For the last 14-years Bell Let’s Talk Day has propelled conversations about mental health and stigma to the forefront of social media and popular culture. Here at Providence Care, mental health, wellness and recovery is a pillar of focus. We serve our clients as inpatients, outpatients and where they live in the community.
Helping the organization make decisions by providing feedback, suggestions and opinions on new policies, procedures and initiatives are Providence Care Experience Partners, a group of former patients, clients and family members of those who have received care at Providence Care. One of the members of the Experience Partner Program is Elizabeth Joan de Grace, known to everyone who knows her as Betty-Jo.
It’s safe to say that mental health and wellness have been Betty-Jo’s life work. She’s a great example of how breaking down stigma happens when you’re open, honest and willing to share your personal experiences. When Betty-Jo provides feedback to the organization through committees and working groups, she relies on her own mental health journey as well as her expansive career as a mental health clinician.
“I have an almost life-long history of major depression and when I got to be a certain age, I needed to change my medication,” explains Betty-Jo. “That was a difficult transition to make, and it took a while to sort it out, but fortunately we were successful and I’m quite well at the moment.”
When Betty-Jo entered Providence Care Hospital as a client she was well aware of the health care landscape thanks to an impressive 47-year career in mental health as a psychometrist (from 1970 to 2000) and as a registered psychological associate (from 2001 to 2017). Throughout her career, Betty-Jo worked closely with a psychologist, focusing on mental health and wellness in children and young adults in Kingston.
“I joined the Providence Care Experience Partner Program in 2021, which was a few years after I retired. It was a natural transition into something that wasn’t completely foreign. I was looking to fill that hole in my life, and I am familiar with Providence Care because of the treatment I received.”
When providing her thoughts, opinions and advice as an Experience Partner, Betty-Jo says she sees every situation from both angles; from a clinical staff perspective and from the viewpoint of the individual receiving care.
“When you’re the individual receiving care, you feel kind of helpless,” explains Betty-Jo. “I appreciate that the staff work to dissipate that, and I so appreciated everything people did for me at Providence Care. The team was very caring, and I feel so happy now supporting not only the mental health services, but rehabilitation in general.”
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada 60% of people with a mental health problem or illness won’t seek help for fear of being labelled. Betty-Jo is a walking, talking example that there’s no room for a one-dimensional label when focusing on the complexity and uniqueness of an individual. She’s proof that sharing experiences while leading with empathy and understanding can make a significant positive impact in the lives of others.
“I find people very interesting, and I really enjoy being with them. I am happy to think that I have been able to help others.”
Betty-Jo didn’t set out in life to tackle stigma associated with mental health struggles, but it’s what she does every time she sits down to share her personal journey with others. Providence Care is proud to have Betty-Jo as a member of our Experience Partner Program and is thankful for her contributions to improve the quality and safety of the care and services we provide.
If you are in immediate danger or need medical support, please go to your local hospital, call 9-1-1 immediately or locate a Crisis Centre in your region. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call or text 9-8-8. Support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.