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Get loud on mental health, says chair of CMHA’s Southwest Nova chapter

Ann Jones, chair of the southwest Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, hopes the Mental Health Week campaign will get more people to talk about mental health.
Ann Jones, chair of the southwest Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, hopes the Mental Health Week campaign will get more people to talk about mental health. - Eric Bourque

There is an urgent need for more mental health services in southwestern Nova Scotia, says a spokesperson for the local chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

With Mental Health Week scheduled for May 6-12, Ann Jones, chair of the CMHA’s Southwest Nova chapter, wants to draw attention to what’s happening – and what’s needed – at this end of the province with regard to mental health.

“As (with) all health needs, there just aren’t enough resources here right now,” she said. “We find, over the years we’ve been operating, that there are more and more people coming forward who say, ‘I can’t get help’ or ‘the waiting list is too long.’”

 She says mental health tends to be at, or near, the bottom of the priority list when it comes to funding and such because it tends to be hidden.

As part of a growing effort to promote awareness and generate discussion, the theme of Mental Health Week is #GetLoud.

“Mental health is something that affects every family in some way or other,” Jones said. “Many times, there’s a stigma attached, and we want to try to get rid of that stigma and have people realize it’s just part of our health and wellness, our general well-being ... We talk loud about cancer and about other things and we need to realize that mental health is just a health issue and, as such, we want it to be more open, because if you hide it, you can’t be helped.”

Mental Health Week 2019 comes along at a time when the CMHA’s chapter in southwestern Nova Scotia is in the process of hiring a staff person, marking the start of a new phase in the chapter’s 10-year history.

“There’s been a board of directors here since 2009 working very hard on support programs and various things, but it’s all been on a volunteer basis,” Jones said.

The plan is that the staff member will work 16 hours a week. Among their tasks, Jones said, will be to carry out a community scan, getting some data on what’s available locally in terms of mental health services.

The new person also will be able to take calls and refer people to where they can get help.

“We don’t do any direct counselling at all,” Jones said. “We’re not trained for that. That’s not what we do. It’s not our mandate. What we do is (try) to be a first stop for people who just want to ask, you know, ‘what’s happening to me?’ or ‘what’s happening to my daughter?’ or ‘how can I help my son?’ or something of that type.”

A number of funding sources helped the local chapter get to the point where it could hire someone, the biggest boost being a major donation from the 100 Guys Who Share of Yarmouth County.

“Without the support from these groups in the community, we’d never have gotten this far,” Jones said.

Meanwhile, as part of Mental Health Week, the CMHA’s Southwest Nova chapter is joining Laing House Yarmouth in holding a barbecue that will take place Thursday, May 9, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the HOPE Centre. It will be followed by a meeting with community youth.

Jones hopes the event – like Mental Health Week in general – will help encourage people to talk about mental health, a topic that “should be front and centre in our community.”

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