Mental health regional office welcomed in Stephenville

Frank Gale fgale@thewesternstar.com
Published on March 14, 2012
George Skinner, executive director for the Canadian Mental Health Association-Newfoundland and Labrador Division, talks about the regional office in Stephenville at the opening on Tuesday, March 13, 2012..
Frank Gale

STEPHENVILLE — Mary Dennis believes the opening of a Canadian Mental Health Association-Newfoundland and Labrador Division regional office in Stephenville, is definitely needed.

As a client, she didn’t think she would ever see anything like this office in Stephenville, and plans to make use of it.

The regional office was officially opened with lots of fanfare on Tuesday afternoon and George Skinner, executive director for the association in this province, said this is the first time since the association’s establishment in St. John’s in 1964, that regional offices were opened, with another slated to open in Grand Falls-Windsor on March 15.

The purpose of the expansion is to increase the association’s service delivery across the province and to broaden its ongoing campaign against stigma and discrimination. The organization’s mission is to promote the mental health of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and to support the resilience and recovery of people living with mental illness.

With the opening of these offices, Skinner said it’s a great time for him to have the privilege of serving as executive director. He said mental health issues are pretty much in the limelight today, and that one in five people will experience some type of mental-health issue.

“We try to reconcile mental illness and I see it as no more than a brain disease and certainly nothing to be stigmatized. Let’s talk about it ... as many suffer from it and change starts at the community level, like here in Stephenville,” he said.

Mary Beth Fallon, regional co-ordinator for the Stephenville site, said while she was a little reluctant about moving to a new town, the support from the community so far has been unbelievable, especially in helping get the office set up and ready for the opening.

“It is exciting to be part of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s plan for expansion,” Fallon said. “There is significant opportunity to reach communities through our foundational concepts, advocacy, education, research and service. In order to overcome stigma associated with mental illness and mental health, it is essential to provide opportunity for community members to talk and with this expansion, the Canadian Mental Health Association will be able to facilitate such crucial public dialogue,” she said.

The Canadian Mental Health Association-Newfoundland and Labrador Division is a voluntary, non-profit, charitable organization promoting a better understanding of mental health and illness across the province. The decision to open regional offices came as a result of a strategic plan completed in 2008.

Skinner said one of the many factors that went into the decision to open a regional office in Stephenville, was that the West Coast Correctional Centre is located in the town.

“We’re trying to spread some of the responsibility across the region,” he said.