There are many services available to help your family member and you. Some you may want to consider are outlined in the following paragraphs.

Family doctor

A family doctor can be an excellent information source, can answer many questions about mental illness and can often provide a diagnosis. The family doctor will talk with your family member to determine what her 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.

We recommend that your family member contact her family doctor as early as possible. Your family member may want you to attend the first or subsequent appointments. Family doctors should welcome you if your family member has asked you to be there (see note on confidentiality). If your family member does not have a family doctor or is not comfortable talking to her family doctor, she 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 your family member to determine what his needs are. They will then work with your family member 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 and are publicly funded (there is no direct cost to you or your family member) and are available to adults.

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


Employee Assistance Programs, for people who are working...

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 her difficulty. If there is a more serious mental illness, counsellors can provide referrals to other mental health services. Your family member can get more information through her company’s human resources department. Employee Assistance Programs are completely confidential and are becoming more and more popular. As a family member who is working, you may also benefit from talking to a counsellor through an Employee Assistance Program.

Registered health professionals (private practice)

Some occupational therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers offer mental health services in private practices. Your family member 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/regulatory organization is responsible for ethics, practice standards, complaints and discipline. If your family member would like to receive help through a private practice, encourage her to ask her family doctor for a referral. Trying to choose an appropriate professional can be overwhelming.

Resources to help:

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 have “been there” – those who understand exactly what they are going through and can speak from lived experience.

Self-help and peer support groups:

Above all, they offer messages of hope. “You are not alone.” “I went through it and I’m doing fine now.” “My son just got a job!”

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.

Resources to help:

Complementary therapies

You and your family member may want to explore complementary therapies. Complementary therapies 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 broader – or holistic – approach to recovery (caring for the mind, body and spirit) is becoming more widely accepted as offering substantial benefits to people living with mental illness.

Resources to help:

Exploring more than one service and support option

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 don’t have to be health care professionals; they can be a clergyperson, Elder, boss, neighbour, teacher – anyone who wants to support your family member in her recovery. To work together and provide the best service or support, each team member needs to know who your family members other team members are. Encourage your family member to talk with her team members about other services or supports she is receiving.

Note on confidentiality

In Nova Scotia, health information is confidential. That is, unless your family member gives her consent (often in writing), professionals are limited in what they can share with families.