Nancy Hall – Becoming Visible 2011 – Changing the Mental Health and Addiction Agenda

Nancy Hall is a long time mental health advocate, scholar, strategist and public policy expert.  She specializes in individual and family focused solutions. Last fall she was awarded Canada's most celebrated Clarence Hincks mental health Award.  Here is her answer to: What would you like to become more visible in 2011?  You can also Download Becoming Visible  -  the complete collection of 58 essays.

Changing the Mental Health and Addictions Agenda

I would like to see a strategic agenda for social service change in 2011.  Government will cease to fund more ʻbusiness as usualʼ services that are expensive and donʼt work. Our climate has shifted and our economy is resetting to one based more on quality of life and social purpose. We have to leave behind a money and car driven economy and switch to one which seeks full employment, creative engagement and neighbourhood resilience. 

I work in the area of mental health and addiction so here are ten items I want to see more of in 2011:
1. Services for people with chronic health problems are designed by them and located in the neighbourhoods where people live. This requires research that asks people what might work for them. Medical services that  emphasize peopleʼs deficits are not particularly helpful. 
2. People with disabilities are employed to help others stay well and develop local social connections.
3. Elders are supported through informal means in their neighbourhood. Individuals in the various faith communities provide social supports to the vulnerable in their neighbourhoods.  We know who our vulnerable citizens are and we should encourage their neighbours to watch out for them. 
4. Those with complicated medical conditions such as cancer will have personal support networks. We are not dependent upon professional services for every day living.  An example of this is the support networks.
5. People are taught to understand that feelings of mental instability are quite common and ultimately manageable. To ʻownʼ a mental illness is straightforward and with help from your friends and neighbourhood professionals, one can weather the storm and feel capable and safe. 
6. Mental health supports that build positive mental health. People have permission to feel vulnerable and family caregivers get support and recognition. 
7. Transitional housing for people navigating various life passages is available for example: new mothers needing intensive supports, youth leaving the foster care system, elders and their caregivers in the early stages of dementia and people learning to cope with brain injury and a rearranged family life.
8. More integrated housing supports are available so that people with unique needs have their housing integrated with others. This prevents social isolation and avoids high-rise asylums.
9. Public services move from professional to peer support and mutual aid. For example, Momʼs on the Drive is a 300-member Yahoo listserv that grew from a nurse run clinic to a coffee group to a listserv for new mothers needing parenting support in the neighbourhood.
10. Support networks are developed by non-profit service providers. My Circle networks developed by the Canadian Mental Health Association in West Vancouver is an example of this. 

Making these shifts is a lot easier than it might seem. People and
neighbourhoods are more capable than we are led to believe.


Click to read my previous post on Nancy: Queen Nancy Hall Honoured in London.

You can download the complete collection of Becoming Visible responses here: Download Becoming Visible.  Or by clicking the Becoming Visible Category on the right hand side of your screen.

Please share and distribute to your friends and through your various networks, websites etc.  I think you will agree – these are too good to keep to ourselves.

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