Above photo: VCH's Monica McAlduff, Patrizia Casciano Armitage, JJ Sidhu, Sharon Marmion and client Hui Yin, who designed this year’s Walk a Mile T-shirt, celebrate at the sixth annual Walk-A-Mile.
Staff and clients of Vancouver Coastal Health's many mental health services joined forces Thursday for the sixth annual Walk-A-Mile event on Thursday, May 10th.
Once an annual tradition at Riverview Hospital to commemorate mental health week, the VCH iteration, which sees participants walk around the campus at Vancouver General Hospital, has also become a mainstay on staff's calendars.
Patrizia Casciano Armitage, activity coordinator for Tertiary Mental Health at VGH's Willow Pavilion, explains that's because of the unique collaboration between staff and clients.
“The clients are more involved than ever," said Casciano Armitage. “A lot of the decisions about the posters, the design this year, prepping the items … every year we try to include more and more of the client's work and have them be more involved in the decision making."
The event's aim is to “slay stigma" and having the clients play a central role in organizing the event is key to that.
“It really is about celebration. Mental health is often this secret that people used to keep, they didn't want others to know their loved one had a mental illness," said Casciano Armitage. “[Our clients] weren't celebrated growing up but we get to do that now and so you get to see the excitement in their faces about it. At the end of the day, we say we do this for the smiles."
Coinciding with the event this year was the second anniversary of VCH's Access and Assessment Centre (AAC). The 24/7 walk-in centre was established in 2016 to better serve people seeking mental health and substance use services and is staffed year-round by a team of registered nurses, psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists and social workers who can help clients in their moment of need. In addition to booked appointments, the AAC averages more than 100 walk-ins a week and now regularly eclipses the number of mental health-related emergency department visits at nearby Vancouver General Hospital, helping alleviate volumes there.
“Two years after opening our doors, we have been able to develop a walk-in Access and Assessment Centre that has provided enhanced mental health access to thousands of Vancouver residents," said Georgina Maddern, manager of the AAC. “The centre is a new, approachable way for people to access mental health services."
It's also the first year the event is held followign the completion of the Joseph & Rosalie Segal & Family Health Centre.
On top of the 1.6-kilometre walk around the VGH grounds, the event also featured food trucks and a live performance by the Pennington Hall Band, which is comprised of psychologists from across VCH.