Making mental health services readily available in Canada and other parts of the world enables individuals to receive timely interventions and support, leading to better treatment outcomes. It also helps reduce the stigma associated with mental illness by normalizing mental healthcare and making it more widely available, leading to increased social integration and acceptance of individuals with mental health conditions.
In this article, we summarize the valuable insights that our host at the Caring Support Podcast discussed with our guest, Harriet Ekperigin, about how Green Shield Health provides accessible health resources to Canadians, including mental health programs. Specifically, here are the key points in their discussion:
Harriet Ekperigin holds a bachelor's degree in nursing and a Master of Business Administration. She also holds a professional certification in Project Management. Born in Nigeria, she moved to the United Kingdom when she was 10 years old, where she started her career in mental health as a mental health nurse. Since then, she has done many things but has always come back to her first love, which is mental health.
Harriet moved over to Canada in 2001 and has held various positions, including being the Senior Lead for Virtual Mental Health at Ontario Health, a mental health program that supported over 120,000 Ontarians during the COVID pandemic. Currently, she's the Vice President of Mental Health at Green Shield, where she's responsible for growing the Mental Health Strategy that supports the organization’s mandate as a payor and provider of health services.
Harriet shared her personal journey and discussed the importance of mental health support in destigmatizing mental illness. She recounted a childhood memory in Nigeria where she witnessed individuals from a mental health institution taking their weekly walk, which deeply impacted her and sparked her interest in mental health.
Harriet expressed her curiosity about why some people become ill and how they recover, questions that were not easily answered in countries like Nigeria, where mental health was often overlooked or misunderstood, where, according to her, "you are either mad or you're not mad."
Inspired by her experiences, Harriet has dedicated herself to promoting mental health awareness and providing support to those in need.
Green Shield Health, a not-for-profit social enterprise, aims to provide timely and quality mental health services without the pressure of making profits for shareholders. It evolved from a traditional health insurance provider to a payer-provider.
Green Shield offers services such as mental health support, telemedicine, and digital pharmacy, aiming to create an integrated healthcare system. This integrated platform allows plan members to access services in a timely manner, particularly addressing the issue of waiting for services. It also enables the collection of data to support individuals' well-being.
Green Shield Canada acquired Inkblot Technologies, which became Green Shield's mental health platform. It offers various mental health services, including online counselling services and internet-based cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).
One unique feature of Inkblot Therapy is its matching algorithm, which allows individuals to find a counsellor or responder who meets their specific needs and preferences. This algorithm takes into account factors such as cultural competency, LGBTQ+ experience, and parental challenges.
In addition to mental health counselling and CBT, the platform also provides trauma support and comprehensive online resources about mental health for those who want to understand what mental health issues are and how to address them. The platform is available in Nova Scotia and Ontario, with government funding covering the cost of certain programs.
In Harriet's words, this made them have "both educational and hands-on counselling," which she considered to be a brilliant thing done at a great time.
Harriet also mentioned that they launched a women's mental health program that provided free mental health services to anybody who identifies as a woman in Canada. Because of this initiative, in one year alone, they were able to provide over 60,000 women with free counselling and free CBT.
According to Harriet, the Mental Health Research Canada poll that was done throughout the COVID-19 pandemic showed a dramatic increase in the reporting of anxiety and depression, brought about by many factors, including the fear of catching the disease and losing their jobs.
With that, according to Harriet, they designed their mental health programs to provide support for mental health and life services. While they may not be able to offer direct financial assistance or provide food, they offer programs that can help in terms of financial advice.
These programs aim to reduce anxiety and depression levels, allowing individuals to think more clearly and approach the next day with a positive outlook. Through their services, they strive to alleviate the burden of financial stress and provide guidance towards a better future.
In terms of taking care of your own mental health, Harriet mentioned the importance of self-care and shared various strategies for maintaining well-being. One of the strategies she mentioned was mindfulness, like going for a walk and meditating in the morning, which helped both her mental and physical health. Another effective practice she mentioned was incorporating exercises in her exercise ball in between meetings to improve posture and overall well-being.
Harriet also emphasized the importance of listening to one's body and recognizing when peer support is needed, such as talking to a family member or a friend, seeking reputable online mental health resources for more information, or reaching out to a mental health professional. The importance of setting boundaries and taking time for oneself was also highlighted.
On the other hand, in terms of taking care of another person's mental health, Harriet mentioned that having the time to listen to how the person is doing is the most important aspect. She also mentioned that in addition to listening, "it's okay to share your experience" as a show of empathy.
Note, however, that showing empathy also means giving them the opportunity to talk about something that bothers them, respecting that, and waiting for the time when you might be able to share a similar experience.
This insightful podcast episode featuring Harriet Ekperigin shed light on the importance of mental health support and the role it plays in maintaining overall well-being. Harriet's journey into providing mental health support highlighted her passion and dedication to destigmatizing mental illness. Green Shield Health, in particular, was discussed as a valuable resource for healthcare-seeking individuals in Canada.
At Caring Support, we're committed to contributing to efforts to improve the overall health and wellbeing of Canadians by connecting mental health professionals to healthcare organizations, through which they can provide their expertise in crisis support, especially to those in immediate danger due to their mental health issues. Start your path towards well-being and make a positive difference in your life and the lives of others as a mental health professional. Create an account with us today.
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