Family doctor

A family doctor can provide information, answer many questions about mental illness and can often provide a diagnosis. The family doctor will talk with you - and your family -  to help you determine what your needs are. Family doctors can prescribe medication, order tests to rule out other possible causes of symptoms, refer your family member to a mental health professional and can monitor progress and recovery.

If you are concerned about your mental health, contact a family doctor as early as possible or ask a family member to make the first call. You may want a family member to go with you to at least the first apopointment and subsequent ones. Family doctors should welcome your family member if it is what you want.  

If you do not have not a family doctor you may want to contact Community Mental Health.

For help finding a family doctor, visit www.doctorsns.com

Community Mental Health

Community Mental Health is a team of mental health professionals. They provide a range of services that help people to manage a mental illness and improve their mental health and well-being.  Health professionals will talk with you to determine what your needs are. They will then work with you and your family to prepare a care plan.  Community Mental Health is located in Cole Harbour, Dartmouth, Halifax, Sackville and Windsor.Team members are also located in family doctors’ offices and in community hospitals and health centres. Services are available to adults. There is no direct cost to you for these services.

West Hants Community Mental Health also provides services for youth and children.

Employee assistance programs

Many employers now offer Employee Assistance Programs. These programs provide confidential counselling. The number of sessions is usually limited to about six per employee. That is often enough to help a person sort out their difficulty. If there is a more serious mental illness, counsellors can provide referrals to other mental health services. You can get more information through your company’s human resources department. Employee Assistance Programs are completely confidential and are becoming more and more popular. Your family member may also find it helfpul to talk to a counselor through their workplace.

Registered health professionals - private practice

Some occupational therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers offer mental health services in private practices. You may be able to get help from a health care professional in private practice on a fee-for-service basis. If you have private health insurance, your insurance provider may cover these fees.

Psychiatrists in private practice are covered by MSI at no direct cost to you. In order to practice in Nova Scotia, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers, among most other health care professionals, must be registered by a professional college or regulatory organization. The college or regulatory organization is responsible for ethics, practice standards, complaints and discipline. If you would like to receive help through a private practice, ask your family doctor for a referral. Trying to choose an appropriate professional can be overwhelming.

Resources

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia
www.cpsns.ns.ca

Doctors Nova Scotia
www.doctorsns.com

Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia
www.apns.ca/index.html

Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers
www.nsasw.org

College of Occupational Therapists of Nova Scotia
www.cotns.ca

Self-help and peer support

The professional and scientific views of mental health and mental illness are one part of the picture. Another part is the knowledge and wisdom that comes from living everyday with a mental illness. Many people living with mental illness and their family members find that they want to share their stories among people who understand exactly what they are going through and can speak from lived experience.

Self-help and peer support groups:

  • offer their own stories
  • suggest ways to handle the day-to-day
  • develop self-help manuals
  • host chat rooms
  • provide links to local resources
  • offer practical tips about all the things they wish they had known when they, or a loved one, was first diagnosed
  • provide support with developing coping skills
  • provide practical help with other issues such as obtaining housing or finding appropriate professional help

Above all, self-help and peer support groups offer messages of hope. There are many local self-help and peer support groups. You can find out more about what is available by contacting any of the resources listed below.

Self-help and peer support resources

Canadian Mental Health Association, Halifax-Dartmouth Branch
455-5445 or 455-6983
www.cmha.ca/bins

Self Help Connection
466-2011
http://www.selfhelpconnection.ca

Consumer Initiative Centre
404-7800

Healthy Minds Cooperative
404-3504
www.healthyminds.ca

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
www.dbsalliance.org

Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia
www.ssns.ca

Caregivers Nova Scotia
www.caregiversns.org

Complementary therapies

You may want to explore complementary therapies. These include health-related services we don’t often think of as being medical in nature. Some more popular complementary therapies include massage therapy, music therapy, chiropractic, reiki, Qigong and acupuncture. People living with mental illness and their families often say they need a much broader range of help than just diagnosis and medication. This holistic approach to recovery is about caring for the mind, body and spirit - the whole person. It is becoming more widely accepted as offering substantial benefits to people living with mental illness.

Resources for complementary therapies

Massage Therapists Association of Nova Scotia
www.mtans.com

Atlantic Association of Music Therapy
aamt@musictherapy.ca

Chiropractic Nova Scotia
www.chiropractors.ns.ca

Canadian Reiki Association
www.reiki.ca

Qigong Institute
www.qigonginstitute.org

Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Association of Canada
www.cmaac.ca

Exploring all your options

Many people living with mental illness find that they benefit the most when they work with a team. Working with a team supports a holistic approach to recovery. Team members do not have to be health care professionals; they can be a clergyperson, Elder, boss, neighbour, teacher – anyone who wants to support you and your family. To work together and provide the best service or support, each team member needs to know who are the other members of your recovery team. 

Note on confidentiality

In Nova Scotia health information is confidential. Professionals are limited in what they can share with families unless your family member gives their consent, often in writing.

Adapted from: Living with Mental Illness: A Guide for Family and Friends. Halifax, NS: Capital District Health Authority; 2008