MEDIA RELEASE: Nova Scotians join social workers in a courageous chorus for mental health advocacy

March 26, 2024

KJIPUKTUK (HALIFAX, NS) – The Nova Scotia College of Social Workers (NSCSW) celebrated National Social Work Month with a collaborative virtual mini-conference about mental health advocacy on Monday March 25. Free and open to the public, NSCSW’s third annual Advocacy Day brought together social workers with allied health partners, community advocates and first voice champions to discuss better ways to support the mental health and well-being of Nova Scotians.

Throughout the day, families and recipients of care courageously shared their stories, highlighting the challenges posed by a healthcare system that often feels rigid, standardized, and disconnected from the needs of communities and families. These narratives underscored a common theme: the pressing need for a care model that is not only responsive, but also inclusive, and centred around the unique needs of families and communities.

The event provided a platform for participants to unite and advocate for systemic changes that ensure the healthcare system in Nova Scotia is more attuned to the social determinants of health. This includes a call for policies and practices that recognize the importance of social and community contexts in shaping health outcomes.

One Advocacy Day speaker was Karn Nichols, executive director at Canadian Association for Mental Health, Nova Scotia Division. “Investing in mental health and substance use health isn’t merely a matter of moral obligation; it’s also a strategic imperative, and it’s the intelligent choice.” said Nichols on Monday. “By prioritizing mental health and substance use health we invest in healthier individuals, stronger communities, and a more resilient province and nation,” she continued.

“Our current system often overlooks the critical role that family and community play in the healing process,” said Alec Stratford, RSW, executive director and registrar at NSCSW. “Today, we stand together, advocating for a shift towards a healthcare model that embraces these elements, ensuring that every Nova Scotian receives the compassionate, personalized care they deserve.”

“NSCSW’s mandate is to ensure the public interest and safety of Nova Scotians when receiving social work services, which necessarily includes advocating for social policy that makes safer social work possible” continued Stratford. “Our existing systems struggle to serve the public interest, particularly the interest of the most vulnerable. Advocacy Day allows us to collectively speak out for policies that truly align with the public’s interest, and I am particularly proud of social workers for leading this call.”

The 2024 theme for National Social Work Month is Seven Points of Unity: Many Possibilities, which honours and celebrates the shared values that guide social workers on individual and collective journeys of truth, reconciliation, equity, and inclusion. Contributors to the Advocacy Day mini-conference demonstrated how enacting those values can create exciting opportunities for much-needed change.

This year’s mini-conference also highlighted an updated version of We Have Power: a Guide to Engaging with Your MLA and Using Your Voice for Change, a plain-language advocacy toolkit created for the public by the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia (LISNS). This resource was designed to ensure Nova Scotians have robust tools to support them in advocating for the psychosocial, spiritual, and structural determinants of their own well-being, and was first launched at the Advocacy Day conference in March 2023. It has since been revised and expanded by LISNS to include even more ways for Nova Scotians to engage in the democratic processes that profoundly shape their lives.


About us:

The Nova Scotia College of Social Workers serves and protects Nova Scotians by effectively regulating the profession of social work. We work in solidarity with Nova Scotians to advocate for policies that improve social conditions, challenge injustice and value diversity.

For more information or to arrange interviews with NSCSW spokespersons, please contact: Rebecca Faria, communication coordinator for NSCSW (902-429-7799 ext. 227,

Videos from Advocacy Day 2024 are published on the NSCSW’s YouTube channel (