In Hamilton, Ontario, a small port city in Canada, “Mental Health Safe Space” signs dot storefronts across one of its neighborhoods.
These signs, the first of their kind, are similar to the “Safe Place” signs used in the United States, that indicate to youth that staff there are trained to provide resources and assistance for their needs.
In the same way, the “Mental Health Safe Space” signs are being used by stores in Hamilton to inform those struggling with mental illness that their business is willing and able to be a resource to them.
Fiona Wilson, manager of the Mental Health and Addictions program at St. Joseph’s, a local hospital in Hamilton, said that the program is “about opening the door to dialogue and potentially services if a person is in distress” (Cain 2017, p.3).
To accomplish this, staff at participating businesses have been trained to, “provide information, help recognize and support someone in distress and introduce people to a community connector who can offer more support, resources and assistance accessing services” (Paddon 2017, p.4). Participating businesses are also provided with a binder containing relevant contacts, including community connectors and crisis response teams, and staff members are equipped with the tools to “comfort [those seeking help], potentially de-escalate and know who to call” (Cain 207, p.5).
So far, ten businesses have opted to participate in the program, training 34 staff members altogether. According to Wilson, 36 more staff are waiting to be trained in September.
The program is designed to be a stepping stone for recovery or to assistance for those who may not know where to begin looking themselves. Said Wilson, “It’s about people feeling more comfortable talking about what their needs are but also about people in the community being sensitive, being empathetic to what they’re seeing” (Cain 2017, p.8).
The program, projected to roll out over a one-year timeline, is being funded through a $66,800 grant from the Ontario Trillium Fund. Presently, it is contained in the Gibson-Landsdale neighborhood of Hamilton, but the hopes of one resident, Amanda Pepin, are for the program to eventually go city-wide. Pepin called it a “step in the right direction.” Having struggled with her mental health for over twenty-five years, she “strongly supports an initiative like this to help people in the neighborhood feel more secure” (Paddon 2017, p.18).
For more information on this topic, please refer to, “Mental health: ‘Safe space’ signs in Hamilton storefronts to break down barriers.”
Cain, S. (2017, June 28). Mental health safe space initiative launched in Gibson-Landsdale neighbourhood in Hamilton. Retrieved June 29, 2017, from http://globalnews.ca/news/3563867/mental-health-safe-space-initiative-launched-in-gibson-landsdale-neighbourhood-in-hamilton/
Paddon, N. (2017, June 28). Mental health: ‘Safe space’ signs in Hamilton storefronts to break down barriers. Retrieved June 29, 2017, from https://www.thespec.com/news-story/7397717-mental-health-safe-space-signs-in-hamilton-storefronts-to-break-down-barriers/