January 31, 2016 7:16 pm
Updated: February 1, 2016 9:21 am

Red Cross courses to address mental health; gap remains in N.B. courts

The Canadian Red Cross will be adding a mental health component to its First Aid program

Andrew Cromwell/Global News

Mental illness is a condition tens of thousands of Canadians struggle with every day. For some it’s heightened in the winter months.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 20 per cent of Canadians – that’s one in five people – suffer from some sort of mental illness. It says everyone has at least a connection to someone suffering from mental health problems.

The Canadian Red Cross is taking the matter seriously and adding a mental health component to its training programs.

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“We will start off with using our emergency and standard First Aid, which is our core programming, and we will actually integrate that part of it into those programming. So you’ll probably see about 15 minutes of mental health in that,” said Michael Storr, the New Brunswick First Aid representative for the Red Cross.

There will also be a component aimed at first responders.

Storr says a recent online poll shows 98 per cent of Canadian adults believe there needs to be some form of mental health emergency awareness. The program doesn’t necessarily mean treatment, but those who take it will be able to offer some help.

“Administer some emergency care and be able to get them to the point where they can be helped by medical professionals,” Storr said.

On the criminal justice side, there is mounting pressure to restore the only mental health court in New Brunswick.

The mental health court in Saint John has been dormant since since 2013, but just this past summer the Gallant government promised to take another look at the matter although a specific time frame was not given for a possible restoration.

Mary Ann Campbell heads the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies at U.N.B. She tracked the outcomes of mental health court users for eight years.

“We saw that those who completed the program – of which usually over 80 per cent completed – it did have significant reductions in the risk factors associated with criminal behaviour.”

Campbell says the clients themselves spoke of its importance.

“They spoke about how the atmosphere of the mental health court was one they felt that everyone at the table, including the Crown prosecutor, was invested in their welfare.”

Campbell says police and parole officers also wish for its return.

© 2016 Shaw Media

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