MGH Let’s Listen: “We need to be at our best when our patients visit us at their worst. I encourage everyone to take a few minutes today to pause, talk and listen. ”

MGH Let’s Listen: “We need to be at our best when our patients visit us at their worst. I encourage everyone to take a few minutes today to pause, talk and listen. ”

In September 2010, ‘Bell Let’s Talk’ began a new conversation about mental health in Canada. ‘MGH Let’s Listen’ is a Hospital series dedicated to listening to the stories of healthcare providers working and caring for patients experiencing mental health issues in the Canadian healthcare system.

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By: Carmine Stumpo, Vice President, Programs at Michael Garron Hospital

My name is Carmine Stumpo and I am the Vice President, Programs at Michael Garron Hospital. I’ve had the privilege of working here for more than 20 years, with many different teams across the organization.  Every day provides new challenges and I am inspired by the stories of our staff, physicians and volunteers working to make a difference in the community we serve.

Bell Let’s Talk reminds us how important it is to talk and I would like to share a few thoughts on supporting mental health within healthcare.

Read the full #MGHLetsListen series:
Cheryl Nelson-Singh, Clinical Resource Leader: The impact of social, self-stigma
Lois Didyk, Social Worker: Mental health in marginalized communities
Sarah Bingler, Occupational Therapist: The power of self-care

‘We need to talk it out – and more importantly, we need to listen’

We know healthcare is hard work. We need to be at our best when our patients visit us at their worst.  We need to be compassionate and kind in our approach even when we ourselves are having a bad day. How do we manage this? We need to talk it out and more importantly, we need to listen. I would like to share a few examples of this.

I am very proud of the work we do at MGH for workplace violence prevention.  Despite all our best efforts, our staff still are victims of physical and verbal abuse. It is so important to be able to talk about fears, anxiety and distress openly. It is our job to listen to the people who may have been victims of workplace violence. We will continue to look for ways to make our workplace safer, but it starts with creating a culture where we can talk about these and other stresses.  I try as best I can to create an environment where people feel it is OK to share their concerns and as an organization, we listen.

‘We are never alone in the work we do’

Healthcare today also means making tough choices.  This leaves people at all levels of the organization wondering if they made the right decisions, wishing they could do more or worrying will they be criticized for the choices they made.  The discomfort of having to make these decisions every day can weigh very heavily on individuals to the point of burnout.  I find reaching out to a colleague or friend to talk it out helps me get perspective.

As much as we are busy trying to “fix” everything wrong in the system, sometimes we just need to hit the “pause” button, and just talk.  We are never alone in the work we do and talking to others reminds us of the strength we have together.

I continue to support Bell Let’s Talk for so many reasons and I encourage everyone to take a few minutes today to pause, talk and listen.

Related
Access mental health services at MGH – Family Support Program
Boosting mental health in young children: Interview with Dr. Krista Lemke

MGH Let’s Listen: “It’s okay not to be okay. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

MGH Let’s Listen: “It’s okay not to be okay. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

In September 2010, ‘Bell Let’s Talk’ began a new conversation about mental health in Canada. ‘MGH Let’s Listen‘ is a Hospital series dedicated to listening to the stories of healthcare providers working and caring for patients experiencing mental health issues in the Canadian healthcare system.

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By: Cheryl Nelson-Singh, Clinical Resource Leader, Emergency Department  

Over the years, I have witnessed close friends experience the effects of social-stigma and self-stigma as a result of mental health illness.

I have stayed on the phone, into the wee hours of the morning comforting a friend, sat at the bedside in a locked down unit on a mental health ward with another, and most recently attended the funeral of a third friend who unfortunately decided to end their life.

Behind closed doors

At first glance, one would never assume that these individuals were living with a “mental health issue”. They appeared to be successful in their careers, surrounded by a plethora of friends, and were always willing to lend a helping hand to others.

However, behind closed doors laid loneliness, hopelessness, and fear. The stressors in their lives became too much to bear. They continually felt pressured to look perfect. They were too afraid to seek help for fear of looking weak, unstable and incapable.

