Although we have passed the dates for the official recognition of mental health week (May 6th-10th), it is never too late to connect with the important messages that it generated. According to Public Health Ontario the theme of this year’s MHW was “My Story”. It highlights that we all have mental health and we all have unique but equally valuable stories to share. The theme also emphasizes that we need to work together to reduce barriers that so many face when seeking mental health support. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/About/News/2023/05/Mental-Health-Week-2023
The mental and emotional well-being of St. James Town residents have been particularly affected by the impact of COVID-19. In her report “Weathering the Storm”, Lisa Kowalchuk notes that people she interviewed talked about experiencing increased emotional distress that was linked to decreases in social opportunities, increased work-related stresses which spilled into home life, increased stress from income reduction or loss, or interrupted plans for study and self-development, particularly among youth.
In an interview, Social Worker/Counsellor, Gouri Mukerjea described barriers that St. James Town residents face when experiencing mental health issues or trying to get help. She noted that individual beliefs and cultural norms affect people’s perceptions of mental health and are sometimes unaware that the symptoms they are experiencing are problems that can be treated. Mukerjea also suggested that the role health care providers play is extremely important. People sometimes feel excluded from decisions made by their providers or are wary of being labelled. She also noted that BIPOC communities do not access services as much and points to the need for better cultural competency on the part of health care providers to connect and communicate respect.
Mukerjea flagged the significance of social stigma on our ability as consumers and as providers to address mental health issues. Health care providers have their own story to tell as it relates to mental health and the impact of the pandemic. Almost everyday the news is filled with the stresses that providers in all areas of the health care system are experiencing in trying to respond to the growing gaps in services. However, providers are often reluctant to talk openly about their own personal struggles.
The Corner in St. James Town strives to address these barriers by providing access to counselling and health care support through their counselling and primary care services, including a Wellness Clinic. Counselling is provided one day each week. Services are generally appointment based, but people usually do not have to wait more than a week or two to get connected. To contact The Corner for support and counselling call 416-964-6657. Website: https://www.stjamestown.org.
In addition to these services, Mukerjea emphasizes the importance of self-care for users and providers of mental health services. Finding moments for self-care, reflection and connecting with nature really can help. Connecting with others can help too and The Corner@240 is an excellent resource for programming and volunteering. Call 416-964-6657 Ext. 240 or visit their website: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kowalchuk, Lisa: Weathering the Storm: Social Capital and COVID-19 in St. James Town, University of Guelph, Department of Sociology and Anthropology.