Some programs are not connected to counselling services. If learners do not have a support worker, literacy coordinators and teachers find themselves supporting learners. A connection with a community program providing counselling would be beneficial.
Literacy staff agreed that it would be helpful to have written information about different mental health conditions and how they might affect learning. They suggested providing a manual for literacy instructors and volunteers, including guidelines on how to deal with depression. It would need to be clear and concise and be in French as well. Frequently asked questions could be included, together with a list of useful DVDs and information about how to borrow them. Contact information should be included together with hotline information for a support person who can give guidance to literacy staff.
A forum for literacy and mental health workers to discuss some of the issues and recommendations from this research project would be very well received by mental health workers and literacy staff. Literacy staff hope this project will be instrumental in opening the doors of communication between the two groups.
The findings highlight best practices in literacy programs that are often already in place. This report will confirm for many that they are already providing a program which supports the needs of mental health clients. It will encourage programs to review their current practices and consider all the challenges of working with mental health clients.
Several issues were brought up that were outside the scope of this research, one being the issues faced by English as a Second Language (ESL) clients and the other services for clients with developmental delays. In the second case, the research dealt with some of the issues but more work could be done to discover the different types of programs that are available and how literacy issues are currently being addressed.
Staff from both groups asked for the report and to be informed of future developments.
Literacy issues in clients usually come to light when clients start working on specific activities with mental health workers. These activities highlight issues such as completing forms, reading information, understanding and taking medications, following group schedules. Mental health workers often discover literacy issues when taking the initial history of their clients’ school experience.
Clients have usually developed coping strategies such as saying things like... you write it... I don’t have my glasses... I can’t focus, could you write it down… I’ll take information home and figure it out. Sometimes clients rush through forms answering in a random manner with no consistency. Others look at the paper for a long time, sometimes without eye-movement.