Pauline Hyatt takes on director of services role at CMHA

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

The Fort Frances branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has recently appointed its new director of services, and she’s eager to get to work within the community to promote and advocate for mental health.

Pauline Hyatt has been working in the mental health and addictions field for over 25 years, and she brings that experience with her to the branch, along with additional professional experience as a registered psychotherapist. As the new director of services, Hyatt said her role is to promote mental health awareness in the community.

“I work closely with community partners,” Hyatt explained.

“It’s client-centred care, multi-disciplinary collaborations. We’re always striving for improvements in care. I oversee several programs within Canadian Mental Health, and we have various locations, not just in Fort Frances, and that’s something not everybody knows as well. I am the new Sandy Skirten, and he was very well known, so I have big shoes to fill, for sure. I’m looking forward to just helping all of our program leads work with the people they service while promoting mental well-being.”

As a new face in the position, Hyatt noted that CMHA serves an important role within the community that is strengthened through its regular contact with both those they directly support and what they hear coming back to them from the public at large.

“We’re client-centred, so it’s very essential we’re taking feedback from clients, listening to family members and the community, and really trying to find the gaps,” she said.

“What do people need? How can we assist? I believe our programs help people in those regards.”

Pauline Hyatt is the new director of services for the Fort Frances branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). Hyatt brings years of experience in mental health and addictions with her to the role, including her experience as a registered psychotherapist. Hyatt said she is looking forward to making community connections and helping to promote mental well-being. -Ken Kellar photo

Hyatt went on to explain that the need for mental health supports like those provided by CMHA are even more important in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, as several statistics she’s researched show that many people in Canada have struggled with various elements of pandemic life.

“In March 2021, CMHA found that more than half of Ontario residents, 57 percent, are lonelier than at the start of the pandemic,” Hyatt shared.

“Statistics Canada’s March survey found that one in five, 21 percent, of Canadian adults age 18 and older, screened positive for at least one of three mental health disorders. We’re talking about major depressive disorder, that’s 15 percent of the population, generalized anxiety disorder, that’s 13 percent, and post-traumatic stress disorder at 6 percent. Then if we go further into the Ontario COVID-19 advisory science table, they’ve seen opioid overdoses up by 57 percent, and that’s alarming.”

According to Hyatt, opioid overdose deaths have increased by 60 percent in Ontario since the start of the pandemic.

In all, the statistics Hyatt provided highlight the role that an organization like CMHA serves in communities like Fort Frances especially in difficult times. The benefit the CMHA has is that it can take the feedback it hears from the community and use it to target the issues that are of most concern.

“We need to be listening to what the community needs and we then need to create programming and training and all the things we need going forward,” Hyatt said.

“This is a new time for everybody when we’re in a pandemic and mental wellbeing is that much more important because it’s harder to maintain that balance when there’s all of these things happening at the same time.”

It’s tough to start in a new position in any job, but as CMHA Fort Frances’ new director of services Hyatt is well-prepared to spread awareness and support around mental health, and she has an excellent team to help her accomplish just that.

“I’m very excited to be in my new role,” Hyatt said.

“We have a very knowledgeable and dedicated staff, and I’m very excited to be working with Canadian Mental Health.”