Community “kiosk” offers support to users of Psychiatry services

Volunteers Lena Fitzmorris (left) and Danielle Niseze help users find mental health information at ICFP community kiosk.

Individuals seeking information about mental health and related community services can now turn for assistance to the newly opened Resource and Information Centre in the lobby of the Institute of Community and Family Psychiatry (ICFP).

Launched on October 4, the Centre—commonly known as “the kiosk”—is open on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to noon and from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., with volunteers available to help anyone who is receiving or has received mental health services from CIUSSS West-Central Montreal.

Patients and clients are given easy access to information about such subjects as understanding one’s diagnosis and what to do after hospitalization, as well as details on general topics, including housing, employment, cultural activities, where to get legal advice, and the location of a local food bank.

In the brightly lit space, volunteers provide visitors with support in using the three computers and iPad, the resource map of mental health services, and the library of pamphlets and other reference materials.

“We have a large lobby in the ICFP, so we see it as a natural meeting place,” says Dr. Karl Looper, JGH Chief of Psychiatry. “Since patients were already waiting there for their appointments with hardly anything to do, it seemed like the perfect place and an ideal opportunity for them to make contact and get better informed.”

According to Chesley Walsh, Coordinator of the Psychiatry Department’s Volunteers in Partnership program, the kiosk is one element in a three-pronged initiative to expand the use of volunteers in enhancing services for patients and clients.

Ms. Walsh says volunteers also participate at the JGH in in-patient activities (playing board games, pet therapy, music) and by serving on the Patient Advisory Committee, where patients provide feedback about current and proposed activities.

All three initiatives were the result of research and focus groups, in which a key role was played by those who had received mental health services and had an intimate understanding of what was needed. Also instrumental in developing these projects was ICFP Librarian Teodora Constantinescu, who now curates the information materials.

“What we built is based on what patients told us they’d find helpful,” says Occupational Therapist Amanda St-Jean, “and we’re continuing to build and change, depending on what people tell us they need.”

Dr. Looper says this approach is known as the recovery model for mental illness, which “involves patients in their own recovery, based on the belief that they have within themselves the resources to recover. Our job is to facilitate that, as opposed to a more traditional, paternalistic approach.”

He says professionals in Psychiatry kept hearing about the need for meeting spaces—to serve out-patients and in-patients alike—where individuals could have “the kind of companionship that is not what you get from a professional. It’s unique, a different kind of interaction, with more activities, exchanges and personal contact.”

Ms. Walsh also notes that staffing of the kiosk relies to a significant degree on the Psychiatry Department’s partnership with Donald Berman Uphouse, a community organization where people with mental health problems take a prominent role in running their own activities.

“It’s wonderful to finally open our kiosk and see people taking advantage of it,” adds Ms. St-Jean. “This is the tangible result of all of our research and hard work.”

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