International News
Canada Organizes Nationwide MH Trauma Network
Psychiatric News
Volume 36 Number 22 page 19-19

Recognizing that the world’s longest unguarded border has been no barrier to the spread of anxiety and uncertainty after the September 11 attacks, physicians and mental health professionals in Canada have formed a support network to help Canadians understand and cope with their reactions to what has happened to their neighbor to the south.

The 12 participating organizations, including the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the country’s federal health agency, Health Canada, timed their announcement of the launch of the Canadian Mental Health Support Network to coincide with World Mental Health Day on October 10.

The network identifies its mission as helping Canadians understand the normal range of emotions and reactions that they may experience as a consequence of the terrorist attacks on the United States and the resources that are available to help them deal with what they are feeling.

The network also plans to undertake a survey in the near future to gather data on just how severe an impact the attacks are having on Canadians. The participating organizations view this as a way to ensure that people’s mental health needs are met in both the short and long term.

David Butler-Jones, M.D., president of the Canadian Public Health Association, explained in a press statement, "The events of the past few weeks represent, both in the underlying causes and ultimate effects, what will be some of our biggest public health challenges in this generation. These times require the best we have to offer to prevent illness and injury, to heal the hurts, and to offer compassion and hope to the suffering."

Canadian Psychiatric Association President Michael Myers, M.D., told Psychiatric News that while the distance from New York and Washington, D.C., has tempered the negative mental health consequences for most Canadians when compared with what Americans are experiencing, the coalition’s members are committed to being prepared should "the ever-evolving nightmare" continue to offer up dreadful surprises. So far, Myers noted, Canadians’ reactions to the September 11 attacks and the anthrax scares have generally ranged from "complete detachment to heightened vigilance to worry."

Canadian Medical Association President Henry Haddad, M.D., noted that the new mental health network plans to organize a Canadian Health Corps made up of volunteer health professionals whose expertise could be called on "in times of extraordinary health needs to enhance and complement the work of the Red Cross and other existing volunteer services."

People who turn to the public resources section of the support network’s Web site at www.cma.ca/cmhsn will find a three-question quiz. The quiz asks whether the September 11 events

• affected your emotional well-being, causing feelings such as sadness, anger, guilt, confusion, and fear of similar events;

• affected your physical well-being, causing symptoms such as nightmares, loss of appetite, disturbed sleep, physical tension, stomach upset, or diarrhea;

• affected your sense of safety, resulting in some concern when leaving home, overprotection of children, or fear of travel.

Readers are instructed to click on a highlighted area if they answered yes to any of the questions. Doing so brings up information reassuring them that they are not alone and are experiencing "normal reactions to very abnormal events." It goes on to explain that "some individuals will have more severe or prolonged reactions," and those who feel unable to cope or function as before the September 11 attacks should contact their health care provider. The screen also urges them to click on a link that brings up a series of self-help suggestions under the headings "General Public" and "Parents."

Professionals can search an area with information geared to them, consisting primarily of links to a broad array of Web sites with trauma-related information, including APA’s at www.psych.org.

In addition to the organizations cited above, the other participants in the Mental Health Support Network are the Canadian Association of Social Workers, Canadian Healthcare Association, Canadian Mental Health Association, Canadian Nurses Association, Canadian Paediatric Society, Canadian Psychological Association, and College of Family Physicians of Canada. ▪

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