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Starling Community Services.

A Day in the Life of Our Mental Health Nurse


By Jacqui Terry-Caroll

The Mental Health Nurse at Lutherwood’s Children’s Mental Health treatment centre is a unique and critical role. Many other centres like this do not have an on-site nurse because the position is not supported by government funding. On November 8th, our Foundation hosted an event called “From Needles and Tears….to Comfort and Quilts” to give donors an opportunity to meet our registered nurse, Heather Gliva, and tell the story of those who benefit from her important work.

Since we cannot have a real youth share their story for privacy reasons, our foundation team came up with an innovative way to represent the reality of Heather’s daily routine. They invited Nicki the giant Christmas Bear to participate! Nicki was very willing to help out.

She sat on my knee, and played the role of a youth visiting our nurse, acting out the day’s activities in a lighthearted way – yet still serious given the subject. In one scene, we acted out a routine immunization and in another Heather spoke to Nicki about properly managing her medications. Here is an excerpt from our third and most impactful scene:

NARRATOR: This next scene is hard. Hard to tell you about, hard to witness, but it is a reality for a large percentage of the youth in our care. Nicki the Bear has been cutting into herself, to make herself hurt. It’s a terrible yet common coping strategy to ask for love or to mask emotional pain.

HEATHER: Nicki, I know you have a lot of sad feelings right now, and you choose to cut yourself.

NICKI: I just want the pain inside to stop! And it goes away when I’m cutting my arms….I’m sad and you are supposed to take care of me!!!!!

HEATHER: Nicki, I care about you and I want you to find other ways to feel better. But you need to be responsible too and know how to take care of yourself if you’re going to keep using this as a coping strategy. I want you to be as safe as you can be.

NICKI: I want to but I don’t know how! (Noisy tears) while Heather helps Nicki wrap up her arms and teaches her how to do it together.

Over the last year, we have had 88 incidents of self-harm and 25 incidents where a youth at our children’s mental health centre has been thinking about or planning suicide.

Lutherwood’s approach is always to build on their strengths so they gain self-confidence and hope for their future. We journey with these young people, helping them learn new ways to deal with their experiences; ways that heal and not harm. Although we like to build on their strengths, we also are focused on their goal areas so they can develop skill sets that allow them to live healthy, independent lives.

This year’s winter appeal features Heather and her work with our youth. She, together with the rest of our staff, literally saves lives. Your financial support of this critical and integral position ensures this safety net will remain for our kids. Thank you.

"Lutherwood was there for me and helped me become a better person... Give the program an honest chance and it will work for you just like it worked for me."