Proactive mental health needed: FCSS

Masha Scheele

Hinton has a need for more proactive mental health services as was identified through the Rural Mental Health Project.

Three mental health service provider input sessions have been held in Hinton regarding the project this year. Charlene Sitar, the project animator at Hinton FCSS, explained that a lot of services offered are reactive, and more preventative measures need to be put in place.

“As an animator I gather all of the information from people and really see what the pulse of the community is with regards to mental wellness. What do we need in our community to help people be more well-rounded as far as their mental wellness goes? And is there a way we can do that as a community?” she said.

One proactive initiative is the development of a mental health tool that the entire community can use to identify their own mental wellness.

“Something simple enough to identify when each one of us is maybe not flourishing or if we’re in danger of reaching the edge of the cliff. And how we can tap into the strengths of the community to bring ourselves back,” said Sitar.

This preventive tool can be used by people to check in with themselves and know when and who to reach out to for help.

Sitar added that a common mistake people make is that only people who are diagnosed with a mental illness can suffer.

“It’s not just people who are diagnosed. Even people who aren’t diagnosed could be really languishing. It’s about flourishing versus languishing,” she said.

She hopes this mental health tool can help people recognize where they fit on the mental health continuum.

Sitar also believes HIV west yellowhead’s community helpers program will help create a more supportive community.

The program trains young adults and teenagers how to identify when someone needs help, who can help in the community, and how to be effective listeners.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) emphasizes eight domains of mental health; basic needs; services; culture; environment; social connections; building wellbeing; lifespan development; and livelihood.

According to Sitar, Hinton is lacking mostly in the area of social connections.

“We’re lacking in our relationship building with neighbours and community. I don’t know why we’re lacking there, but we certainly have a lot of really great organizations in our community that have the capacity to build a stronger community,” she stated.

It takes people to be more self aware in their need for social connection, she added.

“It’s not just Hinton, I think this is everywhere. We’re losing that community connection,” she said.

Another initiative stemmed from the input sessions is a film that will be brought to the Performing Arts Theatre in Hinton (PATH) called ‘The Great Disconnect.’

The film uncovers why our current society is socially isolated and how it affects our well-being.

Staff sergeant Chris Murphy also mentioned at the recent community crime reduction seminar that neighbourhoods are slowly falling apart because of the lack of connection.

Sitar identified this as a common weakness that keeps coming up throughout her sessions.

“Loneliness and isolation are epidemics of the 21st century and we know that,” she said.

There are many different services available for the community to tap into, but Sitar added that there isn’t always enough funding in rural areas.

“We’re hoping that with the new budget, the provincial government has indicated that they’re going to put more funding into mental health and addictions. I’m hoping that will support these processes as well, but we will have to see what those look like,” she said.

The next input session will be held on Nov. 27 at 1 pm at BRIDGES, contact Charlene Sitar at FCSS for more information. 

She looks forward to opening up a focus group session with members of the community in the future. 

The Great Disconnect will play at the PATH on Dec. 8 at 7 pm, doors open at 6:15 pm. For more information contact FCSS at (780) 865-6036.