Here are some of the many services that offer treatment and support to individuals who are living with mental illness, and to their family.
A family doctor can provide information, answer many questions about mental illness and can often provide a diagnosis. The family doctor will talk with you - and your family - to help you determine what your needs are. Family doctors can prescribe medication, order tests to rule out other possible causes of symptoms, refer your family member to a mental health professional and can monitor progress and recovery.
If you are concerned about your mental health, contact a family doctor as early as possible or ask a family member to make the first call. You may want a family member to go with you to at least the first apopointment and subsequent ones. Family doctors should welcome your family member if it is what you want.
If you do not have not a family doctor you may want to contact Community Mental Health.
For help finding a family doctor, visit www.doctorsns.com
Community Mental Health
Community Mental Health is a team of mental health professionals. They provide a range of services that help people to manage a mental illness and improve their mental health and well-being. Health professionals will talk with you to determine what your needs are. They will then work with you and your family to prepare a care plan. Community Mental Health is located in Cole Harbour, Dartmouth, Halifax, Sackville and Windsor.Team members are also located in family doctors’ offices and in community hospitals and health centres. Services are available to adults. There is no direct cost to you for these services.
West Hants Community Mental Health also provides services for youth and children.
Employee assistance programs
Many employers now offer Employee Assistance Programs. These programs provide confidential counselling. The number of sessions is usually limited to about six per employee. That is often enough to help a person sort out their difficulty. If there is a more serious mental illness, counsellors can provide referrals to other mental health services. You can get more information through your company’s human resources department. Employee Assistance Programs are completely confidential and are becoming more and more popular. Your family member may also find it helfpul to talk to a counselor through their workplace.
Registered health professionals - private practice
Some occupational therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers offer mental health services in private practices. You may be able to get help from a health care professional in private practice on a fee-for-service basis. If you have private health insurance, your insurance provider may cover these fees.
Psychiatrists in private practice are covered by MSI at no direct cost to you. In order to practice in Nova Scotia, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers, among most other health care professionals, must be registered by a professional college or regulatory organization. The college or regulatory organization is responsible for ethics, practice standards, complaints and discipline. If you would like to receive help through a private practice, ask your family doctor for a referral. Trying to choose an appropriate professional can be overwhelming.
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia
Doctors Nova Scotia
Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers
College of Occupational Therapists of Nova Scotia
Self-help and peer support
The professional and scientific views of mental health and mental illness are one part of the picture. Another part is the knowledge and wisdom that comes from living everyday with a mental illness. Many people living with mental illness and their family members find that they want to share their stories among people who understand exactly what they are going through and can speak from lived experience.
Self-help and peer support groups:
- offer their own stories
- suggest ways to handle the day-to-day
- develop self-help manuals
- host chat rooms
- provide links to local resources
- offer practical tips about all the things they wish they had known when they, or a loved one, was first diagnosed
- provide support with developing coping skills
- provide practical help with other issues such as obtaining housing or finding appropriate professional help
Above all, self-help and peer support groups offer messages of hope. There are many local self-help and peer support groups. You can find out more about what is available by contacting any of the resources listed below.
Self-help and peer support resources
Canadian Mental Health Association, Halifax-Dartmouth Branch
455-5445 or 455-6983
Self Help Connection
Consumer Initiative Centre
Healthy Minds Cooperative
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia
Caregivers Nova Scotia
You may want to explore complementary therapies. These include health-related services we don’t often think of as being medical in nature. Some more popular complementary therapies include massage therapy, music therapy, chiropractic, reiki, Qigong and acupuncture. People living with mental illness and their families often say they need a much broader range of help than just diagnosis and medication. This holistic approach to recovery is about caring for the mind, body and spirit - the whole person. It is becoming more widely accepted as offering substantial benefits to people living with mental illness.
Resources for complementary therapies
Massage Therapists Association of Nova Scotia
Atlantic Association of Music Therapy
Chiropractic Nova Scotia
Canadian Reiki Association
Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Association of Canada
Exploring all your options
Many people living with mental illness find that they benefit the most when they work with a team. Working with a team supports a holistic approach to recovery. Team members do not have to be health care professionals; they can be a clergyperson, Elder, boss, neighbour, teacher – anyone who wants to support you and your family. To work together and provide the best service or support, each team member needs to know who are the other members of your recovery team.
Note on confidentiality
In Nova Scotia health information is confidential. Professionals are limited in what they can share with families unless your family member gives their consent, often in writing.
Adapted from: Living with Mental Illness: A Guide for Family and Friends. Halifax, NS: Capital District Health Authority; 2008