Nottawasaga OPP: Improving response to the mental health needs of individuals

Wide-ranging media campaign encourages people to talk about their mental health, offers contacts of local support agencies

Nottawasaga OPP is encouraging people to talk about their mental health.

Constable Katy Viccary launched a two week campaign on Sept. 28 geared to the detachment’s coverage area that focuses on mental health and the community resources available to people who need help, including caregivers.

“Our goal is to increase awareness, and to reduce the stigma and barriers that prevent people from accessing services.”

Viccary said police want to break down the barriers and provide support.

The campaign is timely as people navigate their lives in the era of COVID-19.

“Many people may be experiencing added stress and we want them to know that there are numerous local agencies available to assist.” said Viccary.

Nottawasaga OPP detachment covers a wide swath of territory that includes fields and farmland in New Tecumseth, Adjala-Tosorontio and Essa, as well as communities such as Angus, Alliston, Beeton and Tottenham.

Viccary said mental health and wellness go hand in hand.

“It is important we continue to break the silence and encourage courageous conversations between family, friends, co-workers and members of the public, to establish a more non-judgemental and supportive working environment for all members.”

Viccary speaks from lived experience.

“I was a caregiver for a parent who was experiencing significant mental health decline and a mental health illness. I didn’t know where to go for help.”

Viccary said when she started the campaign she decided the key was to provide the community with a list of local services and agencies in the hopes this would be a starting point for people in their journey.

Since 2017, Nottawasaga OPP and York Support Services Network (YSSN) have been working together to provide local residents with support when they are experiencing a mental health and/or addictions crisis. Known as the Mental Health Support Team (MHST), compromised of a plain clothes OPP constable and a YSSN crisis response worker, the team responds to calls for persons in crisis within the Nottawasga detachment area. They provide on-scene assessment, support and referrals to community services as required.

“If necessary, the MHST will assist with apprehensions under the Mental Health Act, and help people in crisis feel more comfortable with the process of being transported to a hospital for assessment, “said Viccary. “The team also provides follow-up support, primarily by means of telephone and/or face-to-face visits.”

The team’s primary objective is to bring crisis support to the person in crisis, rather than having to transport them to access help.

“While the constable ensures safety, the crisis response worker is able to speak with the person in crisis to better understand the reasons for the crisis, determine risks of harm, provide emotional support, discuss coping strategies, develop safety plans and/or make referrals to community resources.”

The media campaign includes a list of events and supports Nottawasaga OPP offers in the area of mental health, in particular the work being done with youth.

Recently, Nottawasaga OPP announced that the Child and Youth Advocacy Centre (CYAC) of Simcoe Muskoka will be available in the community in the near future.

Currently, the Centre has two locations within Simcoe Muskoka; in Orillia and in Barrie.

“Due to transportation barriers and the large geographic area, many victims do not have access to the centre.” said Viccary.

The centre will offer a safe place for children and youth victims of sex abuse where forensic investigations can be conducted.

The media campaign explains what grounds police need to apprehend somebody under the Mental Health Act.

“If anyone is looking for some resources and they’re not sure where to reach out, they can certainly contact me at 705-434-1939,” said Viccary. “We could certainly have a conversation and maybe provide you with some resources.”

Learn more about the campaign: #NottyOPP @OPP_CR

Banner picture provided: Nottawasaga OPP (Nottawasaga OPP Mental Health Support Team, comprised of PC Taylor-Plumley and York Support Services Network Crisis Response Worker Steph Strilec, on Suicide Prevention Awareness Day 2020)