“Asks” for improved mental health and mental illness prevention and services in NL

Dozens of people affected by mental health and mental illness took to the stage Oct. 15 at Holy Heart Auditorium in St. John’s to share their “asks” with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador as part of a provincial mental health strategy

“My name is Patrick Hickey and I’m a student at Holy Heart and my ask if for mental health to be implement as a part of our students’ education.”

“My name is Pat McDrodge, and I’m one of the founders of CHANNAL [Consumers’ Health Awareness Network], and I am a member of Gerry Rogers’ district association, St. John’s Centre. I have a mental illness. I ask for more after hours mental health programs and services.”

“Good evening, my name is Dan McGilligan, and along with my colleagues Ron Fitzpatrick and Kevin Foley…we endeavour with other people and agencies to help those who have issues with mental illness, and sometimes they’re at high risk and high need and have co-occurring disorders of addictions and PTSD. At times we have to go into provincial and federal jails, and there are many there, many violent people, but there are also many non-violent who suffer from these disorders. So our ask is that we be more informed as a community so that we can decriminalize mental illness.”

“My name is Grant Fitzpatrick, I’m the mental health facilitator for the Canadian Mental Health Association. I teach the Think Twice anti-stigma program to youth all across the province. My ask is to decrease the stigma in order to increase the communication and understanding surrounding mental health issues.”

“My name is Glen Roil. I am a person with lived experience. I sit on the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Legislative Stakeholder’s Committee for Mental Health and Treatment Care Act. My ask this evening is to have a mental health and addictions wellness transition and respite centre for people, that they can go if they are too sick to be at home and not sick enough to be in hospital, and have a place that they can have counselling and just have a break from life.”

“My name is Paula Corcoran and I work with CHANNAL. I live with a mental illness. I strive with my mental illness. And I want a provincial 24-hour peer-run warm line. I want to know that at any time, no matter where I am, I can pick up the phone and have someone to talk to.”

“I’m Barbara Burnaby and I’m from the Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council and the Coalition on Richer Diversity. Over the past month more refugees have crossed over from Syria into Turkey every day than there are people in Newfoundland and Labrador. So provincially we want a funded program to coordinate and support diagnosis and focused treatment for mental health issues faced by newcomers and refugees in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

“Our names are Helen and Keith Hillier, and we are the foster parents of a son who has a mental health condition. Through the Choices for Youth program we have housed over 30 youth in the last nine years with multiple mental health problems. We have seen the devastation and witnessed the heartbreak of those living with mental illness. And those human beings struggle on a daily basis. I am not asking but rather pleading with government to please help bridge the gap in medicare to place much-needed funding in more programs to educate and remove the barriers that leave people with mental illness in poverty and to live lonely and isolated lives. Mental illness is the same as cancer, heart and stroke, and we too have to find a cure for this situation.”

“My name is Jennifer Rimmer. I represent the deaf community. I think tonight is absolutely fabulous. The different organizations that are all listed here in the pamphlet are beautiful, but what about me? I’m deaf. Where’s my accessibility? That’s my ask.”

“Good evening, I’m Dr. Brenda LeFrancois. I am a psychologist and a social work educator at MUN, and I’m asking that we come together as a community and we develop the kinds of alternative services that we know exists and works elsewhere in the world. I’m talking about alternative services like the Hearing Voices Network, the open dialogue approach, the Soteria Houses, and other 24-hour crisis houses, just to name a few. So let’s just do it.”

“I am George Skinner with the Canadian Mental Health Association Newfoundland and Labrador. And my ask is that all persons who suffer with mental illness receive the respect, acceptance and treatment equivalent to those persons who suffer from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.”

“My name is Andrea Boundridge. I’m a deaf community representative. I am here to say you all learn about mental health through hearing about it on the radio or on the TV, and you hear a lot about what’s going on. But when it comes to the deaf community there is no accessibility for seeing what is going on and hearing what we are discussing, even now. So we need to have more information, more access for the deaf community. It needs to be captioned, it needs to be signed. Something that will have them all involved and not ignored.”

“I’m Connie Pike with the Coalition Against Violence. We ask for patience, for understanding, and for supportive families to be included in the process of helping their loved one back to mental wellness.”

“My name is Amelia Reimer and I’m Cultural Support Worker with the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre, and my asks the evening are for culturally appropriate services, including services sensitive to multi-generational and institutional traumas. Shorter waiting periods for services; six months to two years is too long. And better communication and cooperation between service providers. Stop the misinformation and the runarounds.”

“My name is Sheilagh O’Leary and I’m the founder of the Tickle Swim for Mental Health, a fundraiser and awareness project whereby people swim to Bell Island Tickle to raise awareness and end stigma. My wish is to dispel stigma and loneliness from mental illness by developing a more holistic approach by creating programs that make mental and physical health, beginning in our schools.”

“My name Boyd Perry. I am one of two councillors here at Holy Heart High School. We have over 960 students. My ask is for more councillors in our schools.”

