Starting the conversation about mental health

This week’s guest blogger is Kiki Ferrari, Interim Executive Vice President, Clinical Services

Pull up a chair. Let’s talk.

It’s a simple invitation, but for millions of Canadians living with mental health challenges, it’s one that’s not always easy to accept. January 25 is Bell Let’s Talk Day. This is an excellent opportunity for many of us at Osler to start the conversation about mental health, but we also need to continue the conversation in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Mental health issues touch all of us. Whether we’re living with mental health challenges ourselves, or supporting a colleague or loved one in the best way we can, the growing incidence is real. Here at Osler, the demand for mental health services is one of the fastest growing needs facing our community. In 2015-16, we had more than 65,000 visits to our Adult Mental Health Clinic and over 7,000 Child & Adolescent Mental Health Clinic visits. And in our Mental Health Emergency Services Unit (MHESU), the 1,500 patients we saw last year clearly shows the acute need for urgent mental health support in the community. These numbers have increased substantially over the past four years and we expect this trend to continue.

This shift has made mental health a central focus for our teams. A number of initiatives at Osler are helping us to support patients with these specialized needs:

  • The Geriatric Mental Health Team at Brampton Civic has created a “Silver Surfers” iPad program that introduces patients to cognitive stimulation games, provides social stimulation through Facebook and Skype, and helps create more comfort with technology so they can grocery shop, bank and fill prescriptions online. These skills can be used post-discharge in their daily lives.
  • Our Addiction Services team is working with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to pilot an Integrated Care Pathway for people living with depression and alcoholism, which has had a positive impact on reducing depressive symptoms and improving drinking patterns.
  • Osler received a Leading Practice designation during our most recent Accreditation review for our use of the Osler Suicide Interview Checklist (OSIC), a 25-item suicide risk assessment designed for use by experienced clinicians during initial contact with a patient who may be at risk of suicide.

In addition to starting the conversation about mental health, the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund provides grants to organizations across Canada to improve access to mental health care, supports and services for people living with mental illness.

In fact, Osler has directly benefitted from the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund. In 2014, we received a one-time $25,000 grant to our Telephone Advice Psychiatry (TAP) program. TAP provides physicians throughout the region with expert advice and support that helps them better manage non-acute mental health issues of patients as they wait to be seen by a specialist. With this funding, the team was able to promote the program among 500 physicians in the Central West region. Osler Foundation is submitting new grant application for additional funding that will help us support more patients.

Mental health is important for us all. Let’s take a lead in starting the conversation, and let’s keep talking about it.

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