When I first started out as a mental health nurse someone told me “you need to meet the client where they are at in order to help them”. This advice has stuck with me to this day and has helped me to be able to make a connection with individuals, who I am often meeting for the first time. Sometimes, all someone needs, is to know that someone cares about them and is there, in that moment, to do whatever it is that needs to be done to keep them safe. I come to work every day not knowing what I am going to encounter. I respond to every call with an open mind, ready to do whatever I have to do in order to help people.
1. What is involved in your role?
I work out of the Waterloo Region Police Service Divisions (North, Central and South) in Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge. I provide support to individuals who are struggling with mental illness who have had an interaction with Police. Police will call me out to assist them on a “live call” with an individual who is struggling with mental illness. Once on scene with Police I will attempt to do a Crisis Assessment and help determine what next steps should be taken for the individual to ensure everyone’s safety. Police can also send after-the-fact referrals to IMPACT and I will attempt to follow up with the individual after the Police interaction has occurred. Part of my role is to provide support to Police Officers who may also be struggling with mental illness or who have close family members who are. A typical day for me would be arriving at the Police Division, logging on with Police Dispatch and then starting any follow up needed for the day. However, my priority is responding to live calls with Police. When I get a call from dispatch requesting I attend a location where Police are on scene, I drop what I am doing and head there.
2. Why did you become involved in the mental health field?
I am a Registered Practical Nurse by trade. When I was a student, I completed 2 of my clinical placements at CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) in Toronto. When I began my first placement there I knew, almost immediately, that this was the area of nursing that I wanted to work in. I wanted to learn everything I could about mental illness, how it is treated and how I can help improve the quality of life for people who struggle with major mental illness. My second placement was in the Forensic Program, working with individuals who have been found Not Criminally Responsible or Unfit to Stand Trial for their charges due to mental illness. I became very interested in this area of Psychiatry and was able to move from working as an inpatient nurse to working on the Forensic ACT at CAMH.
3. What brought you to CMHA?
In 2017, after having my second child, I bought my first home and moved to Cambridge with my family. I started looking for a new job, closer to home. I was able to secure a part-time position at a near-by hospital but knew that I was meant to do outreach work. My search continued for a position where I could work with clients in the community. One of the other nurses I worked with at the hospital told me about CMHA and the IMPACT. The IMPACT intrigued me and I decided to apply for a position with the team.
4. Have you always worked in mental health?
My first job as a Nurse, after I graduated from Nursing School was at a Complex Continuing Care and Rehab Hospital. I worked on the Neuro Rehab floor with individuals who had suffered an Acquired Brain Injury or Stroke. Although I enjoyed my job, my goal was always to work in Mental Health. I worked from 2009 to 2014 in Neuro Rehab and from 2010 to present in Mental Health. I still keep my old nursing scrubs tucked away in my closet in case I ever have to go back to working in the medical field but my plan is to remain in the mental health field indefinitely.
5. How do you support people at CMHA in your role?
My level of support varies from person to person. Every call I attend with Police is different and requires a different approach. You would think that the largest part of my role is doing Crisis Assessments. Assessing the situation, the individual and figuring out what needs to be done in that moment. However, I would argue that an even bigger part of my role is Advocacy. Regardless of the situation, I am constantly advocating for the client I am supporting. When I first started out as a mental health nurse someone told me “you need to meet the client where they are at in order to help them”. This advice has stuck with me to this day and has helped me to be able to make a connection with individuals, who I am often meeting for the first time. Sometimes, all someone needs, is to know that someone cares about them and is there, in that moment, to do whatever it is that needs to be done to keep them safe. I come to work every day not knowing what I am going to encounter. I respond to every call with an open mind, ready to do whatever I have to do in order to help people.
6. What are you proud of during your time at CMHA?
I am extremely proud IMPACT. I feel very honored to be a part of such a unique and innovative team. I can honestly say that I feel like working with IMPACT is one of the coolest jobs at CMHA. Working with the Police, in the Police Divisions and being able to help people who are in crisis alongside the Police is a privilege. I have had the opportunity to advocate for how amazing IMPACT is on CBC radio. I get to do the IMPACT presentations to all of the new recruits alongside my Manager. I was able to help out the Wellington IMACT by doing a presentation to the Wellington OPP Officers on Forensic Psychiatry. I get to be a part of a Forensic Committee with CMHA so that we can figure out how to better serve our clients who are involved in the Justice System. It has taken me a long time to get to this level of expertise in the area of mental health and addictions treatment and I am proud to be a part of the CMHA WW Team.
If you are in crisis or wish to discuss whether CMHA has the right service for you, call Here 24/7: 1-844-437-3247 (HERE 247).
Follow the ‘Faces of CMHA’ series for a glimpse into the lives of the people who spend each day at the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington working to inspire and support people to achieve the quality of life they desire. Join our team, click here to view current employment opportunities at CMHA WW.