by Brandon Mayer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) is launching an initiative to ensure a parity between physical healthcare and mental healthcare. At a virtual press conference on December 8, CAMIMH co-chair, Ellen Cohen, called on Canadians to assert that “there is no health without mental health.”
The initiative comes at a time when mental health is being recognized more widely as important, even though access to physical healthcare and mental healthcare services can differ greatly. In the meeting, Ellen gave the example of a broken arm – Canadians need not worry if they break a bone, since the treatment will be free, easily accessible, and an appropriate response to the injury. When it comes to mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or substance misuse, whether or not one will be able to access the appropriate treatment in a reasonable timeframe for an affordable price is never certain.
“I think we all know someone who has felt failed by the mental health or substance use systems in Canada,” said Ellen. She made it clear that the position of CAMIMH is that the system is not fair.
The Speech from the Throne for the 44th Parliament, delivered on November 23 by the Right Honourable Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada, included a commitment to focusing more on mental health, calling mental and physical health “inseparable.” CAMIMH is calling on the government to fulfill this promise, and has initiated a campaign called the Mental Health Parity Pledge, which will be automatically forwarded to a pledge-taker’s Member of Parliament. The pledge is meant to convey that mental health is just as important as physical health. The pledge can be signed at www.camimh.ca/parity-pledge. CAMIMH is hoping for the passing of a new piece of federal legislation called “The Mental Health and Substance Use Healthcare for All Parity Act.”
While the campaign by CAMIMH is a national initiative, the issue of inaccessible mental health services hits close to home. On July 28, the Times published a local mental health update, highlighting many of the struggles local residents face when it comes to accessing mental health services in the area. One person with whom the Times spoke at the time said that she needed to say “very dark, twisted things” so that she could be admitted to the mental health ward at the Winchester District Memorial Hospital. Many campaigns encourage those struggling with mental health issues to speak up, only to produce dead ends and barriers for those who do. Even many crisis intervention lines use a triaging system that can make those who call feel that their problem is not being taken seriously.
A good starting point for those experiencing mental health issues is the Government of Canada mental health page at www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/mental-health-services/mentalhealth-get-help