by Brandon Mayer
Area residents are voicing their concerns over the lack of mental health services and community supports in North Dundas.
With the exception of a few private service providers, as well as services provided through family doctors and the Winchester District Memorial Hospital, there are few local options for North Dundas residents to turn to when they need help.
For some residents, the local availability of services is simply not enough, with many accessing mental health services in Ottawa instead.
Chesterville healthcare worker, Patricia Turchetti, knows the struggle all too well. One year ago, she witnessed a car accident and stopped to help, and ended up comforting a victim in his last moments.
Ever since that day, her mental health has suffered, and she ended up losing her job because of it.
Seeking psychiatric help was difficult and at first involved a test of several different medications.
“I feel like a guinea pig to be honest with you,” she told The North Dundas Times. Speaking of the healthcare profession, Patricia raised concerns about suicide rates. “I couldn’t understand the high rate of suicide and why people do it, and it’s just because we don’t have the resources and we just can’t find the right people.” Still struggling, Patricia is holding on to hope. “I just hope that, soon enough, we can find the resources that we need.”
Morrisburg resident, Holly Johnston, also ran into issues when accessing mental health services, first through her family doctor, then through the Cornwall and Winchester hospitals, and finally through the Ottawa hospital.
Struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder and some unrelated health issues due to an injury, Holly came to realize that mental health services were seriously lacking in the local area.
Speaking of her experience at the Winchester hospital, she described how they wanted to send her home when she was experiencing a mental breakdown.
“I had to say some very dark, twisted things to even get them to send me to the psych ward.” Like many others, the frustration of not being able to find local support took its toll on Holly, but her story does have a happy ending.
After she was referred to the Ottawa hospital, she finally felt like she had found a place that was willing to help her.
Iroquois resident, Vicki Markell, had a similar experience with the Winchester hospital when seeking mental health help. “Winchester hospital should have some kind of support there, and have more compassion for people with mental health issues, and not treat them poorly, or completely ignore them altogether,” she told Times.
“Once you get labelled of having mental health issues, you get treated way different.”
Government and health agency efforts to increase mental health awareness and end stigma have been growing in recent years, with many campaigns suggesting that one only has to speak up to get help.
It can come as an unwelcome shock to a person who finally reaches out for support, only to be met with barriers and perceived indifference at a time when mental health is supposed to be given just as much priority as physical health.
Some area residents who spoke to the Times talked about how COVID-19 has worsened both mental health, and the availability of mental health services. The uncertainty of the pandemic has taken its toll, and, for many months, mental health services were restricted by COVID-19 rules.
Some residents are looking at the bigger picture and trying to promote positive change. One such person is Mannie Giles, an Inkerman local with a passion for fighting against what she believes is unjust.
For Mannie, the COVID-19 pandemic helped bring to light what she calls “pre-existing issues” in the North Dundas community, such as a lack of community housing and a lack of attention paid to underprivileged groups.
She hopes to bring the community together to push for better housing, food production, and mental health supports. One thing she is hoping for is more support from those in power. “I have not witnessed elected officials step into a leadership position of these issues,” she lamented.
For those in need of mental health services, 9-1-1 is the first contact for emergencies, and the Government of Canada provides a good starting place with resources for non-emergencies on their website at https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/mental-health-services/mental-health-get-help.html.