Challenges & Choices: Finding mental health services in Ontario
On this page:
Community supports could mean anything from self-help groups (where people with similar problems help and support each other) to support from community workers to distress lines. Here is a more detailed look at some community supports. (For more information, see Section 8: More intensive and specialized support
People who have a mental health problem or people who have used mental health services or programs sometimes describe themselves as consumer/survivors. (Some people believe they "survived" a mental health problem. Others see themselves as having survived the mental health system--depending on their experiences.)
Consumer/survivor initiatives are run by and for people who use or have used the mental health system. They were created as an alternative to traditional mental health services. These programs offer education, information and support from people who have had similar experiences. They also provide social and recreational activities, work opportunities and employment in an alternative business.
These programs may be able to help you start up your own business, learn more about a mental health issue that affects you or do work as an advocate. An advocate is someone who fights for a cause, such as better services for a particular group of people with a specific mental health problem.
The Ontario Peer Development Initiative (OPDI) offers support and training to consumer/survivor groups and organizations in Ontario. These consumer/survivor initiatives may involve working in areas such as self-help and peer support, business start-up and growth, knowledge production and skills training, advocacy, public education, professional education, and artistic and cultural activities.
To get the name and phone number of a consumer/survivor program (e.g., self-help group, consumer business, self-advocacy program) near you, contact the OPDI, formerly called the Consumer/Survivor Development Initiative, at (416) 484-8785 in Toronto or toll-free at 1-866-681-6661. Or view their Web site at www.opdi.org
To get work experience, contact the Ontario Council of Alternative Businesses (OCAB). (For more information on OCAB, see Types of work, in Section 11
Mental health services in the community can be offered through mental health agencies, clubhouses, drop-in centres or outpatient community health clinics.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is one of the largest mental health organizations in the province. Its Ontario division has 33 regional agencies across the province. These local CMHA branches are a good place to start to find out what services and resources there are in your community.
CMHA offices will refer you to other mental health centres in your area. They also offer counselling, case management, housing, clubhouses, grief support groups, information and assertive community treatment (ACT) teams. They can help co-ordinate your care and provide day-to-day support.
To find the CMHA agency nearest you, call the Ontario division's main office at (416) 977-5580 in Toronto or toll-free at 1-800-875-6213. Or view their Web site at www.ontario.cmha.ca
Contact the community information centre in your neighbourhood to find supports and services near you.
Clubhouses are a place where people with serious mental health problems can go for a sense of belonging and community. Members socialize, develop skills and work side-by-side with staff in the daily operation of the clubhouse. They may prepare meals, do office or maintenance work or other jobs. Some clubhouses also offer transitional employment or housing support programs.
Clubhouses differ from other mental health services in that consumer/survivors, in partnership with staff, run the clubhouse, rather than simply receiving services.
Clubhouses can be accessed through the Ontario Peer Development Initiative (OPDI), your local CMHA office or other mental health service providers. Progress Place, the first clubhouse in Canada and the largest, lists other Ontario clubhouses on its Web site at www.progressplace.org
Drop-in centres focus more on providing recreational and social opportunities than work experience. They may have organized programs; for example, craft classes, recreational activities, meals and educational sessions. Or people may use the centre to drop by for a coffee, have a rest, play a board game, meet with friends, use the phone or computer or, in some facilities, take a shower or do laundry. Some drop-in centres also provide counselling.
Self-help, or mutual aid, groups are made up of people who share a common issue or mental health problem (e.g., abuse, grief, addiction, depression) in themselves or a family member. These groups are usually open-ended, so you can join in or leave the group at any time. Consumer/survivors or their family members who have experience in the mental health system usually lead the groups. Many people find it rewarding to volunteer in these organizations and share what they have learned with others.
Group members generally gather in informal meetings where they give and receive support and exchange information and ideas on coping and solving problems. The main goal is to decrease feelings of isolation by sharing their experiences with people who will understand what they're going through. Self-help meetings are free, anonymous and confidential.