Laughing, talking, sharing

It’s important to have an outlet to let people talk and express frustrations, or share a good laugh. How? I try to do activities I think are enjoyable and meaningful. I like to volunteer with different charitable organizations. I try to eat healthy (most of the time!), and spend time with family and loved ones.

It’s okay not to be okay. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Eliminating the sting of stigma is the first step in creating a supportive, healthy network.

Related
#MGHLetsListen: Lois Didyk, Community Social Worker, shares her story
#MGHLetsListen: Sarah Bingler, Occupational Therapist, shares her story

MGH Let’s Listen: “People still use words like ‘crazy’ and ‘unstable’. Mental illness is portrayed as being a negative personal trait rather than an illness.”

MGH Let’s Listen: “People still use words like ‘crazy’ and ‘unstable’. Mental illness is portrayed as being a negative personal trait rather than an illness.”

In September 2010, ‘Bell Let’s Talk’ began a new conversation about mental health in Canada. ‘MGH Let’s Listen’ is a Hospital series dedicated to listening to the stories of healthcare providers working and caring for patients experiencing mental health issues in the Canadian healthcare system.

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By: Sarah Bingler, Occupational Therapist, Michael Garron Hospital

My name is Sarah and I’ve worked at Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) as an Occupational Therapist for 17 years. My grandparents played an important role in my life as a child, and as a result, I have a deep value and respect for the elderly. As an occupational therapist working with older adults, I have the opportunity to help acutely ill seniors have improved quality of life.

‘Someone I loved was in pain and I couldn’t fix it’

This month, the Bell Let’s Talk campaign is a humbling reminder of how mental health impacts all of us. Mental illness is often portrayed as being a negative personal trait rather than an illness; I think people are reluctant to share their personal mental health issues from a fear of being judged in a negative way.

People use words like ”crazy” and “unstable” casually in conversation or they label someone as having “anger management issues”. This contributes to stigma and is still a big issue for those living with mental health conditions.

I have a close family member who has been diagnosed with a serious depressive illness. As a health care provider, it was really hard for me because someone I loved was in pain and I wasn’t in control and I couldn’t fix it. I realized that the best way for me to help was with simple things like a phone call, offering to go for a walk or an invitation to dinner. I often find visiting my family member emotionally draining so I try to make sure that I schedule some quiet time by myself to recharge afterwards with a little reading or Netflix.

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(From left to right): Courtney Grey, Sarah Bingler and Liz Berger finish the Olympic distance Toronto triathlon in 2017.

Mental health and the power of self-care

Being physically active is a great stress release for me. I run a few times a week and I find working up a sweat in the outdoors to be very therapeutic. To help me stay motivated, I sign up for a few organized runs or triathlons throughout the year and have started swimming and biking.

The Wellness programming at MGH has been lifesaver for me. Having fitness equipment and classes at work allows me to fit in a workout on my busiest of days. Within the rehab group we often do workouts together and support each other in meeting fitness goals and trying new events. Over the years we have done many runs together with various members of the group.  Last year one of my coworkers (Courtney Grey) and I trained and completed an Olympic distance triathlon together!

The work that we do every day in healthcare is incredibly demanding on a physical, mental and emotional level. We need to recognize this stress and create an inclusive environment where we can share our experiences and support each other.

Related
#MGHLetsListen: Lois Didyk, Community Social Worker, shares her story

#MGHLetsListen: Mental health stigma – “Some people are left out of these conversations – and usually, they have the most at stake”

#MGHLetsListen: Mental health stigma – “Some people are left out of these conversations – and usually, they have the most at stake”

In September 2010, ‘Bell Let’s Talk’ began a new conversation about mental health in Canada. ‘MGH Let’s Listen’ is a Hospital series dedicated to listening to the stories of healthcare providers working and caring for patients experiencing mental health issues in the Canadian healthcare system.

