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Navigating our Mental Health System

As you probably know by now, our approach to making mental health more understood and accessible includes providing services without barriers.

But did you know we also help everyone navigate the mental health system and provide education on mental health?

Many of you don’t know that everyone’s mental health fluctuates up and down depending on what is going on both internally and externally - including yours!

It helps us to understand that we can move between different states of well being. A person can have an official diagnosis and have good mental health and others without a formal diagnosis can be really struggling and on the other end of the continuum. If you are human, you will struggle at times.

EVERYONE is on this continuum somewhere. #weallstruggle

This tool is not unique to people living with a mental illness, it is a tool for everyone.

It is important that everyone feels that they know what to do or where to turn during a difficult time in their life. We want to simplify the process of finding out who is who and where to start when navigating the New Brunswick (NB) health care system.

Psychiatrists In NB, psychiatrists are covered by Medicare and you need to be referred by a family doctor or nurse practitioner to see one. It is a good idea to consult one if you are pursuing a diagnosis or have multiple physical or mental health conditions impacting one another. It is best to start with your family doctor to discuss how you are feeling and what your goals are. Some family doctors like to work collaboratively with a psychiatrist if it is something more complex especially. More and more we are seeing family doctors treating mental health as its holistically part of health. Psychiatrists do not often provide counselling, rather, they see you for semi-annually check-ins on symptom management unless things are severe. Psychologists Psychologists work in both public and private practice. You can see a psychologist in the hospital system (government funded) or privately in private practice - places like KV Psychology Psychologists offer assessments, diagnosis, and some treatment. Many times, we consult them for school-aged learning assessments. A psychologist working in the hospital diagnosed my son with autism, for example. A psychologist cannot prescribe medication but can provide specialized, standardized assessments (approx. cost is $2000 and some are covered by insurance). They can diagnose and provide therapy. Psychologists can do research, which is a very important contribution, academically and clinically, to the profession. Counsellors and Therapists Counsellors and therapists work in both public & private sectors as well. A therapist is a broader umbrella term for professionals who are trained - and often licensed - to provide a variety of mental health treatments and rehabilitation for people. Counsellors in NB are generally social workers or licensed counselling therapists. Insurance often provides coverage for their fees which range from $120 - $160 per hour, typically. Therapists can be social workers with a bachelor level degree however many therapists providing counselling have a masters-level degree. You can self-refer to a counsellor in the government system or in the private system. Benefits to the private system include being able to choose someone specialized to support your issues and smaller waiting lists. A benefit to the public mental health system is that you can be connected with other mental health care professionals within the same system. Pros and cons to seeking a diagnosis There are pros and cons to diagnosis, in my opinion. On the positive side, it helps validate past struggles as it can lead to a greater understanding of your brain and what's been going on. For example, when I was diagnosed 2 years ago with ADHD it helped to explain my inability to sit still, how I am easily distracted and my hyper-focus tendencies. The diagnosis helped me feel empowered that my unexplained behaviours are part of my unique brain. A diagnosis can also help you access resources that can help you. In the case of my son with autism, he was able to get access to Autism Intervention Services (AIS) only with proof of diagnosis.

The downside of having a diagnosis is that you may feel ashamed or upset for having this diagnosis. Diagnostic labels can increase stigma and create stereotypes because we are often diagnosed based on what our culture says is normal and it can pathologize the human experience. Meaning, we attach a label to behaviour that is normal in context. It can also lead people to only consider medication rather than therapy. As a therapist it can be really sad when someone feels their diagnosis is a negative lifetime label.

How do I know if I need help? Reaching out for help is always a good idea, even if it is proactive, as it helps to have a trusted neutral trained person to help when you really need it. If you start to feel your daily functioning is impacted by your mental health, that is a good sign to seek out help - you likely need some external support.

Some other common signs that you may be struggling with your mental health include poor quality sleep and/or sleeping too little or too much, a decrease in motivation, substance use or misuse, mood swings, isolating yourself from your friends and family, inability to concentrate, or generally just not feeling good within yourself.

Where do I start?

You can visit your family doctor to help you navigate where to start or you can self-refer (no need for a doctor’s referral) to talk to a counsellor or therapist, either privately by calling us at (506) 651-1239 (or another private counselling agency - you can find them at or calling your local Government of New Brunswick Addictions & Mental Health Office, which is free. In Saint John, call (506) 658-3737 and for other areas of New Brunswick, find the local phone number here, on their website. If you call us, we offer counselling at all financial levels; we don’t turn anyone away: Private pay counselling - most often used by those with insurance or who can pay out of pocket for individual, couple or family therapy ($135.00/session) Low-cost counselling with our supervised student interns ($40.00/session) Free counselling (drop-in) (Free 30-min one-on-one sessions each week) including outreach programs where our interns go on-site and partner with local non-profit and community agencies to provide free counselling at their location to further reduce barriers. We are currently offering these services at the YMCA.

Check out lots of local resources on our website. And you can call 211 or go to the 211 website to find mental health resources too.

We are all human. We all struggle. Reach out.

~ Laura, Clinical Therapist

We're here if you want to talk :) Take the first step and call us for an appointment ...(506) 651-1239

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