New Page Mental Health Literacy is a new program that provides much needed front-line support that makes the connection between mental health and literacy issues, and gives mental health clients the literacy skills they need to improve their quality of life and integration in society. NP Mental Health Literacy will (1) integrate/cross-train professional disciplines (social, health, literacy) to better serve mental health clients (2) provide literacy education for mental health clients (3) offer job placement assistance for mental health clients.
Currently there are no such programs in the Fraser Cascade Region despite the area having a significantly high rate of mental illness compared to across BC, which contributes to daunting statistics such as the suicide rate is more than double the BC average, and alcohol consumption (strongly associated with mental health) is over 30% higher.
Hope BC, population 6,500, is a transient community with a high rate of mental health clients. There are 8.6 mental health related suicides/homicides per every 1,000 people in Fraser Cascade; more than double BC’s average. Literacy amongst mental health clients is largely overlooked and “an average of 50% of [mental health worker’s] clients had literacy issues.”
The 2007 Feasibility Study on Literacy and Mental Health states “literacy issues in clients usually comes to light when clients start working on specific activities with mental health workers…such as completing forms, reading information, understanding and taking medications…Mental health workers often discover literacy issues when taking the initial history of their clients’ school experience.” Additionally, clients usually “cover up” their limited literacy skills.
Mental health and social workers are often the only people with opportunities to recognize literacy issues amongst mental health clients. Yet in Hope, professionals have no means to network with other disciplines regarding the literacy. Mental health clients need professionals who can: identify their literacy needs; guide them to appropriate literacy programs; connect them with support tools and resources.
Additionally, “Literacy is a critical, but largely overlooked, issue in the evaluation and treatment of individuals with mental health disorders….clinicians should routinely evaluate their patients’ literacy skills” (Christensen & Grace).
NP Mental Health is a community program based on the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Model, which uses a cross-disciplinary approach to treating mental health issues. Like ACT, NP Mental Health integrates professional disciplines (social, health, and literacy services) to help mental health clients improve their quality of life, health and safety; reduce the need for hospitalization; and improve their community tenure.
NP Mental Health seeks to identify mental health clients with low literacy skills and connect them with programs that use a cross-disciplinary approach to improving literacy, mental health and quality of life. The three-fold program:
•focuses on improving community health by establishing integrated professional networks in which professionals are cross-trained, enabling them to identify and improve literacy skills of mental health clients.
•uses interdisciplinary forums and training for professionals to learn how literacy and mental health issues affect one another and how to treat mental health clients holistically
•equips professionals with a cross-disciplinary manual to familiarize themselves with literacy needs and concerns, a checklist to help determine literacy needs and how mental health affects literacy.
•refers clients to Literacy Drop-in center: 2 day/week structured classes; 5 days/week casual classes (free learning, tutoring)
•assists mental health clients with job placement