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EDITORIAL: Get with the program

Mental health service has been a sensitive topic in Pictou County, particularly since changes made in 2015 at the Aberdeen Hospital. It’s been just as much an issue across Nova Scotia, with a provincial government still saying it’s working on a plan.

But until the point people find that what’s lacking in a crucial health service affects them directly, it’s often like many other issues – just not front and centre. That has a lot to do with why residents here – elsewhere too – aren’t as vocal as they should be about the patchwork of service across the province for people with mental health problems.

Local resident Robbie Weatherbee talked to The News about her family’s sorrow and frustration with a health system she believes is failing people. This related to a personal experience, the loss of her daughter’s fiancé to suicide after he’d sought help in a time of crisis at the Aberdeen ER unit.

Although he told staff at the hospital, after being kept overnight, that he shouldn’t be leaving, he was sent home with antidepressants and reassurances that he had the support he needed.

Sadly, the eventual outcome was tragic. That left Weatherbee and family asking what more could have been done, and what in the system is failing some people.

That in turn led Weatherbee to learn more about an author and public speaker on this very subject, Todd Leader, who encourages people to speak out about a system that he says is broken. In his book “It’s Not About Us: the secret to transforming mental health and addiction system in Canada,” the registered psychologist and social worker says people need to push for the changes needed in mental health care. The system has to be based on the needs of the clients.

Weatherbee wanted to get her family’s story out at this time because Leader is speaking today, 2:30-4:30 p.m., at the NSCC Pictou Campus in Stellarton and she encourages people to go out and hear him.

Like many other proponents calling for improvements to health care, Weatherbee makes the point that topics such as mental health, depression, addiction and suicide need to be openly discussed, the same as other health issues. In recent years, people have made the observation that, for too long, mental disease and suicide were taboo subjects.

Think of the discussion people have about other afflictions, such as heart disease or cancer. Generally, they are willing to open up about it, ask questions and search for information.

If there’s even a shade of hesitation in finding help for a mental health issue, that can be a barrier to getting treatment. People need to know they can be open in discussing the subject, asking questions and seeking help.

People also have to be vocal in letting their government and health authority know when the system isn’t meeting the needs of clients. Their experiences provide the best criticism in finding a path forward.

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