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New certificate program brings together Dal and community to support mental health

- March 3, 2016

A unique partnership between Dalhousie faculty and community-based health practitioners aims to improve the way mental health care is delivered in the Atlantic Provinces — by supporting those who deliver the care.

For the past 18 months, Dr. Rob Gilbert, associate professor in the School of Health Sciences, and a team of academics from Dalhousie have been developing graduate-level mental health and addictions courses with those who know the needs best: social workers, nurses, senior hospital and government managers, and others working in the field of mental health.

Their work, described by Dr. Gilbert as “a perfect example of knowledge exchange,” is now finished and the first course in the Graduate Certificate in Mental Health and Addictions starts in May.

“We didn’t just consult; this was a full collaboration between Dalhousie and those working in mental health and addictions,” explains Dr. Gilbert. “It allowed us to build a program that addresses the issues and challenges the workforce is dealing with on a daily basis. And it’s about change: the courses we’ve developed will support people and enhance the skills they need to transform health care.”

Addressing gaps in the field

There are 4,500 people working in the fields of mental health and addictions in Atlantic Canada, delivering care in different jurisdictions and health authorities, and often delivering different models and standards of care. The graduate certificate is designed to address these gaps, identified by health practitioners themselves.

“The goal is to have more consistent mental health care across the province and the region,” says Mary Pyche, a contributor to the Graduate Certificate and Program Leader in Mental Health and Addictions with the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

“We want to bring everyone to the same standard, and to have evidence-based best practices used more widely. One of the gaps we identified is people don’t always know how to bring theory into practice, so we’ve designed the courses to involve applied learning through casework.”

The Graduate Certificate in Mental Health and Addictions is groundbreaking for Dalhousie in its subject area, in its collaborative development process, and its responsiveness to local needs. And its innovativeness goes beyond course content to course delivery: the certificate will be available online to ensure it works for the busy people it was designed for.

For more details, visit the program's website.


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