Nfld. & Labrador

New mental health, addictions clinics welcomed by Grand Bank mayor

The mayor of Grand Bank is optimistic about the opening of two new mental health clinics on the Burin Peninsula, following a rash of suicides in the area.

Clinics a response to rash of suicides in region and demand for better services

Rex Matthews says Grand Bank must now focus on spreading the word that help is available for mental health and addictions problems. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

The mayor of Grand Bank is optimistic about the opening of two new mental health clinics on the Burin Peninsula, following a number of suicides in the area.

Rex Matthews told CBC News on Wednesday that the announcement — which will see a walk-in mental health and addictions clinic each Wednesday in Grand Bank and another clinic on Mondays and Tuesdays in Marystown — is an important step forward. 

"Any person that has any form of mental illness or addiction, [that] wants to see mental health-care providers, they won't have those long delays that we've experienced before," said Matthews.

The clinic openings come after six people from Grand Bank, including the husbands of two sisters, died by suicide within the span of 14-months. 

Natalie Randell hugs her sister Valerie Peach. Both women lost husbands to suicide just weeks apart. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

As part of the new initiative, Eastern Health said it will offer suicide intervention training to health-care professionals and community groups in December, February and March.

The health authority has also partnered with town councils and community agencies to form a coalition to promote mental health and wellness.

Break the stigma 

Matthews is hopeful that people in a small town will feel comfortable attending the clinics.

"As a society we have a responsibility to try and bring mental health out in the open, without the stigma, without the myths, and without the taboos," he said.

"We have to do that and in Grand Bank we have to encourage it — and we are encouraging it — because it's got to be treated like any other illness."

Drug addiction

Matthews also has concerns with addictions in the area, and how doctors might be oversubscribing opioids

"We're no different than any other municipality in rural Newfoundland and Labrador," he said.

"The department of health and community service, they have to take a good look and see who's getting all those drugs, and why they're getting those drugs, and why they're so accessible to people who shouldn't be having those drugs."

They have to take a good look and see who's getting all those drugs, and why.- Rex Matthews

A recent study showed that Newfoundland and Labrador is close to the top when it comes to the per capita prescribing of opioids.

"They have to resolve it, because here, they tell me it's one of the main issues we have." 

For now, Matthews is focused on getting out information about the new mental health supports.

"That's where we have to focus. It's there and people have to know it's there."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show