OPH Initiatives on Mental HealthApril 30, 2021
By Manar El Malmi
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 response, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has continued to work with school boards, hospitals, mental health and substance use partners, community partners, multicultural and racialized community partners and the general community in the area of mental health promotion, suicide prevention and reducing harms from substance use.
The mental health and wellness of Ottawa residents continues to be a priority for OPH, and alongside our partners we continue to advance:
Foster collaboration and support community initiatives:
The mental health team works in partnership with external and internal partners to identify community mental health needs and respond accordingly (Kids come first event, Black Mental Health Week, Small Business’ townhall). Below are highlights of our initiatives in 2021
- OPH works in collaboration with Ottawa’s ACB community to disseminate findings from OPH’s Mental Health of Ottawa’s Black Community Research Study. This will support community partners in their efforts to improve service quality as well as access to information and services for at-risk populations. In addition, OPH is an active and proud member of the Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition with over 20 Black leaders comprised of key stakeholders, community members, academics, health and social service providers. On Black Mental Health Week, OPH collaborated with partners to organize events aimed at dismantling the systemic barriers that exist within our health system.
- On January 19, 2021, OPH coordinated and presented The Mental Health Expert Tips live session on YouTube where Dr Raj Bhatla, Psychiatrist-in-Chief at the Royal shared tips and strategies to promote mental health and wellness during challenging times, and Linda Cove, a PHN with OPH’s mental health team shared community mental health resources available for residents.
- Ottawa Public Health in collaboration with the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre developed a series of factsheets that promotes mental health strategies, key messages and resources to support the community during the pandemic.
- Collaborated with the Ottawa Newcomer Health Centre to develop multilingual mental health videos in English, French, Somali, Arabic, and Mandarin as these communities face the most challenges in accessing services and are traditionally known to have little or no proficiency in either of the official languages.
Mental Health Promotion for Parents:
OPH continues to support the mental well-being of parents. Ottawa Public Health worked with The Kids Come First Health Team, CHEO and Ottawa Child and Youth Initiative to organize and present a live Town Hall event called Youth Mental Health and Addictions Virtual Town Hall on February 11, 2021. This event provided parents and youth the opportunity to ask questions to various experts in the area of youth mental health & addictions, including where to get help. The event will also launch a new mental health resource, a “Know What to Do Guide” to help youth, parents and caregivers start the conversation about mental health, know what to look for and learn about positive coping strategies including supports and services.
More recently, we have developed two fact sheets to support parents and children. The How can we practice being resilient? factsheets provide parents with strategies to protect their own mental health while the How to help your children cope? provides parents with concrete tips on ways to support their children. Both resources list mental health and substance use resources available in the community and there are short videos created to accompany the factsheets.
We have also heard from community members that the amount of information available can be overwhelming. To support people that are looking for other ways to receive information we have included short videos that provide tips on how to support the mental health of your child(ren) and yourselves during the pandemic:
On April 8th, OPH held an information session for Somali parents and youth on mental health and COVID-19.
Support for Small Businesses:
Recently, OPH supported townhall for small businesses and created information for small businesses ‘including tips for small business owners to support their employees as well as support and mental health strategies and resources for small business owners. These can be found on the Mental Health Resources for Workplaces section of our website. We are currently working on a short video for workplaces that shares tips and strategies for promoting positive mental health in the workplace during the pandemic. The plan is to share this video with our workplace contacts during Mental Health Week in May.
Based on findings from the Mental Health of Ottawa’s Black Community Research Study, the 3rd most frequently mentioned location for seeking mental health support for ACB participants was faith centers. Faith leaders are often the first point of contact when individuals and families face mental health problems or traumatic events. They have an important role in destigmatizing mental illnesses among their communities by encouraging help-seeking, promoting acceptance and understanding and connecting congregants to available services. Following a needs assessment survey conducted with faith leaders in the fall of 2020, the Mental Health Team at Ottawa Public Health has developed a mental health & crisis prevention training for faith leaders. The training has been delivered to Capital Region Interfaith Council (CRIC) in February 2021 and the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa in March 2021. A total of 32 faith leaders were trained between January and March 2021. The session takes 1.5 hours. Following the session, faith leaders get free access to suicide prevention training. The objectives of the session are to discuss: 1. Mental health and mental illness; 2. Protective & risk factors; 3. Mental health stigma; 4. Crisis support and suicide prevention; 5. Self-care among faith leaders; 6. Mental health resources in Ottawa; 7. Learning opportunities.
In September OPH developed a position statement on stigma and COVID-19 to address the stigma and prejudice in our community against those who have the COVID-19 virus, people who are thought to be carriers of the virus based on appearance, and people who are thought to be from areas where the COVID-19 virus originated. Stigma and COVID-19 training has been developed and facilitated to internal staff and shared with staff and with elected officials. The training session on stigma around mental health and COVID-19 focuses on steps we can take to prevent stigma, including the use of person-first language.
haveTHATtalk and Mental Health Week May 3-9
Ottawa Public Health is hosting an event on May 5th, 2021 to celebrate the Mental Health Week and to launch the new haveThattalk videos with support from the City’s Anti-Racism Secretariat. Ottawa Public Health is expanding the haveThattalk campaign to include THREE videos on the impacts of racism, talking to youth about racism and the importance of allyship. The videos use storytelling approach to discuss definition of racism, different forms of racism, the impact of racism on mental health and provides strategies to cope and take care of one`s mental health. These videos will also be available in Arabic, Mandarin and Somali.
Manar El Malmi is a Nurse at Ottawa Public Health