Wait times for mental health assistance in the CBRM not music to New Waterford man’s ears
Long wait times for mental health assistance in Cape Breton struck a chord with a New Waterford man in more ways than one.
Rob Murphy was so shocked to discover a person has a 354day wait to see a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, that a couple months ago he picked up his guitar wrote a song about it, hoping to bring attention to the situation.
“It really shocked me and I thought this has to be fixed,” said Murphy, a singer/songwriter. “In Halifax I think the wait is about 88 days and here it is 354.”
The song — “300 Days” — has been getting so much attention that the Canadian Mental Health Association is featuring it on its website to promote Mental Health month in May.
Murphy, an account manager with Max FM 98.3 radio, often writes songs about issues on his mind and wrote this song from the perspective of a young man whose girlfriend suffers from depression, tries to get mental health assistance, but is turned away.
He said his song has received 100,000 hits so far on both Facebook and YouTube.
“I’ve received hundreds of messages from people who lost loved ones or went through it,” he said. “It enlightened my life to hear their stories.”
The song has had some radio play and Murphy has given talks about it to Cape Breton youth as well as at a recent doctor’s rally in Sydney Mines.
“I lost two friends in their early twenties in New Waterford from suicide,” he said. “Basically, this is not OK. As Canadians we are entitled to health care. When people are dying for no reason someone is not doing their job. It’s inexcusable.”
Murphy went through a rough patch himself in dealing with personal issues a few years ago, but the medical coverage through his employer at the time allowed him access to a social worker within 24 hours.
However, he said, without this coverage a person is left with no support, like the young man who recently died of a drug overdose in New Waterford.
Murphy said following that tragic death, he heard about the A Town That Cares group being formed and scheduling a town hall for Tuesday, May 23, at the New Waterford Fire hall at 6:30 p.m. to deal with this issue. Murphy will be opening the meeting with his song.
Greg Boone, spokesperson with the Nova Scotia District Health Authority, said the wait times for the Adult Mental Health and Addictions Community clinics are also a concern for the authority.
“We regret that people and their families in the communities of Sydney, Glace Bay, New Waterford and North Sydney are waiting far too long for mental health and addictions care and support.”
Boone said they are working on a plan to improve access to care and support for those living with mental health disorders and/or harmful substance use and their top priority is improving access in the Eastern Zone, which includes Cape Breton.
He said part of the plan is improving the intake process — to see people screened, assessed and matched to the right service provider, whether that be a mental health and addiction clinician, psychiatrist or the proper community support/resources.
He said the current wait time for addictions inpatient withdrawal management care (detox) is less than a week. A toll-free provincial mental health and addictions crisis line can be assessed at 1-888429-8167, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
He said anyone with an emergency mental health crisis needs to call 911 or go to the emergency room to be seen immediately.
Rob Murphy of New Waterford stands on Plummer Avenue with his guitar. Murphy, a singer/songwriter, was so shocked about the 354-day wait time for mental health assistance in the CBRM he wrote a song ‘300 Days’ a few months ago that is now being promoted by the Canadian Mental Health Association for Mental Health Month in May. Murphy will be opening the Town Hall meeting concerning the lack of resources for mental health and drug addiction at the New Waterford fire station Tuesday, May 23, at 6:30 p.m., with his song.