Challenges & Choices: Finding mental health services in Ontario
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Who is the guide for?
This guide is for people looking for mental health services in Ontario. You could be looking for services for yourself, a family member, partner or friend. Or you could be a health care provider who wants to help clients and families find out about different services and how to use them.
The range of services you are seeking will vary, depending on your situation. You could be trying to find a therapist to help you deal with the challenges of a small or minor difficulty, or you could be coping with a severe and ongoing mental health problem.
This guide is really about choices. It provides information about mental health services available in Ontario to help you choose what's best for you. It also offers a brief description of some of the most common types of mental health problems. And it gives tips that will help you find the services you need. It provides phone numbers and Web site addresses, so you can research a specific problem or treatment in more detail. And it includes questions you can ask health care providers. These questions can help you make sure that you're getting the kind of care you want.
Whether services are available will depend on where you live and the type of services you need. People living in large cities, for example, will have access to many services. However, services will be limited in smaller urban centres and perhaps non-existent in rural areas. The same is basically true if you are seeking services that are sensitive to age, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, race, culture, ethnicity, religion, ability, income or education. You may have to shop around for services that suit your particular wants and needs. If the services you need are too far away, for instance, you may need to use services close by, even if they are not as specialized.
Some sections of this guide will be important for you while others may not relate to your concerns or the kind of help you are seeking. Use the table of contents to find the sections that will be most helpful for you.
If you are a health care provider, you may want to use Challenges & Choices as a reference book for clients. Feel free to photocopy sections that you think might be helpful for your clients. The size and format of the book were especially designed for this purpose. If you have a copy of the book in your waiting room, clients will be able to browse through the sections, and let you know which parts they would like copied.
We know that people have different beliefs about what mental health problems are. And people have different ideas about how to deal with these problems. This guide will be useful in outlining what's available. But you should make the final decisions about what services are right for you.
Because this is a guide for people in Ontario, we mainly list resources that can be used by people living anywhere in the province. You can keep track of contact information for services in your area by listing them in Appendix D, a blank page at the back of the book.
In the mental health field, many different words are used to describe the same thing. However, these words don't always reflect all cultures or ways of looking at a problem. People from some cultures have no words to define mental health problems. And some cultures may see certain behaviours as positive that others see as problems. In this guide, we use words that are commonly understood to be the most respectful.
Instead of saying that people have a mental illness, we prefer to say that people are seeking services for mental health problems. Sometimes when we describe different types of mental health problems, we use the word "disorder," as this is the word the medical profession uses in its diagnoses of clients.
In referring to people with a certain mental health problem, we speak of people with schizophrenia, for example, rather than saying that a person is "schizophrenic." We use the term "people with" because people are people first and shouldn't be labelled or identified by their challenges.
Sometimes we describe people who use mental health services as "clients." However, we recognize that there are many different terms for people using these services. What one person prefers may be quite different from what someone else likes. Other terms sometimes used are "user," "patient," "consumer" or "survivor." (In Section 13: Understanding Your Rights
, we use "patient" because the Ontario Mental Health Act uses that word.)
When we use the term "family member," we are referring to someone who has a relative, partner or close friend with a mental health problem.
Challenges & Choices: Finding Mental Health Services in Ontario