We Canadians love our universal health care; when we break a bone, have a baby or a heart attack we know we will get the help we need and we wont lose everything to pay for it. When we are clinically depressed, bi-polar, schizophrenic, and/or suicidal though it’s a completely different story. Often times we scream for help and no one listens. Family members are left lost and hopeless as there is no way to help a struggling loved one. Our health care system can fix every part of the body except the brain and it feels like our government really couldn’t care less. Psychiatrists must be met through referral and the wait list is years long. Psychologists costs hundreds of dollars per hour out of pocket and most families can’t afford that. So what are the options? Here in Ontario you can attend a mental health clinic for free with a referral from you family physician and attend group therapy with the promise of eventually seeing a councillor one on one. Often times the group sessions are not what the patient needs and they stop attending and once that happens they become the forgotten. No follow up care is offered. Not even a call to see if the person is alright. The system is overburdened and underfunded. The people who need the help are left adrift- hopelessly in pain. As a loving family member you have next to no options. Daily we hear about violent altercations at mental health hospitals because of the lack of funding for security and staff; and even if you do decide the risk is worth it and take your loved one there you will be turned away unless you have first gone to a hospital for assessment and a referral. If you are able to get the person requiring help to go through the trauma of talking about their needs over and over again and are able to get them where they need to be you are most likely going to be leaving with them soon after with a prescription that they are supposed to take without medical supervision and a newfound cynicism about the whole processes. It can be absolutely devastating. More often than not the person struggling with what is a very real physical illness will simply avoid treatment after even the slightest brush with the system and go on to suffer and so will everyone who loves them. It’s like watching cancer eat away at the person you love and you have no way to help them. Unlike with cancer though public sympathy is always tinged with a hefty dose of pessimism. The recent push to remove the stigma of mental illness has left people feeling they should be empathetic but instead the sentiment feels hollow and is tinged with lingering feeling of skepticism. The person suffering the illness can sense that and will hesitate, if not outright refuse, to talk about their needs. Who can blame them, you talk about it and people question the validity of your health issue and no real help is offered but if you don’t you run the risk of destroying every relationship you have and never knowing a moment of true peace or happiness.
So what do we do? We fight. We demand the help for ourselves and our loved ones. We write emails to our MPPs, our Premiers and our Prime Minister. We listen when someone tells us they are struggling or we ask when the don’t tell us but we can see it. We support them and urge them to keep trying. We make calls to our MPPs, the offices of our Premier and our Prime Minister. We use social media in a respectful manner to call for funding. We start demanding the help so many need.
I see people online sharing marketing ploys by big corporations and they feel they’ve done something to help but the reality is we’ve just given free advertising to a business that really isn’t doing anything to further the cause. It can all feel so overwhelming but this is how change begins. This is how we fight. And honestly, fighting feels a whole lot better than utter hopelessness.
Office of Ontario Premier Doug Ford
Office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau