About 100 Durham Mental Health Services staff gathered at the Oshawa and District Shrine Club on Friday, November 27 for a day that included both information sharing and inspiring stories of recovery.
For the first time ever, the day began with voluntary participation in a traditional First Nations smudging ceremony. The ceremony was led by DMHS Aboriginal Addictions and Mental Health Outreach Worker Connie Spencer.
DMHS Chief Executive Officer Rob Adams led off the official proceedings by highlighting some of the organization’s outstanding achievements from the past year. These include:
- New funding for two Regional Housing Coordinators;
- New funding for the Aboriginal Addictions and Mental Health Outreach Worker;
- An expansion of DMHS’ Seniors Support Program;
- An expansion of the residential services DMHS provides in partnership with Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences; and,
- An expansion of the Peer Support Program, which now includes ten full-time staff and takes the lead role in the Central East LHIN’s Consumer Survivor Network.
Moreover, Rob noted that DMHS received a prestigious Minister’s Medal from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for its consumer-centered partnerships with Rouge Valley Health System, which made DMHS one of only ten organizations across Ontario to be so honoured this year.
After a brief overview of privacy legislation from DMHS’ Privacy Officer and Administration Director Linda Skene, consultant Barry Hyde led everyone through a strategic planning session. This led to a wealth of input about what DMHS does well and should keep doing, what we could do differently and what gaps need to be addressed in the community, along with some reflection on DMHS’ current mission, vision, and values statements.
After lunch, staff recognition awards were given to staff members who have achieved notable service milestones (5, 10, 15, 20 years), including two staff who celebrated 25 years of service to DMHS.
The focus of the afternoon was on challenging stigma, beginning with a presentation from Bob Heeney, Consultant and Mental Health Commission of Canada Coordinator for Headstrong, a program which provides accurate knowledge and shapes healthy attitudes about mental illness among young Canadians. Bob was followed at the podium by his long-time colleague John Dick, Patient Council Coordinator and Peer Support Specialist with Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences.
Two very courageous speakers followed. DMHS Peer Support Specialists Lisa Scuse and Missa Schultz shared their own stories of mental illness and recovery for the very first time to a public audience. Both received standing ovations for their bravery and for their commitment to recovery.
The day concluded with two final speakers, Ian and Jewel from Voices Against Stigma Everywhere or V.A.S.E., a consumer-empowerment group sponsored by DMHS. Their hope and perseverance in the face of tremendous pain and hardship was inspiring to all present.
For photos from the day, please visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/126191794@N04/albums/72157661760251571.