“My name is Jenny Wright and I work with the St. John’s Status of Women Council. We ask for women’s health and resource centre to support the unique mental health and addictions issues faced by women in our communities.”

“Hello everyone. I’m Heather Pollett with the Canadian Mental Health Association. I’m asking for more respect from government and the regional health authorities for the experience, expertise and people in community non-profit organizations who support recovery from mental illness for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. We are equal partners in mental health.”

“My name is Peggy Hann. I’m the proud president of NLCPA, the Newfoundland and Labrador Cousellor’s and Psychologists’ Association. We represent counsellors and psychologists who work in our schools. The work that we do is very important. Counsellors and psychologists make a difference. They have a very unique skillset. We know that talk therapy works. We know that there’s a lot of prevention and intervention strategies that work. We really need more of us. We need a minimum of 1:250 with respect to school counsellors, and 1:1,000 with respect to school psychologists. We need to be consistent with the rest of Canada and with our international bodies.”

“My name is Megan Barnhill and I’m a community activist. My ask is that when someone comes to the mental health system and says that I need help, that they’re not given a two-year wait list and that they’re helped before the situation gets worse.”

“Good evening. My name is Donna Kavanagh and I’m the retired coordinator of College of the North Atlantic’s Waterford Bridge Road Centre, which supported students with psychiatric illness. When government privatized this program in 2013, a lot of the supports and services that are known are essential to allowing people to become what they should were cut. I am asking government to restore those supports and services.”

“Hello everyone. My name is Sean Kennedy and I’m with the MUN students’ union Canadian Federation of Students Local 35, and what we’re asking for is for improved counselling services on our campus. Right now we are asking for something we don’t have but desperately need, and that’s a permanent psychologist.”

“Hi, my name is Courtney Jones and I’m with the MUN students’ union Canadian Federation of Students Local 35. In order to have well-funded mental health supports at Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic we need to have well-funded post-secondary institutions. Funding for post secondary education is funding for mental health supports, and it needs to continue to be prioritized.”

“My name is Brenda O’Brien and I’m a member of the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador and the parent of a son with autism. And for him and the 1 in 68 children who will become adults who have been diagnosed with autism, I ask for tolerance, friendship and acceptance. But I also ask for prompt access to the medically-prescribed, evidence-based treatments like speech language pathology, occupational therapy, and applied behaviour analysis from the time of diagnosis until they no longer need treatment. And not to be arbitrarily cut off by age, IQ or income.”

“I’m Susan Rose, President of Egale Canada, and one of the things we do is we work to eliminate depression, anxiety and suicide, and we are asking to continue this extremely important work of making our schools safe and inclusive for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans youth in this province.”

“Hi, I’m Aaron, I’m a facilitator with the Better Days Support Society. My ask would be that we have a system that focuses on prevention and diagnosis, and not just crisis.”

“Hi, name is Ed Sawdon and I’m a 2013 Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award recipient. And I’m also a member of various organizations and I’ve received awards from those organizations. And this is what I ask: I ask that the governments, both federal and provincial, implement a universally-accessible and affordable pharmacare program for all Canadians and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have mental health issues.”

“My name is Tina Davies. I lost my son Richard to suicide. I am the founder of Richard’s Legacy Foundation for survivors of suicide loss. Did you know that in Newfoundland and Labrador we lose more than one person a week to suicide? I ask for a provincial strategy and us to be leaders in a national strategy for suicide prevention. I ask for zero suicides.”

“My name is Elaine Byrant and I’m also with Richard’s Legacy and survivors of suicide. I too lost my only daughter to suicide, and I’m asking government for province-wide crisis centres for people who need a safe place. And I’m also asking you, the voting public, to seek a government who makes mental illness a priority.”

“Hi my name is Jackie Taylor. I too am with the Richard Legacy Foundation. I also lost my son a short while ago to a mental health illness, and I’m asking to put an end to the stigma surrounding suicide and suicide loss, please.”

“My name is Angela Wilmott. I’m a school consellor and President elect for the Newfoundland and Labrador Counsellors and Psychologists’ Association. I dream for a time when all services are funded adequately to meet the needs, so people who are in helping professions, like myself, are not getting burnt out so we continue to help. And, but at the end of the day we’re resourced at a level where guidance counsellors in schools can focus on the potential of our young people and get them to a place where they’re truly happy and content with themselves, versus putting out fires and trying to save lives.”

My name’s Karen LeMessurier, and I’m a registered nurse and a homecare worker. I lost a brother to suicide after a long battle with mental illness, so I ask that all of you continue to do what you’re doing right now, which is support and talk and support. And I also ask that there be more healthcare initiatives that are directed at mental health.”

“My name is Gerry Rogers. I work for the people of St. John’s Centre. My ask is that everyone—everyone—have access to safe, affordable housing, and that we all continue to do this work together with courage, with determination, and with hope.”


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