January 21, 2019 - Today marks "Blue Monday", the so-called saddest day of the year.
Although the idea behind the date is considered pseudoscience, it does provide an
opportunity to open dialogue and conversation about mental health - which is a positive
thing considering 1 in 5 people in Canada personally experience a mental health
problem or illness in any given year. Stephanie Brown is one of these people.
A mother, wife, college graduate, and co-owner of Living Alive Granola in St. Thomas,
Stephanie may not be who you picture when you think of someone living with a mental
illness. "There is a stigma that exists about what a person with a mental illness
should look like," says Stephanie. "It's taken me 20 years and many types of medication
to get to this point, but I don't believe I ever fit into the stereotype of someone
with a mental illness. That stereotype does not reflect the reality of a person
with mental illness as a contributor to our community and someone who has succeeded
in life despite obstacles." It hasn't been an easy road for Stephanie. There have
been many doctors, many treatments, and many setbacks over the years, but Stephanie
credits the support of her family and friends, and the care that she receives at
St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH) and Dr. Giuseppe Guaiana for helping her
to realize that although her bipolar disorder will never go away, she can learn
to manage it.
Dr. Guaiana, Department Chief of Psychiatry at STEGH credits the partnerships that
the hospital has developed in the community as one of the strengths to the mental
health program. "Our team works collaboratively with the Canadian Mental Health
Association (Elgin Branch) to ensure those in crisis receive the appropriate treatment,
transition support, and community services that are required," says Guaiana. "We
also partner with the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team at St. Joseph's Health
Care London to review complex cases, learn from each other, and collaboratively
provide the necessary support and rehabilitation services to enable individuals
to reintegrate into the community."
While the mental health program at STEGH has been operating for five years, the
unit moved into the hospital's new North Tower in February 2018. The unit includes
15 beds for inpatients that require short-term hospitalization and dedicated space
for related outpatient programs and services. Referrals for services at STEGH can
be made by a regulated health care professional on behalf of the individual requiring
For Stephanie, it's not just the updated amenities or welcoming environment (although
she does enjoy spending time in the inside courtyard!), it's the team of psychiatrists,
nurses, counsellors, and social workers that make all the difference. "STEGH is
a place where I go to get better. I feel at home, and everyone talks to me like
I matter," says Stephanie, who adds jokingly, "and the food's not bad either!"
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, by age 40, about 50% of the
population will have or have had a mental illness. It important to recognize the
signs, and seek help when required.
If you or someone you know needs help:
- Talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner.
- Contact REACH OUT Mental Health Addictions Crisis Services
519-433-2023 or 1-866-933-2023
- Contact Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) – Elgin Branch
519-633-1781 or 1-855-633-1781
About St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital
The St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital is a fully accredited hospital serving the city of St Thomas
and all eight municipalities within the County of Elgin. Hospital services include: emergency
medicine, surgery, cardio respiratory services, palliative care, chemotherapy, diagnostic
imaging, education programs, pediatrics, obstetrics, and more. Together with community
partners, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital is committed to delivering excellent patient care
experiences in a safe and compassionate environment. http://www.stegh.on.ca