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By: Lois Didyk, Community Social Worker at Michael Garron Hospital

My name is Lois Didyk and I’m a social worker.

I have been working for the past 28 years as a Community Mental Health Counsellor with Michael Garron Hospital’s (MGH) Community Outreach Services. I love working with people and helping them to be more than their diagnosis.

Over the course of my career, I’ve heard a lot about mental health stigma; but none of this made much of a difference in the lives of the people I worked with. And these are the people I’m most concerned about when we talk about reducing mental health stigma – those who are marginalized or most vulnerable because of their mental health issues.

Mental health stigma in marginalized communities

While talking is good, let’s recognize that some of us benefit more from talking about mental health stigma than others. I could tell you about my own experiences with anxiety and panic, but that doesn’t change the lived realities of the people I work with, and those marginalized by their mental health struggles. While we may be drawn to some stories more than others, it’s really important to notice that some people are left out of these conversations. These are usually the people with the most at stake.

As with all good conversations, listening is just as important as talking. What are our most marginalized community members saying about their mental health struggles and what will help?

‘They want compassionate responses that confirm that they matter’

I hear people saying that their mental health struggles are intertwined with so many other issues. This includes living in poverty, being homeless or waiting five to eight years on housing lists, precarious work, dealing with racism and/or homophobia, lack of opportunity for new immigrants, access to healthcare, trauma, social exclusion, etc. I also hear people saying that not everybody receives the same fair treatment. For example, our black and indigenous communities tell us that they are often treated as ‘dangerous’ in relation to their mental health experiences, leading to disproportionate rates of incarceration, criminalization and police violence.

I also hear people saying that they want to be supported – not directed – in their healing and recovery. They want options, including non-medical ones that are relevant to them, and designed with them; they want compassionate responses that confirm that they matter.

‘Recovery from mental health issues is possible, recovery from stigma is harder’

As a mental health social worker, I’ve learned that dealing with stigma means looking at the bigger picture and the context of people’s lives. I’ve also learned that people can be more than their diagnosis, and that recovery from mental health issues is possible – it’s recovery from mental health stigma that is harder.

That’s because mental health stigma is about more than just how we think about people with mental health issues; it’s also about how our social and institutional practices reinforce it. Stamping out mental health stigma requires us to look at how our actions and policies hurt certain people more than others.

So, yes, let’s keep talking about mental health, let’s talk about the stigma, and let’s talk about what feeds it. Most importantly, we need to be making changes so that all of us, including those who are most marginalized and vulnerable, are benefitting from these conversations in real ways.

Choosing your attitude: “We are all responsible for our own attitude.  I choose mine.”

Choosing your attitude: “We are all responsible for our own attitude. I choose mine.”

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By: Adele Desmond, Clerical Leadhand, Patient Access Services

When you’ve worked for the same organization for 17 years or so, you’re bound to have several experiences, adventures, and life stories to share.

As the Clerical Leadhand in Patient Access Services, I regularly spend my time registering patients, entering payroll, updating our employee schedule, work lists, inventory and supply updates as well as share current events, responsibilities and processes.  The position itself is not free from incidents, challenges or conflicts, however, still the same, it’s a rewarding experience.

‘We are all responsible for our own attitude’

When it comes to choosing our attitude in the workplace, with people we interact with on a daily basis, our outlook and behaviours can become influential, encouraging, and sometimes can get personal.

While everyone is entitled to their emotions and belief systems, our actions and the way we behave can make the difference between having a good day or a bad day for the people around us.  We all face challenges or upsets from time to time, and how we react to these challenges is a choice that we become accountable for.

I always try to bring compassion and empathy to the job first.  Everyone has their own story and sometimes, those stories don’t need to be shared.  It’s best just to bring the right attitude to work.  We can’t change people, but I’m sure we can encourage the right behaviours in the workplace, by having the right attitudes!

‘The little things’

I feel fortunate to work with such a great team in a good working environment.  I have a lot of good days, and that’s because of my team, our efforts, and the positive attitudes shared by many.

