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  • Gayle Baker

Mental Health in our Community

March 6:

Fifteen came to this discussion focused on mental health issues and services in our community led by David Norget. Before discussion on this topic began, there was a spirited discussion of Bylaw 471, the proposed bylaw that would allow Trustees to issue Temporary Use Permits for tiny homes, campers, trailers, etc. on residential properties as well as commercial and retail land. The focus of the conversation was the perceived inadequate requirements linked to these permits. Where the proposed bylaw said “should,” some were adamant that it should read “must.” Issues brought up were the lax rules around septage and water, among other things. Interestingly, one participant was opposed, one supportive if there were better restrictions, and one strongly in favour of it. It was suggested that they meet to craft a bylaw that they could all support.

It was estimated that 20% here on Salt Spring do not have a family doctor. It was questioned: How can we get reliable statistics on this number?

David spoke of anxiety, depression, and stress in our high schools - and told us of the frightening statistic - 9% - in School District 64 who attempted suicide (2013 McCreary Society). There appears to be a lack of coordination among providers. For example: A student could have a traumatic incident resulting in a hospital visit one evening and go to school the next day - and the school would not be aware of the incident.

Similar issues plague those who are inadequately-homed as well, with high incidence of trauma, fear, and extreme poverty that make mental health even harder to achieve. Did you know that Salt Spring has the highest per capita rate of homeless than anywhere in Canada? The RCMP takes over 2,000 calls a year on Salt Spring - and most of them have a mental health component. Other first responders - fire and Search and Rescue - are first responders who deal with a very high incident of mental health issues as well. Are they adequately prepared? Would it help to have a mental health professional ride with them?

Sexual assault is also a very real problem on Salt Spring. And, a massive mental health problem for both victims and perpetrators. The legal system fails us and of those assaults reported a low percentage lead to conviction. The victim seldom gets the needed help and the perpetrator continues - with neither consequences nor any help.

As very few of these assaults are reported, the victim seldom get the needed help and the perpetrator continues - with neither consequences nor any help.

Based on the 2013 McCreary Society data kids today are using drugs at a later age (this was true for alcohol also). While drug are still there (the “Wake and Bake” kids before school), binge drinking seems to be a big problem (for those who consume alcohol).

Adults face long waits to get mental health help. Waits are especially long for those who cannot pay. And, some never get it: It is estimated that over 50% of those who need it never get free-of-charge help (SS Needs Assessment Sept -2019). There is waiting period for teens also.

What can we do to get help for someone who needs it?

- Community parenting?

- Core Inn?

- Fetch?

- bc211?

- Lions Directory?

- Posted emergency numbers?

- What about a “Pink Shirt Brigade” like Montreal where help comes from trained community members.

- Would a 24-Hour shelter help?

- What about detox beds and a Safe Room in Hospital?

***Should RCMP, Katie Waters, and Victim Services be invited to ASK Salt Spring?

Sometimes help comes from one-on-one connections. Lynn Johnson’s Art Jam is an example of connecting on a personal level leading to open communication. Supportive programs like SWOVA's 'Peace Kids,’ 'The Respect Project,’ and ‘Pass It On' help.

Connecting and listening is key. Shouldn’t we ask those needing help what they want rather than us sitting here trying to figure it out for them?

While much of the conversation focused on the needs of youth and inadequately-home populations, mental health issues pervade across all demographics.

There was some hope when we learned more about the Mental Health Initiative being launched by the Salt Spring Health Advancement Network. Grants have been submitted.

Main components are:

  1. First, everyone involved must be at the table. This includes the professionals, decision-makers, and those who will use the services. These meetings will begin in May 2020

  2. In November, a Mental Health Summit will be held. Participants will include users of the systems, all those involved in mental health efforts in our community, including schools, Community Services, Islands Health, Physicians, marginalized voices - youth, elderly, LGBTQ+, indigenous, disabled - and our non-profit volunteers throughout Salt Spring. While there are no quick fixes, the intention is to create an action plan to address identified issues and gaps.

  3. An on-going leadership group will require everyone to systematically works together to implement the action plan.

We were told that when the Salt Spring Community Health Society did its survey in the fall of 2019, the #1 problem was in the realm of mental health services. As a result of these findings, this registered charity is now educating its members about the issues so that they can take a leadership role to support other groups to work together to address this problem (As they are an active partner in the Mental Health Initiative, this is an initial step in that direction.)

We were reminded that the housing crisis is an integral part of mental health. We learned that the CRD Regional Housing Initiative passed unanimously. This will put $30,000,000 more on the table to help affordable housing regionally. Addressing the housing issues will bridge a huge gap and help many toward mental health. A participant questioned where she could live. She had been waiting for two years to find a place nearer to town that she could afford. She is on the Croftonbrook waiting list but cannot seem to find out what her chances were of getting into this phase of its development. (We were reminded that IWAV does not only apply the list sequentially, but, instead, favours Salt Springers over applicants from other areas.) It was suggested she meet with Kisae to get some answers.

As this ASK Salt Spring session was winding down, we were reminded that many different groups work tirelessly to address mental health issues on our island and that we need to continuously celebrate these successes. We left with the request to remember to shine a light on all that is working.

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