Campaigns like “Let’s Talk” are all well and good when it comes to ending the stigma and launching a conversation. But it’s not enough to just talk about mental health. We urgently need to fix our system to provide better access treatment, prevention and education.
The Globe and Mail’s #OpenMinds Series has some practical, common-sense solutions that should be implemented:
- Expanding access to publicly funded therapy
- Using technology to deliver therapy into the homes of Canadians
- Teaching the next generation about mental health
- Giving youth early access to good clinical care
- Providing affordable housing to those who need it
I agree with all of these. And I’d add a few:
- Healthcare is under provincial jurisdiction. But the Federal government DOES have the power to amend the Canada Health Act to include mental health. (No doubt the provinces would push back about it being an unfunded mandate, but studies show that these solutions would actually *save* the government money in the long run.) Amending the Act would rightly recognize the importance of mental health and would pressure provincial governments to provide better access to care across the country.
- Resources (funding, support groups, education) for caregivers are notably absent from this list. This is a big gap in our existing system. Being a caregiver is an enormous responsibility, and people with loved ones in their lives battling mental health problems need all the help they can get.
- Many people are afraid to seek treatment for mental health problems because they fear losing their jobs if their health issues become known. Both employees and employers need more education about their existing rights. And where loopholes exist in the laws, these need to be amended to ensure that nobody ever has to worry about being fired due to mental illness.
- We need to do a better job training police on how to deal with people with mental health issues. There are too many horror stories of people being killed, harmed, or shuffled into the criminal justice system when what they need is treatment, not enforcement.
According to the CAMH, mental illness costs the economy an estimated $51 billion per year, and affects an estimated 1 in 2 Canadians by age 40. Nearly 4000 Canadians commit suicide each year. There’s no doubt that we have a mental health crisis in this country. And it’s in our power to fix.
Let’s do better, Canada.