Smoky River Family and Community Support Services – In Focus
Coordinator Mental Health Support
The Alberta Mental Health Patient Advocate believes that “every person has the right to be involved in decision making that impacts the management of their illness and their life, to participate in their self care to the extent they are able.”
However, before anyone can make decisions, they have to have support – from family, friends and the health care system. Too often, especially in rural areas, there is not the support from health care due to shortage of staff and facilities. According to the Mental Health Advocate, advances have been made.
However, even in a large city like Calgary people are saying, “we don’t have the services needed for persons with chronic mental health issues.”
Mental health concerns need to be addressed now, not three or four days or even a week later! Yet, in any given year only one in three people who experience a mental health illness report that they have received services and treatment. And, as indicated earlier, only 63 per cent of people who have been hospitalized for depression had a follow up visit with a physician within 30 days of discharge compared to 99 per cent of people with heart issues.
Studies indicate that in any given year, one in every five Canadian adults under age 65 will have a mental health problem. Indirectly, all Canadians are affected by mental health issues because we know someone in the family, a friend or fellow worker who has an illness.
In spite of these startling facts, most people know very little about mental illness, aside from what the media tells us, or from word of mouth.
Twenty per cent of the people in our communities experience mental illness at some time – isn’t it time we learned the truth about these conditions and separated fact from fiction?
Many families and individuals struggle with depression and other mental health issues often hiding the issue because they fear there is some sort of stigma attached to mental health issues. But, it is a concern that needs to be recognized and treated as any other illness.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Almost half (48 per cent) of adults with mental health issues reported unmet needs for one or more services – either they needed services but did not receive them, or did not receive enough help or support. This is equivalent to approximately 311,355 people in Alberta, or one of 10 adults.
Lack of counselling services is a major issue, while the second issue is the inability to afford services (many qualified counsellors operate privately). Most surveyed programs indicated that they did not have the resources to services the number of people seeking support