By Allan Benner, The Tribune
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
WELLAND – South Niagara residents who need mental health services the most have the most trouble accessing those services.
That was one of the findings by researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, who provided a preliminary look at some of the data they collected last year while visiting Port Colborne and Welland.
The researchers spent about three months in Port Colborne during the summer of 2011, followed by a few months in Welland that fall as part of the Researching Health in Ontario Communities mobile project — the first project of its kind in Canada.
They returned to south Niagara Wednesday to discuss their findings during a community forum held at Best Western Rose City Suites.
“We found that a lot of people who participated in our study suffered from severe problems and co-occurring problems, and it was those people with all that who had the most challenges finding help,” said project co-ordinator Andrea Flynn.
“And at the same time, those are the people who need the help the most.”
Several individual studies were conducted as part of the project, including improving mental health and addiction treatments, a study of young adults in troubled relationships, and “the consumer journey study” which looked into accessing mental health services in Niagara.
Senior scientist Kathryn Graham said she found some unexpected results while interviewing 19- to 29-year-olds in relationships, such as people who are continually fighting with their partner.
“It’s not just ordinary people having fights every once in awhile,” she said. “This is happening all the time.”
Often, Graham said, factors like economic stress or underlying mental health issues contribute to those troubled relationships.
Flynn called the time spent speaking to people from Port Colborne and Welland “an excellent experience,” although the researchers faced some challenges during their time here.
“It took a lot of planning and there were a lot of bugs to work out in terms of the lab and figuring things out, and things you don’t think of beforehand,” she said.
Even finding a spot to park a 10-metre-long mobile research lab was a challenge, she added. The trailer was parked beside Food Basics on Charlotte St. in Port Colborne, and during its time in Welland it was parked at Seaway Mall near Niagara St.
Flynn said 205 people from Port Colborne and 130 from Welland participated in the pilot study — not enough to provide researchers with definitive data.
She said the final report will likely be ready in about a month, and will be available on the organization’s website.
Room for improvement
Study participants suggested several improvements to local services, including:
- More local services for mental health, addiction
- Improved transportation assistance
- More public information about service
- More substance abuse awareness programs directed towards youth