On Bell Let’s Talk Day, Scarborough Health Network (SHN) is joining Canadians and participating in mental health conversations to fight the stigma, support world-class research, celebrate dedicated teams, and lead by example in workplace mental health.

As the globe continues its fight against COVID-19, the true necessity of mental health services is becoming more and more obvious. With the demand for mental health programs steadily increasing, and new terms like “pandemic burnout” running rampant in news and academia headlines across the globe, it is more important than ever to discuss the mental health challenges of day-to-day life.

At SHN, a group of compassionate and dedicated team members are continuing their pursuit of progress in mental health and generating positive change throughout our community.

“With compassionate and dedicated psychiatrists, nurses, and social workers serving our community, patients are continuing to receive exceptional care from SHN despite pandemic challenges,” said Sari Greenwood, Director, Mental Health and Addictions, Oncology and Palliative Care, SHN.

SHN’s Mental Health and Addictions team has worked hard to keep hospital doors open for patients, throughout the pandemic.

The Rapid Access Addition Medicine (RAAM) Clinic continues to treat patients on a walk-in basis, despite the significant increase in volumes associated with substance use disorders (upwards of over 200 per cent from 2019 to 2021). The team also opened the new RAAM Observation Clinic, which focusses on day detox from opioid and alcohol use disorders.

Day Hospital and Day Treatment programs provide support and skills development, while the First Intervention Treatment Team (FITT) is there for young people when they need support for their first episode of psychosis.

“Despite increasing workloads and pandemic fatigue, our Mental Health and Addictions team have continued to display collaboration, resilience and dedication. Among their many achievements, the team has pivoted quickly to meet the needs and the demands of our community,” explained Greenwood.

For example, SHN’s child youth counsellors (CYC) and nurses joined the adult team to care for all mentally ill inpatients ages 18 and up; outpatient clinicians, including nurses and social workers, teamed up with inpatient teams to support patient care; and many outpatient groups went virtual, enabling programs to assign available staff to the most-needed areas.

“As the pandemic has forced many of us to rethink the way we connect, we’ve expanded virtual supports, education, and resources, enabling patients to get the care they need at home,” added Greenwood.

Online supports include the Online Psychotherapy clinic and the Mental Health App Libraryfor those living with anxiety and depression.

Janie Leopold, who is a Patient Family Advisor at SHN and a mental health patient herself has utilized these virtual services for her own journey, and continues to take part in conversations to improve the patient experience.

“I am grateful to provide a patient voice and perspective. Through these virtual services, you never feel alone. Though we are virtual now, we are meeting regularly to discuss and improve services for everyone, especially with the added pandemic stresses in life” she said.

Perhaps most impressive, SHN’s Mental Health programs never discontinued any essential services during the pandemic! And, while the team provides vital supports for Scarborough and beyond, they’re also supporting the needs of staff, medical staff, and volunteers at SHN daily.

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, SHN will continue to break the silence surrounding mental health by supporting our community and health care workers, and celebrating this team of resilient professionals, who continue to improve lives through exceptional care.

SHN Foundation recently launched the “Love, Scarborough” campaign, supporting their $100 million fundraising goal. Monies raised will help with the creation of a new Community Mental Health Hub. This Hub will consolidate all of SHN’s outpatient adult mental health programs into one central location, and work to remove barriers surrounding mental health care. To learn more or to make a donation, please visit LoveScarborough.ca.