Health agency points out ways to wellness during pandemic

by Keith Corcoran

A pandemic and state of emergency were both declared in March. Maybe a job-loss followed. Then, there was the mass-shooting in the province in April. While just one of those could spike a person's stress level, add them together and the mixture could be a recipe for risky decision-making.

"There's a certain amount of uncertainty," said Brent Laybolt, a registered nurse at Lunenburg's hospital, who leads Nova Scotia Health Authority's (NSHA) mental health and addictions services.

"People get stressed when they can't predict their environment and they can't predict what's going to happen next," he told LighthouseNOW during a period when public health guidelines were more restrictive.

Patients with addiction issues need to understand what's next for them, including when it comes to accessing hospitals. It's new and unprecedented tension and stress that can make things challenging for families, Laybolt indicated.

The NSHA contacted LighthouseNOW to boost knowledge about its withdrawal management and wellness programs. The agency was concerned there may not be enough awareness that withdrawal management programs are available and how, or whether they should access them during the coronavirus pandemic.

People are reaching out for help, but others contacting the service for the first time didn't know Laybolt and his team of more than a dozen health care professionals were available. Whether it be managing alcohol withdrawal, tackling opioid addiction, or dealing with suicidal-related calls, the counsellors, nurses, and other staff are ready to help. "Because we can," Laybolt said.

"Rolling into the pandemic we hadn't noticed an uptick" in calls for service, he said, but with people feeling like they need to avoid hospitals due to COVID-19 concerns, the mental health-related inquiries were increasing.

"People are reaching out in crisis when they, kind of, wouldn't before," Laybolt said.

To learn more about services available, check out https://mha.nshealth.ca/en on the internet.

"With the right kind of help, people have amazing outcomes, and if they can get access sooner than later, they can prevent so much damage, or trauma, or stress to themselves - and loved ones - just by knowing there's access," Laybolt pointed out.

There is also a free provincial mental health crisis line, available at all times for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis or anyone concerned about them, at 1-888-429-8167.

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