Spotlight on the GTA Organizations Helping People Overcome Life Challenges

/Spotlight on the GTA Organizations Helping People Overcome Life Challenges
Spotlight on the GTA Organizations Helping People Overcome Life Challenges2018-11-28T12:36:39-04:00

Here at PRS, we have the privilege of helping people manage and overcome a myriad of life obstacles. We got inspired by the Bell’s Let’s Talk initiative, so we decided to shine a light on the care and services that people in the GTA have access to. We interviewed 3 organizations in the GTA that work tirelessly to aid people in need.

We posed the following question:

What are some of the typical obstacles your patients/clients have, and how do you help them overcome/manage them?

Here are the detailed responses from CMHA Toronto, TRCMWAR, and Spectra Helpline:

Deborah Deacon
CMHA Toronto

“Mental health issues, like physical health issues, need to be detected and accurately diagnosed in order to be treated. But often the biggest barrier to treatment is the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. This makes people reluctant to disclose that they are struggling, much less go to a mental health practitioner for help. At CMHA Toronto, we work with our clients to address their mental health issues in a way that is supportive and respectful. Clients can come into our offices, but most often we meet with them in the community, in a place of their choice, where they feel safe and comfortable.

The other major barrier to treatment is access. Individuals often do not know where to go to get help and can get lost in trying to navigate the mental health system, and often get discouraged when they aren’t able to get the right help in a timely fashion. And long wait lists for services can also be a deterrent to getting treatment. CMHA Toronto offers Information & Decision Support Services to help people access appropriate programs and services.”

deb singh
Toronto Rape Crisis Centre / Multicultural Women Against Rape
TRCCMWAR Facebook Page

“There are many obstacles for survivors of sexual violence in our context and work at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre Multicultural Women Against Rape (TRCCMWAR). From an individual perspective, survivors from the time they experience violence believe the violence that has happened to them is because they didn’t prevent it or did something to ‘allow’ it to happen; many survivors believe it is our fault. But we know that the real obstacle is the culture of rape and violence that we live in, that our own society thinks it is normal to shame survivors into thinking they could have done something to stop it. We know it is the fault of the perpetrator, no one else.

Other obstacles that plague survivors in not only getting the support they need but also reinforce the occurrence of violence, is through their experience of other key systemic issues. These are sexism and transphobia; in where many organizations don’t know how to support all survivors (cisgender men, non-binary, 2 spirit and trans survivors). If you can’t get support because of your gender, this is clearly an obstacle. Further, survivors face higher likelihoods of experiencing violence if they are racialized, live with disabilities, are younger, are older. The systemic obstacles of racism and oppression make it more likely for these community members to experience violence and not get the support needed.

Finally as we have seen in the media in Ontario, survivors do not have a voice within the legal system; a system that still perpetuates rape myths and lack of justice and support for survivors. If the highest systems of law believe that sexual violence is not real when survivors report and go to court, it is very hard for our society to shift its thinking about sexual violence. We need to believe survivors. If we did, we wouldn’t still need our 24 hour crisis line. By supporting survivors of sexual violence with support groups, counselling, clothing exchanges, food, ttc tokens, activism like Take Back the Night Toronto and culturally specific services like our Latin American Women’s program, hopefully at the TRCCMWAR, we try and mitigate these obstacles for and with survivors of all gender and race backgrounds, including class, disability, age and all our experiences.”


Sierra Singh
Spectra Helpline

“Mental Health is a state of well-being in which an individual recognizes their ability to cope with stressors of life and can work productively in order to thrive in everyday activities and contribute to the community. Moreover, mental illness is a condition that is often characterized by alterations in mood, behaviours, and thinking. There is an implication of clinical patterns of behavior and emotions associated with distress or impairment in different levels of functioning.

Spectra Community Support Services (Spectra Helpline) adheres to support obstacles of callers who are living with a mental illness. These obstacles that are encountered can be seen as somatic symptom disorders; illness anxiety, factitious psychological factors affecting medical conditions, sexual dysfunctions, substance use, personality disorders, paraphilic disorders, and non-suicidal self-injury, and suicidal behavior. Other obstacles Spectra Helpline callers can experience is social isolation and withdrawal. Callers may be emotionally numb, and express decreased motivation and the ability for self-care.

Spectra volunteers and staff members assist people who are experiencing mental health and mental illness in a number of ways. Our responders are trained to engage and practice a collaborative approach called Solution Focused Therapy which focuses on solutions rather than the problem that brought callers to seek support from the Helpline.

Volunteer responders provide a nonjudgmental listening ear and advocate on behalf of callers by supporting and understanding emotions. Spectra assesses the imminent and suicidal risk of life, and helps callers explore their own cognitive/behavioural strategies for overcoming low self-esteem and other self-defeating thought patterns that often accompany callers. Empathetic listening skills are crucial especially when it comes to supporting the individuals experiencing suicidal ideations. The person calling has reached out for help, this is a positive indicator that they have an intent on living. A basis for intervention that aims to help the intent on living is the use of empathy which creates safety for the clients to express and explore feelings. Risk assessment such as past attempts, current and mental physical status, and viable pain, means to kill themselves, and discussions of suicide is to explore potential lethality. When working with individuals who are living with mental health, common objectives can also be seen as supporting clients with housing, employment and counselling, and assistance with the negative symptoms of the illness. Spectra also helps clients and their families develop and use support systems. Volunteer responders support callers in overcoming and managing obstacles through goal setting, which is lead by the caller. This creates a concrete or detailed plan outlining what a caller will be doing until the next contact with the helpline or another support system.”

Deborah, deb, and Sierra – thank you all so much for detailing how your organizations offer help to your clients. We are honoured to feature the amazing work that your associations do every day 🙂