A new initiative aims to make a positive impact on the mental wellness and resilience of individuals living and working in Pictou County. The Pictou County Mental Wellness and Resilience Toolkit and Resource Guide has been in use among four local agencies since January as part of a trial program and will soon be available to the general public.
The toolkit was developed by the Pictou County Mental Wellness Roundtable, a group of frontline agencies and Mental Health and Addictions staff from Nova Scotia Health who are dedicated to improving mental wellness in our community. Founding partners in the roundtable include the Pictou West, Central and East Community Health Boards, whose members guided the development of the toolkit in collaboration with the Canadian Mental Health Association Nova Scotia Division (CMHANS).
The toolkit is just one of many projects the roundtable has undertaken, says Dominic Boyd. As Co-Chair of the Pictou West Community Health Board for the past two years, Boyd has been an active member of the roundtable committee. “We’re a group of people from various agencies around Pictou County who are dedicated to improving mental wellness in our communities. We come together to discuss ways we can work to improve both mental wellness and resilience. With the toolkit, we wanted to think about how to reach the general public and decided we would start with the organizations connected to the roundtable itself, since a lot of people work for these organizations. That’s sort of how the toolkit idea came together.”
The toolkit is an easily navigated 66-page document containing information designed to promote a better understanding of mental health, lessons for creating mentally safer environments and workplaces, and best practices for supporting someone through a mental health concern or crisis. “Its purpose is to help people improve their own mental health but also to provide people with the tools they need to help others in a more effective manner,” says Boyd. “The toolkit also contains activity pages and a resource guide for accessing additional supports for those who need it.” The resource guide is a separate 34-page document providing a summary of all the agencies, programs and supports offered within Pictou County to ensure people know where they can turn for mental health resources locally, specific to their needs.
With its soft launch in early 2022, the toolkit was circulated throughout four local agencies: Kids First Association of Pictou, Antigonish and Guysborough Counties, Viola’s Place, Roots for Youth and Eastern Mainland Housing Authority. This pilot phase of the project helped to ensure frontline agencies are trained in these resources as they play the critical role of serving and directing the public.
Jane MacMaster, the Community/Tenant Relations Officer for Eastern Mainland Housing Authority, has been with the organization for 36 years. MacMaster deals directly with the organization’s Public Housing tenants and assists with any social-related issues that senior and family tenants may have. “Our staff embraced the toolkit from the start,” says MacMaster, when asked about the initial response. “Everyone was eager to learn and excited to use the toolkit. There was definitely a need for it in this county. I feel we are lacking in mental health supports.”
“Lots of discussions were taking place regarding mental health that hadn’t taken place before. It is my hope, and the hope of staff here at the Housing Authority, that every organization or workplace utilizes the toolkit and resource guide. This would impact the general public and create more awareness around mental health, hopefully lessening the stigma surrounding it.” This training for staff in community-based organizations helped build capacity to respond to mental health concerns and provide resources for clients or participants.
While it is designed for workplaces and organizations to distribute to staff, the general public will also be able to access the toolkit and resource guide after its public launch. “We encourage people to read it and try to use some of the ideas in it. There will be hard copies available at the public libraries, but it will also be available to download or print on the library website as well,” says Boyd.
The toolkit launch takes place at the next meeting of the Mental Wellness Roundtable, Tuesday, Dec. 13 at the Stellarton Firehall from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Light refreshments will be provided. Attendees are asked to RSVP online at https://forms.gle/j2qnt6vPgoBQuxAR6
“Developing this resource has been a really positive experience,” reflects Boyd. “We’re thankful to have the Aberdeen Health Foundation, who are so progressive and supportive of mental wellness projects like this in Pictou County. There has been interest in the toolkit from other areas of Nova Scotia as well, and the feedback we’ve received so far has been extremely encouraging for all of us involved.”