Celebrating care providers in Mental Health and Addictions

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May 1-7 is Mental Health Week. In honour of all they do for our community, we’re sharing the stories of healthcare providers across the Mental Health and Addictions program.

Lila Pavey is a health promotion specialist in the IWK Mental Health and Addictions program. She’s part of a team that works within a population health framework – helping to prevent substance-related and gambling-related harm and striving to meet the social determinants of mental health: social inclusion, freedom from discrimination and violence and access to economic resources. The MHA Health Promotion team consults, collaborates and co-creates with government, community-based organizations, and healthcare professionals. Together they are creating more equitable conditions for children, youth, and their caregivers to thrive.

“Like many people who connect to work in this area, I have a deep familial relationship with mental health and addictions. I understand that for each one of us to thrive, we need conditions around us to make that possible. I am driven by the need for better, more equitable conditions.”

Brianna Noseworthy is a registered nurse at the Garron Centre for Children and Adolescent Mental Health (inpatient unit) and the Emergency Mental Health and Addictions Service, located within the Emergency Department (ED).

The ED team focuses on building safety plans for youth in crisis. They work with Central Referral to identify the best way to meet the needs of young people – whether that means connecting with an IWK clinician or a community-based support.

In some cases, youth are admitted to the Garron unit for intensive treatment, which may involve medical stabilization. The Garron team provides the most advanced level of mental health care offered to 5 to 19-year-olds in the Maritimes.

“From the moment a client arrives on the unit for treatment until they are ready to go home, I’m with them. When they are finally ready to leave the hospital and I’m able to see them become healthier, it reinforces the reason why I chose to work in Mental Health and Addictions!”

Meaghan Norris is a clinical social worker with Reproductive Mental Health. This IWK team supports adults (19+) who are pregnant or postpartum and living with a perinatal mental illness – an experience as many as one in five people who give birth will have. Commonly, this presents as depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, or psychosis.

Meaghan provides psychotherapy and screens, triages, and assesses new referrals to the service. She aligns clients with services that meet their needs, which may involve connecting with an IWK clinician or another community-based support.

The Reproductive Mental Health team works closely with the Birth Unit, Family Newborn Care Unit, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and many IWK obstetricians and midwives, as well as Nova Scotia Health colleagues. Their collaborative approach ensures patients receive the best care possible.

“I get to stand by and hold space for patients when they are really struggling and help them build skills and different ways of thinking, being, and doing, and eventually get to be involved in the transformation that many of our patients experience.”

Have you ever wondered who answers the phone when you call the Central Referral line for IWK Mental Health and Addictions? Access navigators like Quinn MacIsaac are highly skilled social workers. Their impact is significant, as youth and caregivers often reach out during their most vulnerable moments.

Quinn is passionate about finding the right fit to meet the needs of a young person and their caregivers. He may connect them with an IWK clinician for further assessment or recommend a community-based support for mental health, addictions, behaviours, or parenting, to name a few examples.

“Accessing healthcare can be difficult and daunting for a number of reasons. I appreciate my role in getting to be part of that process and consider myself lucky to be the first person that many youth and their families connect with when accessing our service.”

Andy Cox is a community liaison for the Mental Health and Addictions program. He builds two-way relationships with community organizations across the Halifax Regional Municipality.

He also helps children, youth and families find and connect with appropriate community organizations that can complement the treatment provided by IWK clinicians in Community Mental Health and Addictions (CMHA). These vital organizations offer programs and resources for mental health, social skills and independence, education, employment, finances, housing, and food – as well as diverse cultural supports.

Andy’s natural passion for the area comes from his lived experience with bipolar disorder.

I love witnessing a youth, who is experiencing mental health problems, use their skills learned in the clinic as they are introduced to and participate in the community. They muster up their strength to push through barriers to do things that are important to them.”

Karen MacAulay is an administrative assistant at the Garron Centre for Children and Adolescent Mental Health (inpatient unit). Here, she supports multidisciplinary professionals delivering the most advanced and intensive mental health care offered to youth in the Maritimes.

Karen joined the team 24 years ago and hasn’t looked back – continuously learning and refining her skills. She saw firsthand the transformation of 4 South in the Children’s Building to the leading-edge Garron Centre it is today. Made possible by donors, the updated unit opened in 2014.

I am part of an amazing team and couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. I feel all members of my team, including myself, have a passion for mental health, in helping children and adolescents, along with their families and caregivers, which makes our jobs much more rewarding.”

Kerry Fraser is an occupational therapist and clinical team leader for Children’s Intensive Services. Through onsite programs, at home and in the community, this team supports families experiencing significant daily disruption resulting from behavioural challenges.

Children learn a lot here – from emotional regulation to problem solving and communication skills. In real life terms, they develop positive friendships and families leave with the confidence to enjoy typical experiences like dining out or visiting a playground.

“Our team approach is holistic. We look at all aspect of a child’s life and support them in getting back to what they want to be doing – whether it’s having dinner as a family, being able to go to school and be successful or doing the things they need to at home without significant challenges.”

For additional stories and resources, visit mentalhealthweek.ca.