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Home keeps mental issues at bay

Study proves having own place good for mental health

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Aug. 28 -- Joe Hatch credits the At Home/Chez Soi project for helping him to get his life back on track.

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Aug. 28 -- Joe Hatch credits the At Home/Chez Soi project for helping him to get his life back on track. Photo Store

Wolseley resident Joe Hatch turned his life around after participating in a Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) study called the At Home/Chez Soi project.

Realizing homelessness was a serious problem across Canada, the MHCC discussed, with the federal government, a research demonstration project in which homeless people from five Canadian cities were randomly selected to take part.

The At Home/Chez Soi project tested a new method of housing homeless people in Canada who struggle with mental health from 2009 to 2013. Each participant was followed for a minimum of two years, and each participant was followed at different times.

The study followed two groups of people. The first group was provided with access to housing. The members of this group contributed 30% of their own income to rent and were provided with their choice of mental health support and resources.

The second group received their usual care.

"We found a number of things. We confirmed that people with serious mental health issues can live independently in their community if given the right kinds of support," Cameron Keller, the At Home/Chez Soi executive leader, said.

One of those people was Hatch, now 53.

In the late 1990s, Hatch used to work at the University of Winnipeg when he began to experience panic attacks. Hatch was wrongly diagnosed with anxiety and incorrectly prescribed Paxil, which led to a 12-year downward spiral. He eventually lost his marriage, job, and home.

Hatch spent three months in jail, which he later said was the best place for him because he was properly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. When he was released, his probation officer put him in Madison Lodge for three months.

In April of 2010, Hatch was selected to take part in At Home/Chez Soi.

"It’s been excellent. I can’t say enough about it," Hatch said. "As soon as I moved into the apartment, my health improved drastically, and after a time, I was able to volunteer for a food kitchen twice a week at the Agape Table. And then I got hired by the Mental Health Commission of Canada to do a couple of projects for them."

The At Home/Chez Soi finished up in March.

"There’s a time period needed for analysis. We’re preparing our final report and that’ll go to Health Canada at the end of December," Keller said.

Keller will be speaking about the At Home/Chez Soi project at the Schizophrenia Society of Canada’s National Conference on Sept. 10 at the Fort Garry Hotel. The whole conference runs from Sept. 9 to 11. To learn more about the conference, visit sscnationalconference2013.ca


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