Supporting Mental Health
The busy weeks leading up to the Christmas season generally keep us occupied with rewarding activities. While the start of a new year brings renewed hope and optimism, January tends to move at a slower pace and offers limited daylight hours. Many of us will experience what is commonly referred to as the “Winter Blues” or “January Blues.” This may require more effort to maintain good mental health. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and practicing gratitude can help us to maintain a positive outlook.
It is estimated that one in five Canadians will experience mental health challenges throughout their lifetime. For those who are living with persistent conditions, appropriate supports and services are extremely important. Too often people suffer in silence, fearing a stigma that unfortunately views mental health differently from physical illness.
Our government recognized that better mental health services and treatment were needed. In 2013, consultations on how to improve services began, culminating with the Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan which guides the government in making needed improvements.
Your Saskatchewan Party government has increased funding for mental health services by 60 per cent to approximately $290 million annually. This funding is in addition to the approximately $46 million allocated to addictions services each year.
Recently, additional mental health supports were introduced in Moose Jaw. In November, a new Police and Crisis Team (PACT) became operational. PACT pairs members of the Moose Jaw Police Service with a mental health professional when responding to individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis. The goal is to provide the right kind of care to people who are better-served within the community, thereby avoiding emergency department visits or entry into the criminal justice system. Similar units are also now in place in Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert, North Battleford, and Yorkton.
A little over a year ago, a new housing complex – Wakamow Place II – officially opened to individuals with complex needs. The 12-unit facility is next door to Wakamow Place, where mental health supports are available if needed. Funding has also been invested in a new training program launched last month that will better equip physicians to assess and treat mental health conditions in children and youth.
Thanks to the Canadian Mental Health Association, many local businesses now have Suicide Help Cards with information to assist someone in a crisis. Mental Health First Aid Courses are offered several times a year. Like the regular First Aid courses we are familiar with, Mental Health First Aid equips individuals to respond in a helpful way to assist someone towards getting needed, professional help.
It is encouraging to see local organizations working together to provide mental health services in our community. The Saskatchewan Health Authority, the staff at the Dr. F. H. Wigmore Regional Hospital, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and Thunder Creek Rehabilitation Association all provide supports not only for treatment, but also prevention of mental health-related conditions.
We can do our part by becoming more informed on maintaining our own mental health, knowing the signs of when to seek help, and learning how we can help others.
For mental health support at any time of the day or night, you can pick up the phone and call HealthLine by dialing 8-1-1. HealthLine’s registered Psychiatric Nurses and social workers can offer advice to help you manage your situation, or give you information about resources in the community.
Warren Michelson, MLAMLAs Column Warren Michelson Moose Jaw North