AMHERST - A local group has two main priorities in mind with the formation of a local Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) - education, and support.
Weve been wanting for some time to provide some support and education to people in the county with respect to mental illness, said Veronica Richards, clinical manager with Cumberland Mental Health Services. The important thing is that what were trying to do is an adjunct to services at Cumberland Mental Health, not either/or.
An invitation has been extended to anyone interested in joining the fledgling group to attend an open meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 14 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Cumberland Mental Health Services building on Havelock Street.
The CMHA Nova Scotia Division is part of a nationwide charitable organization that promotes the mental health of all and supports the resiliency of people recovering from mental illness. It now has eight locations in the province, and a group of local citizens is at work trying to develop a local chapter.
While this group would not offer the counseling or therapy now provided at Cumberland Mental Health, it could offer support after hours in the form of a help line, and by networking the consumers who have utilized mental health services, according to Clairemarie Haley.
I think people need to know that theres something else out there, a helping hand after 4 p.m., she said.
Such a support group would be for consumers, by consumers, according to Richards, who said it could also help educate the public and reduce the stigma around mental health issues.
Fran Wilson, who has an anxiety panic disorder, has been one consumer who dealt with the fear of that stigma in the beginning, but overcame it with help from the services she received at Cumberland Mental Health. She said she hopes to see a group like this help others in that way.
When I first came here, I used to carry a folder, so if I ran into anyone I knew, I could just say I was here on business, said Wilson. I was uncomfortable, because I thought, if people knew I was coming here with issues, then I was leaving myself open for all kinds of things.
As a matter of fact, one in five Canadians are often affected with some aspect of mental health problems, according to Richards, who said this new group could play a vital role in educating people about that.
There are two things we need: education, and to reduce the stigma so people wont have to come here in the dark, parking their car three blocks away, or carrying a briefcase, she said. They dont do that when they have diabetes or lung cancer. That stigma carries a lot of shame, guilt and fear, so we want to reduce that by education.
Those wishing to attend the meeting are asked to call ahead and confirm, at 667-3879.