Fateful yoga class discussion leads to support for hospital’s mental health department

Article written by Owen Sound Times

Jessica Hastings-Lesperance knew she wanted to help raise money and awareness for mental health initiatives, but didn’t know where to start.

So when staff members from the Owen Sound hospital’s mental health and addictions department began talking about their work inside Hastings-Lesperance’s Cedar Wellness Studio yoga class, it seemed like a serendipitous moment.

“It was like, OK, this is what we’re going to do,” Hastings-Lesperance said.

On Wednesday, Hastings-Lesperance donated cash and much-needed items to the hospital’s mental health department, including 300 pairs of socks, toothbrushes and reading glasses.

Hastings-Lesperance said she was told some patients have long-term stays at the hospital and because they didn’t come with any other clothes, are wearing hospital gowns most of the time.

“Hearing that was a big impact on me,” she said.

Hastings-Lesperance reached out to her network for donations, organized fundraisers, and negotiated with other business owners to collect donations.

She said after nailing down a sock deal at the Treasure Hunt in Owen Sound – a pair of socks for ten cents – but she had to spend an hour matching singles until she had 300 pairs ready to donate.

Now, she’s hoping others in the community will follow suit and donate to a sometimes forgotten element of the community’s health and wellness landscape.

“I know what we did had an impact, and that’s great, but I feel like we could do so much more with more awareness,” Hastings-Lesperance said.

Owen Sound Regional Hospital Foundation executive director Amy McKinnon said the actions of Hastings-Lesperance and Olivia Duwyn – an Owen Sound woman who raised money for mental health initiatives by completing a solo triathlon including a frosty one-kilometre swim at Sauble Beach in late October – help to put a tangible goal in the minds of donors.

“It’s always important to lift the profile of mental health so that the public understands that mental health is health, and we all need to take care of both our physical health and our mind,” McKinnon said. “It puts a face to it all.”

The hospital’s mental health and addiction department features an acute care psychiatric inpatient unit, a psychogeriatric unit, as well as a psychiatric intensive care unit. Long-term and short-term supports are provided to patients, and local resources and partnerships are made available to be utilized. Crisis services are available 24/7 across all hospital emergency departments in Grey Bruce.

The Mental Health Crisis Line is also available 24 hours per day, seven days a week at 1-877-470-5200. There is also access to family crisis support workers, addiction treatment services, counselling services, sexual and partner abuse care, and more.

According to statistics provided by Grey Bruce Health Services, there are 2,600 visits to the psychogeriatric unit annually and 25,000 visits servicing approximately 2,500 people with a serious mental illness. There 4,500 visits serving approximately 1,300 individuals annually for those with mild to moderate mental illness. There are 6,500 mental health visits to emergency departments annually served by the crisis team and 7,000 psychiatrist visits.

The unit’s 45 inpatient beds are at full capacity.

“The mental health programs and services are quite robust and far-reaching. I think people may be surprised and don’t realize all of the services we offer,” McKinnon said.

Hastings-Lesperance said despite the mental health support framework available, the problem is growing and people will always need help.

“I would say there is a mental health crisis,” she said.

She hopes people will follow suit and continue to donate items of need and money to the hospital.

McKinnon said anyone wishing to help should visit the hospital foundation’s website , and that cash donations allow the most flexibility in general.

“Cash allows the staff, not only in the mental health ward but in all the program areas, to buy what they need for the patients when they need it.”