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Mental health

The science of compassion

Mental health affects us all.

On an average weekday, up to 29 of the 30 beds in the emergency department at St. Paul’s Hospital may be filled by patients with mental illnesses[1]. That’s because the hospital sits just blocks away from the intersection of Canada’s opioid and mental health crises in the Downtown Eastside. These are our patients. We are their lifeline.

Each year, we treat thousands of patients with mental health concerns. Fully 70% of the patients participating in our mental health programs also have substance use disorders. Our experience and insight in these areas is unmatched in Canada.

For people experiencing a mental health crisis, accessing the right care when they need it can be extremely challenging. Showing up at the emergency department is scary for almost everyone. Imagine that feeling if you’re having a mental health crisis?

That’s why St. Paul’s is pioneering a care pathway specifically for mental health patients. It’s a pathway that supports patients with a collaborative, multidisciplinary team: social workers, occupational therapists, peer support workers, psychiatrists, addictions specialists, nurses, pharmacists, spiritual caregivers, and music therapists.

A whole team working together to help people through their initial crisis and support them on their journey toward long-term recovery.

In the words of Kofi Bonnie, a clinical nurse specialist in the mental health program, “One in five of us has a mental illness. It’s time for us to try something very different and it starts with having an honest talk about how we treat mental illness.”[2]

We’re having that honest talk. We’re doing something very, very different.

If you broke your leg, you’d see a doctor. With your support, we’re bringing the same low-barrier acceptance to people living with mental illness.

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“With a pandemic that feels endless … a summer of record heat and fire followed by an autumn of record rain, many of us may be struggling with our mental well-being. Too often we dismiss these concerns as irrelevant or see them as weakness. But our mental health is as important as our physical health. Here at St. Paul’s Mental Health Program, we encourage people to seek help without shame.”

Blaine Bray, Program Director for acute and tertiary mental health at Inner City Youth-Foundry Vancouver Granville.


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I was recovering from depression and years of substance use sparked by prescription painkillers when I discovered I had a life-threatening heart condition and needed open heart surgery. I am beyond grateful to St. Paul’s Hospital. The Pain Clinic helped me manage the pain without opioids and my psychologist gave me the tools to deal with the almost-overwhelming emotional and physical challenges.

Lisa H

Nurse, Mom, Advocate, Survivor

By age 40, 50% of Canadians will have or have had a mental illness. No one is immune. You can help.

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