News Local

CMHA still breaking down stigmas

By Leah Simonot, Camrose Canadian

From Left: Lawrence Dufresne, Matt Hutchison, Canadian Mental Health Association executive director Colleen Swanson and Mike Vennard tee of at the 20th annual Val Wolski memorial golf tournament for mental health in Camrose on Saturday. Leah Simonot/Camrose Canadian

From Left: Lawrence Dufresne, Matt Hutchison, Canadian Mental Health Association executive director Colleen Swanson and Mike Vennard tee of at the 20th annual Val Wolski memorial golf tournament for mental health in Camrose on Saturday. Leah Simonot/Camrose Canadian

The Canadian Mental Health Association’s 20th annual Val Wolski memorial golf tournament celebrated a century of growth in the organization’s vision.  

The Saturday tournament raised nearly $15,000 for services in the CHMA’s East-Central region that promote meaningful and productive community living for people affected by mental illness. The idea is that everybody has mental health and everybody can flourish and thrive.  

This vision was, however, quite different 100 years ago. 

“Way back, it (mental health) was considered to be not even just a character flaw but demonic, some sort of completely outside-of-themselves situation,” said CMHA individual support services co-ordinator Destiny Reay. “A lot of people were then institutionalized, locked up, very much isolated from community.” 

The 1918 movement that would become the CMHA advocated for improved care and treatment in asylums after Dr. Clarence Hincks noticed a shortfall in treatment for traumatized soldiers while plugging away in a psychiatric outpatient clinic in Toronto. He also noticed the public’s fear and apathy towards mental disabilities. Even with its derogatory language of “mental deficiencies,” the then-Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene was ahead of its time by recognizing the scope of a problem affecting practically every home in Canada.  

The push now is for the prevention and early treatment of mental health problems. Everyone has mental health and one in five Canadians will experience a mental health issue. The CMHA’s advocacy and education have gone a long way in promoting positive community mental health and sending a message that it is not an isolated problem.  

“As many people as are capable and able, we try to support back in their communities where they have the supports of their home communities — friends, family, churches, whatever it is that works for them — and less time being isolated away,” said Reay.  

The Camrose Branch, founded in 1987 through the efforts of Betty Friesen who initiated the development of a group home for individuals experiencing mental illness, was originally an extension from Red Deer. It became its own branch as it grew and expanded its services and now convers the East Central Region.  

ECR is currently comprised of seven board members, and 15 staff members who work face-to-face with upwards of 600 people in the region, varying from program to program. Its fundamental pillars include a community support program, assertive outreach, individual support services for individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health issues and an independent living supports program.  

These services help people with mental health problems live the way they want to, in the community they want to. This could mean connecting someone with a therapist or psychiatrist, ensuring they are maintaining a prescribed medication routine or helping them grocery shop and budget. 

“Different people at different stages require different things,” said Reay. “A lot of the time the diagnosis comes out as quite scary. Some of them have been dealing with it for a while and sort of hiding it. A lot of people will self-medicate … our goal is sort of to come in and meet them where they’re at and help them with whatever it is that they need assistance with along their journey.” 

They also offer mental health first aid several times a year to teach people which warning signs to look for and how to respond.  

“Everybody reacts and interacts differently, so we can’t just say this is the direction of what somebody looks like that’s going through this. A lot of the time it’s going to be people that know the people well that start to recognize changes in behaviour and then encouraging people to talk about it,” she said.  

“The hope is the more people talk about it, the more people will feel comfortable getting help and the more people will be able to have that assistance earlier instead of things getting so far out of control for them or feeling so isolated. That’s when we end up with things that are really tragic happening.” 

Accessibility remains a challenge in the Canadian mental health system. Many services and supports are not covered in the publicly funded healthcare system, meaning low-income individuals face limited services and, oftentimes, long waiting lists. While there are limited access points in Camrose, mental health services are provided at the Alberta Health Services office, through Canadian Mental Health and through primary care physicians who can make referral to further support where there is a need.  

As conversation, celebrities, athletes, businesses and organizations continue to make noise for mental health, with campaigns such as Bell’s Let’s Talk, progress is made to destigmatize mental health and advocate for adequate community mental health services, but there is still work to be done.  

“We still have a long way to go. People still like to talk about it in hushed voices and not really identify as it, but we’re making progress,” said Reay.  

