​​​Image of Aideen Carroll and Sarah Flogen
Aideen Carroll, Advanced Practice Nurse, and Sarah Flogen, Nurse Manager of the inpatient psychiatry unit at Toronto General Hospital, help patients recover from mental illness. (Photo: UHN)

It has been years since Cindy has felt the courage and desire to want to help herself.

On the day she interviews with UHNews, she's wearing a brightly coloured necklace, stylish hat and makeup – all positive signs that she's feeling good on this particular day.

Earlier this year, Cindy spent four weeks in Toronto General Hospital's (TGH) inpatient psychiatric unit where she received treatment for depression and was able to her regain her health.

Courage is not something Cindy is short on as she bravely lends her voice to help others during Mental Health Awareness Week (May 4 – 10).  She makes a continuous effort to improve her mental health and receives support from the inter-professional team at the University Health Network (UHN) to work through past trauma and develop everyday coping skills.

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One in five people experience mental illness

Growing statistics reveal the prevalence of mental illness in Canada – one in five people will experience mental illness at some point in their life. These numbers present a challenge that the Mental Health and Addictions program at UHN has been working to address through primary care, community partnerships, outreach programs, urgent care for patients in crisis, and highly specialized treatments for complex patients.

"There are many exciting new treatments for mental health and the research taking place today will revolutionize the care we are able to provide in the near future," says Dr. Susan Abbey, Psychiatrist in Chief, UHN.

"We need to keep this momentum going, but also increase access to care, strengthen our community partnerships and recognize that patients cared for by other programs at UHN need mental health support."

Prior to becoming a patient at TGH, Cindy had only received episodic care for her depression; the goal of the inter-professional team at UHN is to ensure access to the right inpatient care, outpatient clinics and community support.

 "I really can't credit just one person on the team," says Cindy.

"Everyone on the unit communicated with me and listened to what I had to say. I believe that made all the difference."

All of the health-care professionals on the unit work towards an overarching goal: recovery.

"We are there to work with patients to identify the life they want to live and help them get there," says Sarah Flogen, Nurse Manager, inpatient psychiatry unit, TGH. "Equally important, is giving patients the support they need when they are back in the community."

"From the moment I walked into the unit, it felt different from anywhere I had ever been," says Cindy.

"Every day, the team helps me to engage in workshops and activities, and helps me to achieve personal milestones that I can be proud of."

Road to recovery

Cindy has learned how to rebuild her confidence and push herself to do things her depression prevented her from doing in the past – and her care team has helped her live more fully and independently. One of the practical tasks has been learning to plan her days out one week at a time, so she can create structure and break her tendency towards isolation.

"Patients with mental illness shouldn't have to wait years to get into a program or experience multiple failed treatments before getting the help they need," says Dr. Abbey.

"All mental illness can be treated and our goal is to ensure patients have access to the best treatment and to partner with them on their road to recovery."

Under the leadership of Dr. Leslie Buckley, the UHN Addictions Service provides out-patient programs and community outreach, in addition to consultation to medical teams and surgical services across the organization. The Service ensures people with addictions and substance use are identified and receive appropriate quality of care.

UHN's addictions programs are designed to meet the needs of our diverse city, including services for Asian and Portuguese communities. We also have the only withdrawal service exclusively for women in the province. 

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