You can also find self-help groups on the Internet. You can join an on-line support group to offer and receive support, discuss issues and problems, and share information. There is more secrecy since you don't meet face-to-face with the group. And you don't have to travel, so people living in remote areas or people with physical disabilities can easily take part. However, you should be careful. You cannot be sure that information you receive on the Internet is accurate or that everyone you communicate with will be responsible and honest.
Find out about self-help organizations through your local mental health association, community mental health services, family doctor or advertisements or listings in newspapers. Also, the larger Toronto branches of provincial organizations sometimes offer expanded mental health services (e.g., lectures and groups) for people both in Toronto and outside the city, if you can travel.
To start your own self-help group, solve a group problem or help someone to help themselves, contact the Ontario Self-Help Network (OSHNET) at (416) 487-4355 in Toronto, or toll-free at 1-888-283-8806.
To join a self-help group on depression or bipolar disorder, call the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario at (416) 486-8046 in Toronto or toll-free at 1-888-486-8236. To join a self-help group on schizophrenia, call the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario at (416) 449-6830 in Toronto or toll-free at 1-800-449-6367.
To start your own self-help group, solve a group problem or help someone to help themselves, contact the Ontario Self-Help Network (OSHNET) at (416) 487-4355 in Toronto or toll-free at 1-888-283-8806.
Most people who use alcohol or other drugs do not end up with a problem or dependency. But some do, and many people who come for treatment for alcohol or other drug use problems (also called substance use problems) also have mental health problems.
Treatment for substance use problems is usually based on an abstinence or harm-reduction model. Abstinence programs require you to stop all use of the problem drug. Harm reduction programs offer a greater range of possibilities. You might not cut out drug use altogether, but cut back on the amount you use and decide to use the drug more appropriately--for example, by not drinking and driving. Harm reduction is viewed as a starting point for people who are not ready to change their behaviour completely.
You can live at home and receive treatment through daytime or evening counselling or by taking part in a day program (which means you go to the treatment centre usually three or more days a week for several weeks). Or you can live at the treatment centre and attend a residential treatment program. Residential treatment can be short-term (up to one month) or long-term (about six weeks to six months).
Mutual aid or self-help and other support groups provide added support. These include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Gamblers Anonymous (GA). Family and friends who are affected by the addiction may want to look into mutual support groups such as Al-Anon (for family members of people with alcohol use problems) and Co-Anon (for family members of people with cocaine use problems). In some cases, support groups are available for people of a certain age (e.g., youth or older adults) or people from certain cultural or language groups. However, these specialized groups are more likely to be found in cities or larger communities.
More and more mental health and addiction programs are also providing treatment for people who have both an addiction and mental health problem (referred to as a concurrent disorder). Some community mental health centres, addiction treatment agencies and hospitals offer services for these concurrent disorders.
To find out about alcohol and other drug treatment services that can assess your problem, call the Drug and Alcohol Registry of Treatment (DART) toll-free at 1-800-565-8603 or view their Web site at www.dart.on.ca
You can also look in the Yellow Pages of your phone book under "Addictions" to find a treatment centre. Or contact an employee (or family) assistance program if your workplace offers one.
To learn about drugs and their effects, call the 24-hour Drug, Alcohol and Mental Health Information Line of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) at 416-595-6111 in Toronto or toll-free at 1-800-463-6273. Taped messages in many different languages discuss various substances, and information sheets can be mailed out to you.
CAMH offers alcohol and other drug treatment services to a variety of diverse populations, including women; youth; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and transsexuals; aboriginals; and African Canadian and Caribbean Youth. For more information, call (416) 535-8501.
There are about 30 community information centres across Ontario. Community information centres provide information about a wide range of services in your area (e.g., community services, day care, health, immigration, low-income housing, sexual assault and mental health agencies, new immigrant and government services).
To find a community information centre near you, call 211 in Toronto or (416) 397-4636 if you live outside Toronto.You can also view the 211 Web site at www.211toronto.ca
Challenges & Choices: Finding Mental Health Services in Ontario