Media release: Social workers and people across Nova Scotia lift voices in chorus for mental health advocacy

March 24, 2023

KJIPUKTUK (HALIFAX, NS) – The Nova Scotia College of Social Workers (NSCSW) is celebrating National Social Work Month with a collaborative virtual mini-conference about mental health advocacy. Free and open to the public, Advocacy Day brings together social workers with government leaders, allied health partners, community advocates and first voice champions to discuss better ways to support the mental health and well-being of Nova Scotians.

This year’s Advocacy Day will also launch the NSCSW’s More than a Diagnosis campaign, which is built around a growing network of groups that intend to unite their voices in advocacy for a shared vision of what mental health and well-being in Nova Scotia can become, and 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).

“Unfortunately, Nova Scotia’s current approach to mental health, and to health in general, does not yet take into account all of the social, spiritual and structural factors that profoundly affect us,” says Dr. Naj Leger Siritsky, D.Min. RSW, professional practice & advocacy consultant at NSCSW. “Medical diagnosis can be an important tool, but each one of us – our strengths, needs, experiences and goals – is more than any diagnostic label can fully express.”

“The World Health Organization recommends 10 per cent of health budgets be allocated to mental health,” continues Siritsky. “We’re advocating for the province to meet that benchmark, and to invest resources in a decolonized approach to healing that is centred on the lived experiences of the human beings who are meant to be served by these systems.”

“Our public healthcare system has many gaps,” adds Karn Nichols, executive director of Canadian Association for Mental Health, Nova Scotia Division. “The answer to filling them is not using private for-profit services. Mental health care is basic care. It’s not a frill. It’s not an add-on. We need a system that is affordable and comprehensive. A system that leaves no one behind so that all Nova Scotians can get the care they need, when they need it. A system that allows everyone to thrive.”

“We recognize the importance of people being educated on our democratic processes in order to fully participate in decision-making that affects all Nova Scotians,” says Heather de Berdt Romilly, executive director of LISNS. “The rule of law requires that we have strong democratic processes, and people are at the heart of those processes.”

“Social workers are everywhere in Nova Scotia,” says Alec Stratford, RSW, executive director and registrar at NSCSW, “and they are uniquely positioned to collaborate with their communities in identifying systemic gaps and how to address them. Advocacy and the pursuit of social justice are central to the social work profession.”

“Ensuring the public interest and safety of Nova Scotians when receiving social work is NSCSW’s primary responsibility,” continues Stratford. “Evidence has shown that our current systems fail 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.”


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 Stratford and Siritsky, contact: Rebecca Faria, communication coordinator for NSCSW (902-429-7799 ext. 227,

The Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia is a charitable organization in Halifax, and has been the public’s trusted source for legal information since 1982. Their We Have Power guide can be accessed at: Media can reach LISNS executive director Heather de Berdt Romilly at 782-414-3100 or

The Canadian Mental Health Association Nova Scotia Division (CMHA NS) supports the resilience, recovery and well-being of people living with a mental illness and those experiencing mental health challenges across the province. In addition to offering free, safe, inclusive evidence-based programs, training and navigation support that Nova Scotians need to be well and stay well, CMHA-NS advocates for policy change that supports the social determinants of health.

For outreach to Nichols, please contact Erin Christie, communications and community engagement provincial lead for CMHA NS Division (1-877-466-6606 ext. 104,