Science & Research

Dr. Renee Robinson

BY JOEL SCHLESINGER
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2012

Home isn't just where the heart is. It's also the basis for good mental health.

That's certainly no surprise to leading researchers like Dr. Renee Robinson, an associate professor of Psychiatric Nursing at Brandon University's Faculty of Health Studies.

Her area of study is mental health services in rural areas. And while many challenges exist to provide care to people with ongoing, severe mental illness in Manitoba's more sparsely populated regions, they often do receive good care. "In some ways it's considerably better than in urban areas."

Yet housing and access to social programs remain challenges - even in a more urban setting like Brandon, she says. "From a community health perspective, it's not surprising that where you live and how you spend your time is more important than crisis intervention services because you're not in a crisis all the time," she says.

But programs for adequate housing and recreation, which have been proven to reduce acute health-care interventions for individuals who suffer from mental illness, are often patchy in rural areas, and in Brandon, too - as her studies have discovered. But it's not just those people suffering from acute mental illness who lack adequate housing.

"We hear heartbreaking stories about women who come seeking shelter who have no choice but to return with their children to very unhealthy, even dangerous situations because there's no alternative," she says.

More broadly, leaving home is often an unavoidable fact of life for most people who grow up in rural areas. They often must leave their homes for work, school and health reasons. That's stressful enough. Add the anxiety of not being able to find decent shelter, and you've got a recipe for poor mental health. That's largely the reason why Robinson has expanded her focus of research recently, finding that affordable housing, social programs and even health-care services are not just good remedies for sufferers of severe mental illness. They're a good prescription for everyone's mental health.

Wave: November / December 2012

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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