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NL Votes 2019: Advocating for more mental health services

An increase in mental health services is something advocates think a new provincial government should focus on after the election on May 16.
An increase in mental health services is something advocates think a new provincial government should focus on after the election on May 16. - 123RF Stock Photo

Terri Lynn Burry sees teens struggling every day with mental health as they come through the doors of the Youth 2000 Centre in Grand Falls-Windsor.

Burry was seeing it so much that she started a weekly session for teens called Wellness Wednesdays.

It’s an hour every week where those struggling can come and attempt to leave what troubles them outside. They’ll work on their mental and physical health, considering each are mutually beneficial to one another.

It is a space where teens can share their problems with one another and help each other work through them in order to obtain a healthier mental-health state.

It is an area of mental health care that Burry believes this province isn’t focusing enough on.

“We have to try and listen to the kids,” she said. “They feel like they’re not being heard.”

As the next provincial election looms, Burry feels helping youth with their mental health should be a primary focus of whichever party comprises the next government.

It can take a lot for a youth to open up about what they’re going through. Trust isn’t easily earned, and by offering more counsellor services, they can get the help they need through the establishment of a consistent relationship with a trusted counsellor.

That is where additional funding can come in handy.

Burry sees the positive work that established programs like DoorWays have done in the province, but she would still like to see more. She sees additional programs, like peer-to-peer, for example, as one way for the new government to improve upon what it offers.

“We want teens to avoid bottling (their emotions) up,” said Burry. “We need more open spaces for communication.”

This week the Youth 2000 Centre is offering a safeTALK seminar for youth from the ages of 15 to 29. The purpose is to give participants the knowledge to recognize when their friends and family may be having suicidal thoughts.

They will also be given the tools to help those people through the episode and get them to a safe place mentally where the thought of self-harm has dissipated.

“We’re getting to the right point, but we have to keep (mental health) are the forefront,” said Burry.

St. Anthony’s T.J. Smith has been a strong advocate for mental health since moving back to his home province from Nova Scotia a little over a year ago.

He's struggled with his own mental health and has seen an improvement in the services offered in this province since he moved home. Still, he sees places where there can be improvements.

Similar to Burry, Smith sees a need for more accessibility to counselling services in rural centres.

Geography will always be a challenge for people in Newfoundland and Labrador and that only heightens the need to have trained psychologists in every medical centre. Smith recognizes luring a psychologist to an outport community would be a challenge, but it should be approached either way.

One way to bridge that gap would be for communities to start groups that can help people deal with what they’re going through.

“There has to be more education and awareness,” said Smith. “There is still that old-school mentality.

“It will cost money to get it done, but it will be beneficial in the long run.”

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