Team helps 'put the light back' in kids’ eyes

Dawn Frizzell

Strengthening mental health services -

When Dawn Frizzell says she “really connects with the kids,” you know it’s true.

The 20-year social worker is a member of the team of dedicated youth mental health staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH). Although she’s clearly busy, she happily greets everyone and intently focuses during each conversation while making her rounds at the QEH’s Unit 9.

Along with psychiatrists, three youth workers, two LPNs, and two RNs, Frizzell helps kids 12-18 who are in crisis get well during their hospitalizations. The youth often arrive at the hospital struggling with depression and anxiety, having difficulty coping with stress and dealing with suicide threats or attempts. They meet with the psychiatric team made up of psychiatry, social work, nursing and youth work and a plan for stabilization is developed. This may include medication, establishment of a routine and engagement in wellness programming and connecting to community supports before returning home and back into their schools and communities.

She said kids often come in flat and disconnected, but once they are stabilized and the crisis is over, her team starts their comprehensive and coordinated programming for the health of the whole child.

"We are trying to expose them to more than medication and to show them there are different ways to feel good and help them to develop some resiliency and understand that they can have a huge part in their own wellness," Frizzell said. “There is no magic pill and no easy button.”

While in hospital, the patients spend time meeting with various mental health professionals to get an accurate assessment of their situation. They participate in therapy groups, occupational therapy, relaxation training, baking or doing crafts like painting the rocks they collect at the nearby Hillsborough River’s banks. They are provided opportunity to participate in yoga, more recently music therapy, meditation, goal setting, homework and exercise. Staff  have been recently trained in auricular accupuncture which will  be available soon to youth.

She brings in professionals including nutritionists, spiritual counselors, and pharmacists in to demystify the helping professionals in hospitals.

“When they start sleeping, eating three square meals, have no access to screens, and get involved in activities like music therapy and yoga, it's amazing the progress they can make in a short time, they start to get excited and pumped up about their life," Frizzell said. “We want them to get involved and learn about wellness - we want to see that light in their eyes.”

“We understand the toll mental health can have on an individual and their family,” Health and Wellness Minister Robert Mitchell said. “We are working to strengthen our mental health services and provide the best possible care for Islanders.”

Experienced crisis intervention professionals respond promptly to mental health (psychiatric) emergencies at both the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Prince County Hospital emergency departments. In addition, specialized acute, longer-term treatment and rehabilitation are offered at Hillsborough Hospital and through the provincial Strength Program and the INSIGHT program.

Community mental health supports are available in various communities across the province, including mental health walk-in clinics, a Behavioural Support Team and telehealth supports through the Strongest Families Initiative.

Get more information on mental health resources on Prince Edward Island.



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