By Richard Bell
A full house of parents, elected representatives, social agencies, and the RCMP turned out for what turned into a powerful and emotional meeting on July 25 on saving lives by improving mental health services.
The grassroots group Eastern Shore Mental Health (ESMH) convened the meeting amid growing concerns about the inadequacies of the current system. Anita Carter-Rose, a cofounder of ESMH, gave a short history of the organization and its work to date, and then opened the floor for people to share their experiences. All three levels of government were there: MP Sean Fraser, MLA Kevin Murphy, and HRM Councillor David Hendsbee.
“The agenda was flexible,” Carter-Rose said. “We called the meeting to respond to a crisis in our community regarding addictions and suicide. We had to let the participants express themselves—that’s the reason we were there.”
The sharing started with the powerful and emotional story of a mother from the area who lost her son recently to suicide. Another mother talked about the difficulties of getting her some help with addictions in a rural area. Parent after parent talked about their frustrations with the system.
Members of the RCMP also shared their challenges at being called when things got to a crisis point. Officers would find themselves sitting with distressed people at the hospital locally or in town, and being told by hospital staff there was nothing that could be done to help, and to just to take them home.
Staff from various social agencies also spoke of how they wanted to help, but also faced various challenges with the system. Many people expressed concern about reaching young people earlier to help them develop healthier coping skills so they do not become entangled in addictions.
In an interview after the meeting, Carter-Rose said the broad turnout was encouraging. “I was so impressed by how our community is coming together to push for change,” she said. “Nova Scotia’s mental health system has let us all down. I’m not a professional—but I’m willing to try anything and everything to improve the mental health of the lives of everyone on the Shore.”
Carter-Rose said the group would be meeting again in the near future. To find out about upcoming meetings and other services, sign up on Eastern Shore Mental Health’s Facebook page, or visit the group’s website (http://www.easternshorementalhealth.ca), or email Anita Carter-Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.