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Roots of Hope Promising Practice Exchange Case Studies – Spotlight on Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan

THE MEADOW LAKE AND AREA COMMUNITY

While the City of Meadow Lake has a population of around 5,400, our Roots of Hope project serves the rural residents of 11 surrounding communities. Our priority population is youth, although the community also recognizes the need to reach out to men, who are role models for our youth.

Meadow Lake and area project partners include:

  • Saskatchewan Health Authority
  • Meadow Lake Tribal Council

COMMUNITY SUCCESSES

An active community advisory network has developed, whose members offer many areas of expertise. The meetings are well attended by representatives from a number of the affiliated communities. When unable to attend, they receive meeting minutes and interact with our Roots of Hope coordinator on their community’s behalf.

One unexpected outcome of our project is the networking it has facilitated between agencies (sometimes in different communities) that have not worked together before.

COMMUNITY IMPACT

Public Awareness: The main way our Roots of Hope work has impacted public awareness about suicide prevention is through the staff capacity and program resources it provides. A key focus has been educating our communities on the factors that contribute to suicide risk, and how individuals can help prevent suicide, both in professional and private contexts. For example, we used radio ads, awareness walks, and other events to highlight the important roles of teachers, faith leaders, and youth leaders as well as neighbours, friends, and family members. At the same time, we also recognize the need to augment public awareness activities with training. People must learn how to identify mental health-related distress and know how to help someone (in compassionate and knowledgeable ways), while allowing natural supports (e.g., friends, family, and non‑mental health professionals) to contribute to the prevention of suicide attempts and suicides.

Training and Networks: Roots of Hope project team gives staff the time and resources to offer training suited to the needs and capacity of the community; for example, the project coordinator who is trained to deliver Mental Health First Aid. One goal of our community action plan was to train a variety of primary health care staff and community members to better recognize the signs of mental health concerns or distress, to make earlier intervention possible. Staff capacity and program resources have also made it easier to subsidize training costs, which allows community members to attend that do not have employers paying their registration costs. As well, after making an effort to think creatively about who individuals in distress might encounter in the community, we have offered suicide awareness training to a wide range of people. These include faith leaders; hairdressers; youth and youth workers; staff members working in mental health or addiction, primary health care, day care, and detox centres; community leaders; and members of the public.

Means Restriction: After examining emergency room (ER) stats that included the drug classes used in suicide attempts, a Roots of Hope researcher developed a survey to help mental health and addiction intake workers understand where the drugs used in suicide attempts were obtained. Often, the medication belonged to someone else or were non-prescription medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. We also learned that families who were seeking to keep drugs out of the hands of youth were storing them in their cars and being exposed to extreme temperatures.

To restrict access to medication as a means of suicide, we developed a medication lockbox initiative. The lockbox uses are purposed, lockable, marine dry box that is cheap and readily available. Stickers on the outside remind people that “Talking Can Help” and encourage them to call the province’s 811 health line if they are experiencing mental or physical health concerns. Other stickers, outside and inside the box, provide emergency numbers, including suicide helplines and poison control.

The project started through a partnership with a parenting organization that gave a lockbox to each family they served during child injury prevention modules. Clinical mental health and addiction staff, ER staff, and others have since been using the box and the information it contains as a conversation starter to provide means safety education with families. Harm reduction and victim services are now starting to use the boxes as well. Our lockbox also includes the Suicide Safer Home infographic, adapted by the MHCC, which provides information about other areas in the home where suicide means may be available, so these too can be addressed by families and caregivers.

Specialized Supports:  MHCC-sponsored training increased our Roots of Hope coordinator’s understanding of effective postvention and knowledge sharing practices. This training was timely and helpful. For example, using a postvention lens when providing support to workplaces, schools, and sports teams can encourage them to develop suicide related policy before such an event occurs. Among the areas such policies could address include how managers should respond to a suicide death of an employee (or employee family member), how long memorials (which may spring up spontaneously) should remain on site, and what to do with items that may accumulate as part of the memorial.

Our project staff members have also focused on specialized support initiatives. These include work with managers and mental health and addiction teams seeking to improve their provision of timely, effective responses and supports to communities or organizations in crisis (while reducing the negative impacts on staff members who respond to crises or critical incidents).

Research: Our project’s evaluations helped us learn whether our efforts were having an impact and what elements the community felt were beneficial. In turn, such research allowed us to build from one project component to the next and be confident that the community would be engaged. For example, our evaluation of radio ads showed that the community was interested in having a comedian with mental health-related material perform. The same research support behind our lockbox initiative was also important for our radio ad campaign evaluation. Overall, such support has been a key factor in helping our project move forward based on feedback from community members and professionals.

Read all Roots of Hope Case Studies

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