Life

Mental health options available in Niagara

By Michelle Allenberg, Tribune Staff

Niagara Health System is within easy reach to people suffering from mental illness. Supplied photo

Niagara Health System is within easy reach to people suffering from mental illness. Supplied photo

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which means it’s the perfect time to talk about supporting people who suffer with mental illness.

One in five people experience mental illness in their lifetime.

Niagara Health System sees about 2,000 inpatient and about 18,000 outpatient visits from across the Niagara region every year.

Barb Pizzingrilli, director of mental health and addictions access, says NHS sees diverse groups of people visiting the emergency unit at Niagara hospitals. She said medical professionals will assist people who are dealing with a variety of illnesses, including schizophrenia and addiction.

After receiving an assessment from a doctor people are referred to other programs, which can include inpatient or outpatient treatment. These programs are offered in partnership with community organizations, including the New Port Centre in Port Colborne and the Out and About Clinic in St. Catharines, to name a few.

Pizzingrilli says group therapy has shown a great deal of success as a treatment tool. People receiving assistance in a group therapy setting are able to connect with others who are facing similar issues. She says this can be beneficial because patients can help each other in a unique way that councillors may not because they haven’t lived it.

Pizzingrilli encourages anyone who is feeling overwhelmed or suicidal to visit one of the NHS sites to receive help. When someone feeling suicidal visits one of the emergency units they are assessed by a mental health specialist.

Pizzingrilli says a mental health professional will determine whether a person needs to stay the night under supervision, or is OK to go home. Often people are referred to a therapist or program that can assist them further.

“We provide the care they need, there is no blanket approach to providing assistance,” Pizzingrilli says.

When it comes to looking for signs of mental illness, Pizzingrilli says there is no one way to approach all people. Symptoms in children and adults appear differently and can be different depending on the mental illness.

Pizzingrilli says if someone is worried their loved one might hurt themselves or someone else, they should call 911. If the person is worried about themselves and it is an emergency, she says, they should also call 911 for immediate assistance.

When it comes to mental health, Pizzingrilli says having an awareness week or month is important.

“It breaks down the stigma surrounding mental health and brings people out ... it encourages them to seek help.”

Pizzingrilli says over the past few years she has seen a difference in the number of people who are seeking help. She says although a number of factors impact why someone reaches out for assistance, she is sure having an awareness week or event is part of the reason.

People in need of assistance can call the 24/7 Niagara Mental Health and Addictions Access Line at 1-866-550-5205 or visit http://accesslineniagara.com.

MAllenberg@postmedia.com

twitter.com/M_Allenberg



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