some (March 18th)

Mental health care more than hocus-pocus (March 17th)

IWK changes emphasize early intervention (March 15th)

Decision to dispense with 22 youth workers is disgraceful (March 15th)

22 layoffs in IWK mental health program (March 12th)

Mental health treatment for NS teenagers is in crisis! (June 10th, 2010)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Changing How We Look at Mental Illness and Changing Lives

A March 13th posting by Psychology in Action:
By Rachel

One in five children in the US suffers from mental illness, but less than 25% of those children actually receive mental health services. That’s absolutely terrifying, especially if you consider all the kids who have other psychological struggles but don’t meet diagnostic criteria for a psychological disorder. How many children then aren’t getting the help they so desperately need? What kind of effect is that having on the future generations of workers, leaders, innovators, educators, and generally just society? As a future clinical psychologist, this is shocking. How has the field failed? Don’t get me wrong, there have been great innovations and huge strides in understanding mechanisms of psychological disorders and developing treatments that alleviate some of the suffering, so why aren’t these kids getting helped?

The Problems
  • The stigma associated with mental health problems and treatment is huge. The public has a very limited understanding of what psychological distress is. The media is flooded with stories about people with all sorts of mental issues doing terribly harmful things, like Jared Loughner who shot Arizona House Representative Gabrielle Giffords and eighteen others, murdering six. This is the poor and incomplete representation of mental illness that we get every day. As a society, we equate mental illness with the crazy criminals we see in the news. To some extent, we fault individuals for their own issues, attributing it to a lack of will power or just weakness or bad character. The stigma and blame actually keep people from understanding how prevalent mental disorders actually are and seeing how individuals suffering from them may not be at fault. Mental illness is not just Jared Loughner or Seung-Hui Cho the Virginia Tech shooter. It is also people struggling with severe depression leading to isolation or those with overwhelming social anxiety who fear making friends, among other things.
  • People don’t know how to identify signs of psychological distress. Disruptive behavior disorders, like ADHD or conduct disorder, are noticed because they interfere in the classroom. Other disorders, like anxiety, can even be functional to an extent, leading to high academic achievement, but can also become so overwhelming to the point of a complete loss the ability to concentrate and learn.
  • People don’t know where to get help or what kind of help is best when they figure out that there’s a problem. If they figure out what kind of help they need, financial burdens may make it hard for them to actually get help, especially in the age of managed care and reimbursement problems from insurance companies.
  • Researchers aren’t doing enough to get their awesome treatments out there. Tens of millions of dollars are spent each year on developing and testing treatments that have the potential to change lives. Lots of published research trials support their efficacy, but still, they’re not getting out into the clinics and hospitals and to the people that need them most.
  • The economic crisis and lack of advocacy from the public are leading to huge funding cuts for community clinics and research. All of the other problems contribute to this issue too. If people don’t believe that mental health is important and don’t believe that psychological treatments might work, they won’t push for funding to support the community clinics or increase research efforts to figure out how treatments can work outside of research labs.

What can we do to fix it?
  • As a member of the general public, get informed about mental health issues. Learn what’s going on through websites, newspapers, or other venues. The New York Times has been running a great series called “Lives Restored” about people struggling with severe mental illness who have managed to positively change the trajectories of their lives.
  • Spread the word about mental health needs. Talk to your friends about it as you learn. Share informative links with members of your community.
  • If you are gateway personnel, like a teacher or school counselor or pediatrician, who is regularly in touch with children and families, learn the signs and symptoms of mental illness.
  • As a mental health professional, psychologist, social worker, or whatever, spread the word about mental health services. Talk to gateway personnel about available resources, either online, books, or clinics, to help them refer those struggling in the right directions.
  • Mental health professionals should also keep up on the literature. What is the research showing to be effective? How can that work be applied to inform the work you do?
  • As researchers and treatment developers, form partnerships with schools and community clinics to understand their systems and needs. Work with them to integrate your research findings into their framework. Offer training and supervision opportunities.
  • As a community, talk to government officials about mental health needs. Push for funding for that work. Really make a case for how important it is to identify struggles early and give people the skills to deal with them.
  • As an individual, just try to alter how you think about mental illness and how you talk about it. The homeless man on the corner is not a schizophrenic. He is a man struggling with schizophrenia. See people as people who are suffering, not as a disorder.
There are a million other problems and probably even more solutions. We are at a crossroads. The need is great and it’s finally our chance to impact the outcome, whatever our small role may be.
Also see:

Mental Health First Aid

Friday, March 9, 2012

Capital District Health - Community Mental Health: First Visit

From the website:

Community Mental Health has changed the way individuals access their services.

First Visit

On May 2, 2011, Community Mental Health changed the way individuals access their services. In the past, Individuals have often had to wait weeks or months to be seen. These changes will drastically reduce the time they will have to wait. Each Community Mental Health location will have a designated day or days each week when they will be seeing new clients. This new initiative is called First Visit.

First Visit is a simple, easy way for people with significant mental health problems or mental illness to access help from Community Mental Health. We do not offer emergency services. Call Mental Health Mobile Crisis - 429.8167 or 1(888) 429.8167 – or go to your local emergency department.

During your First Visit, you will see a therapist to talk about the mental health problem that prompted you to seek help; what helps your manage; and ways to build on your strengths and resources. If you need further assessment or treatment, this will be offered.

How do you book a First Visit?

We encourage you to contact your family doctor for a referral. They will receive information about your visit in a timely manner.

You can [also] book a First Visit [on your own] with one of our Community Mental Teams by calling on Monday (Friday if Monday is a holiday). Each of our locations has a specific day, or days, each week when new clients are seen.

Here are our locations and telephone numbers:

Dartmouth Community Mental Health
Belmont House, 33 Alderney Drive, Dartmouth
Tel: 466-1830
First Visit is offered on Thursdays.

Bayers Road Community Mental Health
Suite 109, Bayers Road Centre
7071 Bayers Road, Halifax
Tel: 454-1400
First Visit is offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Bedford/Sackville Community Mental Health
Cobequid Community Health Centre
40 Freer Lane, Lower Sackville
Tel: 865-3663
First Visit is offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Cole Harbour Community Mental Health
Cole Harbour Place
51 Forest Hills Parkway, Dartmouth
Tel: 434-3263
First Visit is offered on Tuesdays.

West Hants Community Mental Health*
89 Payzant Drive, Windsor
Tel: (902)792-2042
First Visit is offered on Tuesdays.

This service is offered through Capital Health and there is no direct cost to the patient. We provide consultation and individual and/or group therapy to people living with a mental illness or struggling with a mental health problem. We work closely with family doctors and community agencies.

First Visit is for individuals 19 years of age and older.

*West Hants supports adults, youth and children.
Also see:

Stats, research lead to sooner First Visit

People Living with Mental Illness Propose Improvements to Interactions with Police in Canada

Please click on the image to magnify it.

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

Also see:

People Living with Mental Illness Propose Improvements to Interactions with Police in Canada

Study finds mentally ill more likely to be arrested, harmed by police

Friday, March 2, 2012