Today, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre staff, patients and families are walking together to raise awareness and reduce stigma surrounding mental health and addictions. The activity is held in honour of Mental Illness Awareness Week.
Mental Illness Awareness Week is an annual national public education campaign designed to open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness in Canada.
“Mental illness and addiction are so prevalent in Canada, as well as right here in our community,” said Erin Bergen, Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist and member of the Health Sciences Centre’s Mental Illness Awareness Committee. “That’s why our Mental Illness Awareness Week Committee is committed to not only raising awareness of mental illness and addictions, but also reducing the stigma that unfortunately surrounds it.”
While Acute Mental Health inpatient days are decreasing at other hospitals, it has increased here. Due to the prevalence and importance of mental health and addictions, Acute Mental Health is one of five strategic directions in the Hospital’s Strategic Plan 2020.
“We believe mental health patients must be respected equally to other patient populations, regardless of age, illness or culture and we strive to provide a holistic patient experience to treat the human being – body, mind and soul,” said Jean Bartkowiak, Health Sciences Centre President and CEO. “We are committed to fostering attitudes and behaviours that recognize mental health as an integral part of the delivery of comprehensive specialized acute care. By putting mental health on an equal footing to other clinical programs in our Hospital, we want to ensure that our mental health patients are satisfied, and that we set an example in our community as an inclusive and stigma-free environment.”
Access to quality mental health care in a safe and welcoming environment can make all the difference in the lives of patients and their families. Its importance is something Mina Hodder knows first-hand.
“Feeling confident and comfortable enough to seek help and access mental health services is crucial to a person’s overall health and well being,” she said. “Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding mental health can act as a barrier to treatment for many people. I’m so pleased that our Hospital is prioritizing mental health and working hard to improve services and eliminate stigma so that more people can be comfortable enough to reach out and seek treatment.”
In addition to the Mental Illness Awareness Walk, lunch and learns have been planned throughout the week to support and educate Hospital staff on ways to address the mental health concerns of their patients and families.