Less talk, more coordinated action on mental illness needed

Concern about the growing rates of mental illness and the complicated patchwork of agencies funded to assist people living with mental illness is causing many local organizations to call for less talk and more coordinated action to support people living with mental illness and their families.

These organizations are walking their talk. With Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 1 to 7) in full swing, members of the Mental Health and Addictions System Priority Action Table want the public to know they are joining forces to make things better.

“We are aware of the needs and we are aware that many diverse sectors must work together to make a difference,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts and co-chair of the Mental Health and Addictions System Priority Action Table. “The Action Table brings together health care, police, education, social services, the municipality, mental health advocates, addiction services, justice, people with lived experience, and others to put real issues on the table and take concerted actions to address them.”

“System pressures due to mental illness are seen throughout Ontario and are also part of our local reality. Hospital use for mental health and addictions has never been greater and the number of people accessing mental health and addictions services continues to grow right along with our wait times for community services. These system pressures require innovative solutions and strong partnerships if we are to make change happen,” said Dr. Natalie Aubin, Administrative Director, Mental Health and Addictions, Health Sciences North (HSN). Dr. Aubin joins Dr. Sutcliffe as co-chair of the Mental Health and Addictions System Priority Action Table.

The Action Table is relatively new; however, members are proud to score some early wins and are hungry for more. One key to success is their focus on building on existing services and making cross system connections to serve people better.

One example of success is how the Action Table worked with Health Sciences North to reduce mental health-related emergency department visits by implementing revised work standards enabling a simple pathway to a key community initiative led by the Canadian Mental Health Association – Sudbury/Manitoulin (CMHA) called the Rapid Mobilization Table (RMT).

“The RMT includes 25 community partners and has been in place for almost 5 years as a venue for connecting those who are at high risk of harm to necessary services and supports,” said Marion Quigley, Executive Director of the CMHA – Sudbury/Manitoulin. “The creative and collaborative responses of the RMT partners have contributed to great outcomes for Mental Health and Addictions presentations in our community.

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Action Table, the formalized integration of this new pathway from HSN’s Emergency Department Crisis Services has enhanced access to the RMT at a critical point in the patients care trajectory.”

“It may not sound like much, but health care is incredibly complex, and change is difficult. This is no small feat so we’re very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in only but a few months. We look forward to sharing additional successes down the road,” said Dr. Aubin.

The next mental health improvements on the Action Table’s radar include finding ways to help people and families in need better navigate the complex mental health system and finding ways to amplify the voice of people living with mental illness.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Ontario’s mental health is in crisis mode:

  • One-third of those with mental health and addiction problems can’t access the help they need.
  • Since 2008–2009, there has been a 60 per cent increase in hospitalizations of children and youth with mental health challenges.
  • Over the past 5 years, repeat emergency room visits within 30 days for substance use have increased by 20 per cent and for mental health by 9 per cent.


About Mental Illness Awareness Week

Mental Illness Awareness Week, is an annual national public education campaign coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health in cooperation with all its member organizations, including the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction. This year’s campaign encourages everyone to spread awareness and reduce stigma around mental illness by sharing personal stories and joining the conversation online using the #MIAW18 hashtag. As mental illness directly and indirectly affects more than six million people in Canada, the campaign encourages Canadians to engage in a discussion regarding the need to end societal stigmatization of mental illness and call for increased access to mental health services.

Additional Quotes from Members of the Action Table

“Policing is more than enforcement. We are committed to supporting the mental health and well-being of our community members and actively connecting them with appropriate, timely, and effective supports. Working collaboratively with our community partners through the Mental Health and Addictions System Priority Action Table is of the utmost importance to ensure community safety and well-being,” said Chief Paul Pedersen, Greater Sudbury Police Service.

“The Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board and the Canadian Mental Health Association have partnered together to provide supports to those living in the social housing units in LaCloche and Manitoulin Island.  The results of this program have proven to be very successful,” said Donna Stewart, Director of Integrated Social Services, Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board.

“Mental health and wellness is a significant priority for Rainbow District School Board as we nurture the physical, mental, social and emotional well-being of students. The Mental Health Strategic Plan approved by the Board will guide our work over the next three years as we continue to support students,” said Norm Blaseg, Director of Education, Rainbow District School Board.

“We understand that Northerners face challenges accessing mental health programs and services. That’s why increasing access is one of our top priorities. The North East LHIN is supporting two new psychotherapy programs to help teens and adults with low mood, depression and anxiety—Big White Wall, an online peer support and self-management tool, and BounceBack, a multilingual skill-building program which offers telephone based counselling, workbooks and videos,” said Jeremy Stevenson, CEO, North East Local Health Integration Network (NE LHIN).

“Knowing that 1 in 5 children and youth are experiencing mental health issues at any given time, the Sudbury Catholic District School Board in collaboration with community partners, endeavours to support families each and every day in our schools with an inclusive, accepting and equitable approach to care,” said Joanne Bénard, Director of Education, Sudbury Catholic District School Board.

“The Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvel-Ontario (CSCNO) truly believes that mental health cooperative planning allows to optimize care and to improve access to services and to the promotion of mental health and well-being. The Mental Health and Addictions System Priority Action Table for Sudbury aims at promoting mental health and offering better coordinated and more efficient services. Our participation in this partnership, focused on action, benefits our students and the whole community,” said Lyse-Anne Papineau, Director of Education, CSCNO.

“Taking care of our children’s mental health is a priority for our community. The Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l’Ontario (CSPGNO) is proud to be a partner of the Mental Health and Addictions System Priority Action Table for Sudbury. By combining our efforts, we develop a resilient community,” said Marc Gauthier, Director of Education, CSPGNO.

About the Mental Health and Addictions System Priority Action Table

Formed in 2017, the Mental Health and Addictions System Priority Action Table is made up of representatives from Behavioural Supports Ontario – Seniors Mental Health (North Bay Regional Health Center), Canadian Mental Health Association, Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, Child and Family Centre, City of Greater Sudbury, Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvel-Ontario, Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l’Ontario, Espanola Regional Hospital and Health Centre, Greater Sudbury Police Service, Health Sciences North, Human Services & Justice Coordinating Committee, Manitoulin-Sudbury District Social Services Administration Board (MSDSAAB), Ministry of Children and Youth Services, Ministry of Children and Youth Services Youth Justice, Ministry of Education, Monarch Recovery Services, Noojmowin Teg Health Centre, North East Local Health Integrated Network, Northern Initiative for Social Action, Public Health Sudbury & Districts, Rainbow District School Board, Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre, Sudbury Catholic District School Board, Sudbury Counselling Centre, Sudbury East Community Health Centre.

This item was last modified on October 4, 2018