Most people can address their mental health concerns by being aware of them, learning about them and by introducing changes in their lives that increase the factors that protect their mental well-being.
Review the suggestions in the section addressing settlement stress to support your mental well-being.
Sometimes self care, time and the support of family and friends are not enough and professional mental health care might be required. Talk to your doctor about the different options available to you. You have the right to privacy. All professionals will maintain the confidentiality for all the issues you want to keep just for yourself.
You can include members of your family, friends, spiritual leaders or staff from community services in your decision making process. These people will form what is called a circle of care: people that support you during difficult times. You choose who will be in this circle of care.
Because mental health is the result of several factors (physical, emotional, spiritual and social) you may need to access different ways of healing. Some people find it useful to combine western resources such as medication and counselling with alternative, cultural and religious practices.
In addition to treatment, you may need support to solve problems that create stress, for example: unemployment, difficulties accessing services, or lack of adequate housing. Family resource centres, settlement agencies and Wellness Navigators from the Community Health Teams can help you to address some of these issues and to refer you to the right programs and services.
Download and print the Mental Health Resources (PDF).
What kind of treatment is available?
Counselling is provided by psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses, counsellors and therapists. They use different ways, or approaches, in their work. The main idea of counselling is to help the person know themselves better, understand and work with their emotions, and support them to develop their personal resources. It helps people gain tools to problem solve, cope with crisis, and improve their ability to communicate and relate to others.
The counsellor or therapist will not tell you what to do and will not solve your problems. You will learn new ways of reacting and responding to them.
Counselling is offered by clinicians (social workers, psychologists or mental health nurses) working in the Community Mental Health Teams. You need a referral from your family doctor.
Children under 19 can have this service by accessing the IWK Health Centre Mental Health and Addictions service.
Counselling is also offered by registered health professionals in private practice. They charge a fee for their services.
Sometimes people need medication, which is prescribed by your family doctor or a psychiatrist. Medications can be used for short or long-term periods. Usually medication takes several weeks to work properly. There are different kinds of medicines for each specific disorder, and not everybody responds in the same way to the same medicine. For that reason, you require a diagnosis and follow-up appointments with the doctor.
Communication is very important – ask as many questions as you need in order to understand how to take the medicine, what the side effects are, and what to expect. Communicate your doubts, fears and the possible obstacles you think might prevent you from taking your medication so you and your doctor can work together to make this process easier.
Mental Health Day Treatment
These are intensive programs that support people to learn skills to manage their life while living with mental illness. They support individuals to reduce symptoms, develop coping strategies, and improve overall functioning. These programs are offered by specialized teams linked to health centres. They are covered by the Nova Scotia Health Card (MSI).
Sometimes because of mental illness, people need extra support and more intensive care. There are services for those experiencing a mental health crisis. Usually it is for very short periods of time followed up by care provided outside of the hospital. This care is covered by Nova Scotia Health Card (MSI).
Some people get benefit from receiving alternative therapies such as music therapy, art therapy, massage therapy, reiki, acupuncture, Qigong and mindfulness practices. Find out if there are free services that you may be helpful for you from your doctor or community services. They are not usually covered by MSI, but most of these alternative therapies are covered by health plans.
More information on the alternative therapies mentioned above:
- Nova Scotia Association of Registered Acupuncturists
- Massage Therapists Association of Nova Scotia
- Atlantic Association for Music Therapy
- Canadian Reiki Association
- Art Therapy
- Mindfulness Group Practice Opportunities for the Public
Cultural Healing Practices
In your community, find traditional healers that understand mental health and mental illness and who can provide support in your recovery process.
In your spiritual centers (church, mosque, temple, synagogue, etc..), find opportunities for emotional and spiritual healing. Some spiritual leaders have professional training to provide support to people experiencing mental health problems.