Striving for a stigma-free CIUSSS

Resource and Information Centre
Stationed at the computers at the new Resource and Information Centre at the Institute of Community and Family Psychiatry, from left: Dr. Karl Looper, Chief of Psychiatry at the Jewish General Hospital; Occupational Therapist Amanda St-Jean; and Chesley Walsh, Coordinator of the Volunteer and Partner Program.

Stigma surrounding mental health flourishes in hiding, so our CIUSSS brought it out into the open.

To invite discussions about mental health, circular tables were positioned for high visibility at the main entrance of the Jewish General Hospital, at which individuals with mental health disorders or their caregivers and loved ones were seated, ready to share their stories with staff and passersby.

The “Living Library” was launched at the JGH during Mental Health Week, one of many activities taking place to raise awareness about mental health among staff and the public.

Living library participant Yvon opens up to Marisa Rodi, Internal Communications Specialist with the Department of Communications and Media Relations.

“The living library is a meeting space for positive interactions between people touched by mental health problems and CIUSSS employees,” says Isabelle Bisaillon, a Planning, Programming and Research Officer for the Mental Health and Addiction Program. “Listening to a person’s story face to face can help to break down some of the prejudices or misconceptions surrounding mental health.”

The awareness week also marked the official opening of the Resource and Information Centre, a kiosk for mental health service users and staff of our CIUSSS.

Visitors can use computers in the lobby of the Institute of Community and Family Psychiatry (ICFP) to access the internet or to browse an interactive map that features community resources for men and women, religious support groups, cheap eats and other services in the Montreal area. Books on loan and informational pamphlets are also available. The centre is staffed weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to noon and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The Psychiatry team at the JGH came up with the concept of the kiosk based on feedback by mental health service users and patients, says Dr. Karl Looper, Chief of Psychiatry at the JGH.

“One of the requests was to have a volunteer program where people who had recovered could help others,” he explained.

Many of the kiosk volunteers are members of the Donald Berman UP House, an organization that offers support in finding employment, housing, education and in improving wellness.

We have a nice partnership with UP House to help their members with transitional employment, through their volunteering here,” says Amanda St-Jean, an Occupational Therapist at the Jewish General Hospital. “It helps us too, to break the isolation and create a community space where members of the community and staff can come together.”

“Volunteering here is one of the ways I work on social integration,” says Marie-Claire Mailloux, a kiosk volunteer and UP House member. “It encourages me to socialize and makes me feel useful and non-stigmatized. I love helping people, answering their questions, and listening to them.”

As a way of reducing the stigma around mental health, participants were invited to take home a clothespin decorated by psychiatric patients, and design their own to be passed on to someone else. Each clothespin bore the phrase “I am stigma free”. They were also encouraged to jot down what being stigma free meant to them on a large white board.

“Ignorance and fear create judgments that contribute to the isolation of those affected by mental health problems, along with their loved ones,” says Ms. Bisaillon, who was one of the organizers of Mental Illness Awareness Week. “We strive to build awareness, this week and throughout the year, to instead bring about their integration into the community.”

A serene CIUSSS

Meditation sessions were offered at the Jewish General Hospital (JGH) and CLSCs de Benny Farm and Cote-des-Neiges (CDN), giving staff an opportunity to enjoy soothing moments of calm during their workday.

A group of CIUSSS employees take a deep breath at CLSC de Côte-des-Neiges during a lunchtime meditation session organized for Mental Illness Awareness Week.

“I really enjoyed the meditation, it’s nice to have that break during the day,” said Myriam Meeschaert, an Occupational Therapist who attended the CLSC CDN session. “It’s a simple activity to do as an employee, you can just come in and meditate. It was a first experience for me.”