Take care of your mental health needs

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The Thamesview Family Health Team on Grand Ave. W. in Chatham is leading the way in helping people deal with mental health issues, offering services, including walk-in counseling. Services you need, when you need them.
The Thamesview Family Health Team on Grand Ave. W. in Chatham is leading the way in helping people deal with mental health issues, offering services, including walk-in counseling. Services you need, when you need them.

Four years ago, the Thamesview Family Health Team (TFHT) had a vision of how they wanted to provide mental health services to their patients.

Social worker Graeme Millington, mental health team lead for TFHT, was inundated in 2011 with referrals from the 13 physicians that make up the team. In response, he and his team of social workers came up with several programs designed to make it easier to get the right help as soon as possible.

“Four years ago, we wanted to develop a more comprehensive mental health care program, from group therapy to individuals, couples and families, in a more timely fashion,” Millington explained. “We now have several groups available, including some open to the community at large.”

One such group, according to social work team member Brenda Stevens, is the free six-week program, “Inspire, Rewire.”

“It’s an introduction to meditation and learning more about the mind/body connection, the effect stress has on your body and the health benefits you can get from meditation,” Stevens said. “Stress, chronic pain, depression – it doesn’t take it away but it helps people to be more mindful of the moment they are in and you learn to live with it, breathe it in and realize there are moments where you aren’t in pain. It’s about how to have more control over feelings of pain, anxiety and depression.”

The aim, she added, is make the patient feel more at ease and help them get a better quality of life.

This group is open to the community and people can register by calling 519-354-0070, ext. 602 (main reception).

Stevens said every time it has been offered, the attendance is about 50/50 between the community at large and TFHT rostered patients.

“We are getting more and more interest and you can tell people have researched it and come in with more and more questions,” the social worker explained.

Another program open to the community is “Parenting the Adolescent,” a free group that involves two nights of seminars and eight weeks of group sessions. It combines peer support with encouragement and guidance.

“It’s for parents who want some idea of how to parent adolescents; between 9 and 24 years of age,” explained Cathy Lanigan, TFHT health promoter. “It helps parents to re-gain authority, to feel good about themselves in their role and to prevent power struggles. It won’t prevent your child from being a teen, but it will help you through it.”

“Speaking as a parent, the program helps you figure out you’re not alone. The parents attending all have kids at different stages and all have something different to offer,” Lanigan added. “It’s about reassuring yourself you’re not a bad parent and gives you advice on how to cope.”

Available as well is “Connect the Dots for Wellness,” an open group for people 55-plus to help reduce anxiety, depression and loneliness, manage relationships and cope with life transitions. It gives participants the tools they need to make changes for the better.

Access to these, and many other programs, is available by calling the TFHT, but if you are not sure about what you are feeling but want to talk to someone in confidence, the Single Session Clinic is also available to the community.

According to Millington, the single session is offered on a weekly drop-in basis at Unit 108 – 20 Emma St. for patients of Thamesview Family Health Team.  On Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon and 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., you need to arrive before 10:45 a.m. and 5:45 to ensure you will be seen that day. Simply walk up to the main desk and say you are there for a single session. In 20 to 40 minutes, Millington said the goal is to ensure you leave with a next step, a step that will move you toward your goal.

If the patient is in a crisis situation, Millington said the referral is made immediately to the appropriate community resource.

“Primarily for us, it’s the group session,” Millington said. “The single session is a more informal door; a drop-in with less pressure to give the patient the chance to come in and ask questions.”

Average wait times to get into sessions or groups is less than 6 weeks and in some instances, less than two weeks.

Stevens said people are surprised when they ask how much the groups and sessions cost and are told it is free and covered by the Ontario government. The government used to charge for these services on a sliding scale basis, but it is now covered.

For more information about the programs offered by the Thamesview Family Health Team, check out the website www.thamesviewfht.ca or call the 519-354-0070 ext. 602.

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