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Shuswap mental health study: Grocery stores a destination for people in need of connection

Salmon Arm Observer - 1/24/2020

In times of distress, people will seek out comfort in sometimes unexpected locations.

Concordia University researcher Patricia Ranahan is nearing the halfway point in her six month-long community-focused suicide prevention study in the Shuswap.

The project, which looks at factors surrounding mental health in the region's communities is being conducted in collaboration with the Canadian Mental Health Authority (CMHA).

So far Ranahan has interviewed 14 people from in and around Salmon Arm, and has another week of interviews to go. In the study's early stages, Ranahan said there were preliminary findings she did not expect.

During the interviews, Ranahan said people spoke about various places in the community they would go to seek out people to talk to and comfort. These places included the library, some church spaces and even certain grocery stores.

Ranahan said people would go to these places because they knew they had the ability to connect with others there, or it was a place where they could be safe.

"Often we only think of mental health care happening with mental health clinicians at the Interior Health Authority," Ranahan said. "But there's also these different spaces within the community that people identified that really helped them."

Ranahan has also found there are several places that have been conducive to opening conversations about suicide. These include worksite wellness workshops, CMHA sanctioned workshops and the lantern walk.

The study has also looked at the impact of providing mental-health support. Even if the conversations are a part of a caregiver's work life, Ranahan says it can still have an impact on them.

"We also have to recognize these are difficult conversations and it's difficult, absolutely, for the person in distress. But it's also very difficult for the person that is trying to help," Ranahan said.

Ranahan hopes in the next round of interviews to speak with parents of teens, men who work out of town for long periods of time and members within the church community.

If you wish to be included in the study, you can contact Patricia Ranahan at patti.ranahan@concordia.ca.