By Karen Bradley
[For corrections to this article, see Letter to the Editor from Karen Neville.]
Over the past months, the Old School Community Gathering Place in Musquodoboit Harbour has hosted a series of meetings, conversations, workshops, and presentations on mental health across the Shore and Musquodoboit Valley. While there are systems and practitioners in place to help those in crisis, consistency and predictability are still a challenge
This article, first of a series, reviews these recent events, in order to share the current state of resources for mental health in the areas.
Raylene MacDonald is the area’s Community Mental Health Nurse. Her area of coverage extends from Baker Drive and Eastern Passage to Ecum Secum and north to Middle Musquodoboit. She is the only Community Mental Health nurse for the entire region. She began her presentation on October 17 by pointing out that every year in Canada, around 20% of the population has a diagnosable mental illness. In Nova Scotia, 200,000 people will be over 65 by the year 2021. Since only about 25% of longevity is determined by genetics, and people are living longer than their parents did, we can predict that the number of older people in her area of catchment who have mental health issues will increase significantly over the next few years.
A number of organizations in Nova Scotia, aware of this trend, developed the Fountain of Health initiative in 2010. Some of the work they have accomplished includes a survey of 165 adults, in which people expressed concerns about whether their communities could support them as they age, and a five point messaging list that all of us can use, and that doctors can address within a ten-minute checkup.
The five points: 1.) Stay socially active, 2.) Change how we think about aging/Be positive! 3.) Stay physically active, 4.) Take care of our mental health, and 5.) Continue to learn new things
Discussions that came out of this meeting include the need for a full explanation of who is available, when, and how to access the various mental health medical professionals, social workers, and facilities. There is a need for the mobile crisis unit to extend interventions to the entire area, to address emergencies beyond the areas closer to Halifax.
And there is a great need to advocate to our MLAs for more medical personnel to be available to our communities on an ongoing basis. We have great practitioners doing heroic work, but we need more of them across the entire region.
MacDonald suggested that we can also do a certain amount for ourselves: Make a gratitude list; be more consciously aware of the benefits of aging (we are wiser!) and spend time with positive people. Join a class! Walk the trails, get together with friends, and ask for help when needed. There is much more we can do as a community, working together, than any of us can do alone. Next month: more resources, more action!