As with physical ailments, the treatment you get for mental illness depends on its seriousness. Some illness is treated in the offices of family doctors, often with drugs such as antidepressants. For those needing more intensive help, specialized services are provided by community-based clinics and programs.
Patients can be referred to these clinics by their doctors, or by hospital emergency departments. People can also self-refer by calling directly.
Most mental health clinics in Nova Scotia are open daytimes on weekdays but in Cumberland County and rural Cape Breton, mental health care reaches rural areas through outreach clinics whose staff are sourced from clinics in urban centres. The frequency of these clinics is based on how much demand there is in a community for mental health services. In a mental health clinic, people will see clinicians such as occupational therapists, social workers, nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists. Usually a person has to wait for the first appointment.
Mental health services in Nova Scotia are divided between the IWK, which provides child and youth services in Halifax, and the Nova Scotia Health Authority, which is responsible for adult services and some child and youth services in the remainder of the province. In PEI, there are community mental health clinics in several locations throughout the Island, typically operating from 8 to 4 weekdays, as well as mental health walk-in clinics.
Those needing the most intensive treatment may wind up in a mental health unit at a general hospital, or in one of the specialized psychiatric facilities at the Hillsborough Hospital in Charlottetown, the Nova Scotia Hospital in Dartmouth and the QEII Health Centre and IWK in Halifax.
There are also secure psychiatric units at the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Dartmouth and in the IWK secure unit at the Nova Scotia Youth Facility in Waterville. PEI occasionally transfers some of its sickest forensic patients to the East Coast Forensic Hospital, though this may not continue due to demand in Nova Scotia.
Those in crisis who live in the Halifax area can call the mobile mental health crisis team of mental health professionals and police officers who go directly to people’s homes. People can also go straight to the emergency department of a hospital or call 911.
Outside areas with mobile teams, you can call the province-wide mental health crisis lines in both provinces, 911 or go to an emergency department.
Beyond the walls of health facilities, there are psychiatrists who practice in the community and are paid by public health insurance, and private psychologists and other therapists paid by private medical insurance or directly by the patient. Psychologists charge in the range of $170 an hour. A variety of non-profit groups support the formal system.