our hospital, our stories Patient to Nurse to Mental Health Advocate

Mental health advocate Blake Loates has experienced all sides of the mental health system - as a patient, a psychiatric nurse and now as an advocate for others. Blake shares her struggle with mental health and her excitement about how access to services in Edmonton are changing. 

Only one short year ago Blake Loates was ready to take her own life. After 20 years of struggling with mental illness it had all become too much to bear.

She picked up the phone to make one final plea for help, reaching out to a mental health crisis line. The woman who answered was unable to help due to the limited resources available on a 24/7 basis. It was late at night and all of the community mental health clinics were closed.

Fortunately for Blake, she had a friend available that night and he saved her life.

Blake was only 14 when her mental illness was identified and after many years of struggle a diagnosis of bipolar disorder was made.

Blake felt judged, isolated, and angry. Even her mother, a kind and caring woman who was struggling to help me, told her it would be best to hide her illness. This was Blake’s first experience with the stigma attached to mental illness – an experience not shared by those struggling with physical health issues, like cancer or diabetes.

“To complicate things further, from my perspective, our health system can be inconsistent and disjointed when it comes to the early assessment, diagnosis, and eventual treatment of mental illness. While care and treatment is available, access to this treatment is often uncoordinated and confusing. As a result, sufferers feel like they are struggling to navigate a complicated maze and time is running out.”

It is because of these challenges that Blake has spent her life learning, growing, and attempting to break through the stigma of mental illness. She went to school and became a psychiatric nurse at the Royal Alex. Her time as a nurse provided the knowledge she needs to serve as a mental health advocate and a system navigator. In these roles she supports those who are struggling to find the care they need within a complex, confusing system. But more needs to be done.

Soon there will be one door for help, and that door will always be the right door. 

This doorway is called Addiction and Mental Health Access 24/7.  It’s coming to the Royal Alexandra Hospital and will be located across the street from the hospital’s Emergency Department in Anderson Hall.

This centralized and integrated intake location will offer one door of entry for mental health support to all residents of Edmonton, the surrounding communities, and even beyond. The 24/7 access centre will also provide telephone support, in-person assessment, crisis outreach and patient stabilization at any time of day or night.

One door, one phone call, one place for help.