It’s the little things that can make the biggest difference.  A colleague that smiles at me and says ‘we missed you yesterday’ or witnessing my colleagues thanking each other at the end of shift for a productive day – or pausing to say ‘good morning’ even on the busiest of days to  acknowledge that you’ve noticed your co-worker.

My favourite quotes include; “It’s not your aptitude, but your attitude that will help you reach your altitude,” and “A bad attitude is like a flat tire…you can’t go anywhere until you change it.”

Choosing the right attitude is easy when you feel valued, appreciated, noticed and included.

‘If you like it, put a ring on it’: preferred proponent selected for Michael Garron Hospital’s redevelopment project

‘If you like it, put a ring on it’: preferred proponent selected for Michael Garron Hospital’s redevelopment project


By Robert Orr Vice President, Redevelopment

It has been almost two and half years since I joined the Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) family and I must say it has been the most rewarding and exciting time of my entire career.

Reaching today’s milestone, the formalization of the preferred proponent for our redevelopment project, is especially significant.

After a rigorous 10 month design & evaluation period, I’m pleased to announce that EllisDon Infrastructure Healthcare has been selected as the preferred proponent to design, build, and finance our redevelopment project.

If you like it, put a ring on it

Overall, we were very impressed with the caliber of submissions from all the teams who bid on our project – Walsh Toronto East Health Partners, PCL Partnership & EllisDon Infrastructure Healthcare. They all tried very hard to understand our organization and to bring forward their best proposal for our consideration.

I’ve often thought big projects like ours proceed in a similar way to relationships. At first we created our specifications; a lot like setting up an account on a dating site. Then we issued our Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to select three bidders; similar to identifying those on the dating site with “potential”. During the open period last spring/summer we spent a lot of time with the three bidders refining their designs; much like dating the top candidates. During evaluations last fall we determined which bidder had the highest score; a lot like deciding who will be the love of your life. Identifying the preferred proponent for our project is a lot like putting a ring on their finger; and we’ll be committing to getting married this February when we close the deal.


Flashback close to 90 years ago, Michael Garron Hospital opened its door to the community with D wing. This year, the campus will be transformed once again. (Photo:MGH)

The EllisDon Infrastructure Healthcare team is comprised of the following companies:
• Design Build: EllisDon Design Build Inc.
• Design Team: B+H Architects and Diamond Schmitt Architects
• Financial Advisor: EllisDon Capital

We couldn’t have reached this point without the tremendous input and expertise of our physicians, staff, volunteers, patients and community who were involved in the many meetings and planning sessions leading up to this announcement. I’d also like to recognize the outstanding groups of people in the redevelopment, facilities and finance departments whose unwavering dedication has ensured our project’s success.

This is a very exciting time for the hospital and the East Toronto community. As Sarah Downey President & CEO said in the news release issued this morning:

“Today marks a tremendous milestone for our community! Our main hospital campus, which has been serving east Toronto since 1929, is aging and due for a major renewal. Our redevelopment will make a significant difference to patients, neighbours, staff, physicians and volunteers. The design embraces our rich history, incorporates best practices and paves the way for our continued success delivering outstanding care. We look forward to working with EllisDon Infrastructure Healthcare to reach a final contract and begin construction on this monumental project. Together we will build more than just a hospital. Our campus will be transformed into a community hub that not only creates health but is able to support individuals to live to their full potential throughout the continuum of care.”

Infrastructure Ontario and Michael Garron Hospital will now work to finalize contract details with EllisDon Infrastructure Healthcare. The project is expected to reach commercial close and financial close in the coming months and then construction will start soon after.

To learn more about Michael Garron Hospital’s redevelopment project plans and meet the team, please join us at the:

Staff, physician & volunteer open house:
• Wednesday February 14, 2018
• F-wing, 5th floor, 825 Coxwell Avenue
• 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Together, let’s celebrate the accomplishments we have achieved and look forward to commencing our redevelopment project this year.