Now in her 16th year being a part of the golf tournament, she said it is amazing to see the support it brings in — 123 golfers came out this year.  

“As long as they’re out and having a good time and feel good about the support they’re doing, it’s fantastic,” said Reay.  

 

lsimonot@postmedia.com 

The Canadian Mental Health Association’s 20th annual Val Wolski memorial golf tournament celebrated a century of growth in the organization’s vision.  

The Saturday tournament raised nearly $15,000 for services in the CHMA’s East-Central region that promote meaningful and productive community living for people affected by mental illness. The idea is that everybody has mental health and everybody can flourish and thrive.  

This vision was, however, quite different 100 years ago. 

“Way back, it (mental health) was considered to be not even just a character flaw but demonic, some sort of completely outside-of-themselves situation,” said CMHA individual support services co-ordinator Destiny Reay. “A lot of people were then institutionalized, locked up, very much isolated from community.” 

The 1918 movement that would become the CMHA advocated for improved care and treatment in asylums after Dr. Clarence Hincks noticed a shortfall in treatment for traumatized soldiers while plugging away in a psychiatric outpatient clinic in Toronto. He also noticed the public’s fear and apathy towards mental disabilities. Even with its derogatory language of “mental deficiencies,” the then-Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene was ahead of its time by recognizing the scope of a problem affecting practically every home in Canada.  

The push now is for the prevention and early treatment of mental health problems. Everyone has mental health and one in five Canadians will experience a mental health issue. The CMHA’s advocacy and education have gone a long way in promoting positive community mental health and sending a message that it is not an isolated problem.  

“As many people as are capable and able, we try to support back in their communities where they have the supports of their home communities — friends, family, churches, whatever it is that works for them — and less time being isolated away,” said Reay.  

The Camrose Branch, founded in 1987 through the efforts of Betty Friesen who initiated the development of a group home for individuals experiencing mental illness, was originally an extension from Red Deer. It became its own branch as it grew and expanded its services and now convers the East Central Region.  

ECR is currently comprised of seven board members, and 15 staff members who work face-to-face with upwards of 600 people in the region, varying from program to program. Its fundamental pillars include a community support program, assertive outreach, individual support services for individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health issues and an independent living supports program.  

These services help people with mental health problems live the way they want to, in the community they want to. This could mean connecting someone with a therapist or psychiatrist, ensuring they are maintaining a prescribed medication routine or helping them grocery shop and budget. 

“Different people at different stages require different things,” said Reay. “A lot of the time the diagnosis comes out as quite scary. Some of them have been dealing with it for a while and sort of hiding it. A lot of people will self-medicate … our goal is sort of to come in and meet them where they’re at and help them with whatever it is that they need assistance with along their journey.” 

They also offer mental health first aid several times a year to teach people which warning signs to look for and how to respond.  

“Everybody reacts and interacts differently, so we can’t just say this is the direction of what somebody looks like that’s going through this. A lot of the time it’s going to be people that know the people well that start to recognize changes in behaviour and then encouraging people to talk about it,” she said.  

“The hope is the more people talk about it, the more people will feel comfortable getting help and the more people will be able to have that assistance earlier instead of things getting so far out of control for them or feeling so isolated. That’s when we end up with things that are really tragic happening.” 

Accessibility remains a challenge in the Canadian mental health system. Many services and supports are not covered in the publicly funded healthcare system, meaning low-income individuals face limited services and, oftentimes, long waiting lists. While there are limited access points in Camrose, mental health services are provided at the Alberta Health Services office, through Canadian Mental Health and through primary care physicians who can make referral to further support where there is a need.  

As conversation, celebrities, athletes, businesses and organizations continue to make noise for mental health, with campaigns such as Bell’s Let’s Talk, progress is made to destigmatize mental health and advocate for adequate community mental health services, but there is still work to be done.  

“We still have a long way to go. People still like to talk about it in hushed voices and not really identify as it, but we’re making progress,” said Reay.  

Now in her 16th year being a part of the golf tournament, she said it is amazing to see the support it brings in — 123 golfers came out this year.  

“As long as they’re out and having a good time and feel good about the support they’re doing, it’s fantastic,” said Reay.  

 

lsimonot@postmedia.com 

 

 



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