Mental-health series aims to give hope

Information sessions begin tonight at St. Mark’s Anglican Church in South Surrey

A free series aimed at sharing information and encouragement around mental illness gets underway tonight at St. Mark’s Anglican Church in South Surrey.

“It’s such a growing industry,” Mark Davies, a Delta psychologist who attends St. Mark’s, said of mental health.

“The stress of modern life, the loss of community – it’s really taking its toll, and people more and more are turning to mental-health professionals to say, how do we cope with this?”

The evening series is to be offered in four parts, addressing depression, anxiety, stress and positive psychology.

St. Mark’s volunteer communications co-ordinator Brian Walks described the topics as “issues all of us can relate to at one point of our lives or another.

“The subject is so timely,” Walks said. “There’s people that go through these conditions, some of them on a daily basis.”

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime; 10 to 20 per cent of Canadian youth are affected.

According to Fraser Health, of 17,669 emergency department visits logged at Peace Arch Hospital between Jan. 1 and April 21 of this year – the most recent period for which statistics are available – 513 (2.9 per cent of total visits) were for mental-health issues, with 162 of those visits resulting in a hospital stay.

Among services at the hospital for such patients are an early psychosis intervention program, an in-patient rapid access clinic and a community mental health centre.

A new, dedicated Mental Health and Substance Abuse Zone will be part of its upcoming ER expansion.

Davies said while there has been an increased focus on mental-health resources, it is “still the poor cousin of the overall health initiative in Canada.”

“We tend to put physical health above mental health,” he said.

“There’s a big change going on now in society, and government is trying to catch up with that.”

Davies said his presentations will aim to help people recognize signs of mental illness, in themselves or others, and what they can do about it.

Education, he noted, is critical.

“One of the most important things you can do with mental health is educate people (about) what they’re dealing with and what they’ve got,” he said. “I think knowledge is power. People who struggle with mental health often feel powerless.

“I try to give them information… in an accessible way, in a way that gives them hope.”

The two-hour sessions are set for 7 p.m. on Sept. 22, Oct. 13 and Nov. 3 and 24. St. Mark’s Anglican Church is located at 12953 20 Ave.

For more, call 604-535-8841.


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