Jean Crowder

Jean Crowder

We must increase access to mental health services

Social media is providing a platform for more people to talk about the consequences of poor mental health

Jean Crowder

NDP Member of parliament

The conversation around mental health is changing in Canada. Social media is providing a platform for more people to talk about the consequences of poor mental health and what it means for individuals, families and communities.

It is clear that we need a federal response to the challenge of improving mental health outcomes in Canada.

Since the Conservative government decided to unilaterally limit the indexing of its payments to the provinces for health care, there are fewer dollars for the current health systems to introduce new programming and therapies.

And the federal government is facing its own mental health crisis — the alarming number of suicides among active members of the armed forces is a great concern. That’s why the NDP asked the House of Commons to increase investments in mental health services for Canadian Forces members.

Health care on First Nations reserves is also provided through the federal government, not provincial health systems. The situation there is equally dire — the suicide rate among First Nations youth is four times that of the rest of Canada.

And in Nunavut, the rate of suicide is an astonishing 40 times higher among Inuit youth than the rest of the Canadian population.

That reflects the lack of access to mental health services in the North and in Canada’s other remote communities. And the difficulty in providing culturally-relevant care — something health researchers have determined is important for effective mental health services.

But it isn’t only in remote communities that mental health services are needed. I have raised the issue of bullying and its effects on the mental health of children here in our own communities. Hearing about a young girl who wondered that if she died would that make the kids at school happy convinced me that we need to do more.

One option is a national suicide prevention strategy, developed through the co-operation of the federal government with the provinces, territories and First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

Since only one-third of Canadians who need mental health treatment can access services, we need to increase access. Yes, that will cost money, but the cost to our country’s economy of untreated mental illness is approximately $50 billion a year.

You can urge the federal government to do more for mental health services by sending an e-mail to the Minister of Health at rona.ambrose@parl.gc.ca or sending her a letter at House of Commons, Ottawa, Ont., K1A 0A6.