What if Mental Health Awareness Was Successful – Chaos?

By Marvin Ross

Mental health awareness week/month/whatever is designed, in part, to reduce the stigma towards what is called mental health issues and problems – a politically correct phrase. One commenter on my last post that was skeptical of mental health awareness pointed out that stigma prevents people from seeking treatment. “If more individuals with mental differences (a politically correct phrase if ever I’ve heard one) seek help, they will be less likely to commit crimes, or end up homeless.”

Let’s say that’s true. All those people who were afraid of stigma actually began to seek help. Where would they find it?

They won’t because It is not there!

As I pointed out in my blog on Mental Health Awareness, the Mood Disorder Society of Canada found that 91% of people who were seeking help in Canada wanted to have greater access to professionals. Over one third had to wait for over a year to get a diagnosis.

This past winter, a 17 year old girl was discharged from an Ottawa hospital still suicidal after spending 8 nights in the emergency room waiting for a psychiatric bed. That same month, the emergency room in the Ontario city of Guelph was at a standstill because they had a psychiatric bed shortage. There were over 10 people in a psychiatric crisis with no beds for them. In Vancouver, a man is discharged from hospital early and given a bus ticket. Within an hour, he jumps off a bridge.

Inuk artist, Beatrice Deer has recently complained that “it was difficult to get therapy, because there weren’t any therapists,” as she pleads for a state of emergency to deal with suicides

In the US, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration reported that only 35% of the reasons given for failing to seek help was because of what we could call stigma – negative opinions from others was at 10.6% and negative impact on jobs was 9.5%. The absolute biggest reason was that they simply could not afford to get help at 45.4%. A little over a quarter thought they could deal with the problem on there own.

What if the US had universal health care like other industrialized countries and cost was not an issue? From everything that I’ve read, they do not have sufficient resources. The Treatment Advocacy Center has begun a national campaign to lobby for more psychiatric resources in that country.

In Canada, we do have universal health care. Psychiatric services and hospital stays are free. The problem is that we do not fund psychiatric care to the same extent as we do other illnesses. In my last blog, I cited this from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto:

While mental illness accounts for about 10% of the burden of disease in Ontario, it receives just 7 per cent of health care dollars. Relative to this burden, mental health care in Ontario is underfunded by about $1.5 billion.

The provincial auditor in British Columbia has just released a report pointing out that mentally ill people in that province need more services than they are getting now.

So, let’s forget about stigma and focus on getting proper funding for those who suffer from mental illness. A mental illness is no less worthy than cancer, heart disease or any other illness.

It’s time for parity.



13 thoughts on “What if Mental Health Awareness Was Successful – Chaos?

  1. It is also time to look at the services that are already in place. Here are some suggestions which could make our current services work better.

    All mental health professionals need to be compassionate.
    More measures of accountability need to be in place.
    The LHIN should only fund those services which are evaluated regularly.
    The LHIN should only fund those services which honour the MHCC Family Guidelines.
    These Guidelines have been demonstrated to save lives, especially re:privacy & discharge.
    Mental health professionals need science based training & belong to a professional college.
    Hospitals & community agencies work collaboratively; why not work under the same roof?
    There would not be such long waits in Emerg if the community crisis team were members of the hospital staff. Communication within Emerg would be better and people would get care in a timely manner. Please end those silos. They impact negatively on quality of the care.
    A separate emergency is required for those experiencing a mental illness crisis.
    Professionals need to work in bully free environments. Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act declares bullying illegal. More education about what bullying entails is needed.
    Saving lives & saving the quality of lives needs to be priority of the mental health system. This would be in keeping with the Ministry’s Patient First philosophy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am in a nightmare with a daughter that suffers from daily seizures and undiagnosed illnesses I believe is caused by lupus. It has been 4 years. Since then many family members left, I lost my job, had a Tracheotomy due to a stroke and grand mal seizure and so much more. I am her 24 hour caregiver and made changes to make it work. At best were survivors.


  2. Yes, it is time for Parity, but ignored accounttability is also a crucial failure…Some Community orgs,have impeccable credentials, knowledgeable Boards of Directors, and show tangible results, others do not show any positive impact yet they are funded year after year…..!..Even though of late one or two have merged with other organisations !!


  3. I agree with the article and all comments posted. I live in USA. I have adult son, serious and persistent mental illness, dealing with criminal justice system. I’ve consistently in contact with local mental health office and parole officer; my son sees his p-doc monthly. Do you think I could get help during crisis? No. The parole officer locked him up 10 days, did a parole hearing and returned him to me and the community, never mind that his p-doc has repeatedly recommended hospitalization at the forensic unit. Now dealing with more criminal charges since he has been in AD SEG/solitary at local jail; jail wouldn’t respond. I’ve been climbing the ladder for the state entities/departments to get him to the hospital. The Chief Medical Officer for the state -( CDHS) Human Services has intervened. Non cooperation by state parole officer and his supervisor, etc. It has been a marathon. I wanted my son hospitalized in Dec 2015; no luck, now criminal justice system. I am going to pursue an investigation.


  4. Perhaps without stigma and bullying that exacerbates any personal issues, we could have more peer support as a regular part of life to combat loneliness, improve social skills, and otherwise make “mental illness” less of a handicap.


  5. “… only 35% of the reasons given for failing to seek help was because of what we could call stigma”. Only 35%, “so, let’s forget about stigma”. Is it possible that reducing stigma could help increase funding? I believe many people responsible for funding don’t do so because they have misconceptions about mental illness. Why cant’t we strive to do both now?


    1. Great suggestion, Mike.. Let’s concentrate on sufficient funding to create the massive scientific research necessary to eradicate all neurological diseases.
      Why not once more follow the lead of our Aid’s research funding and get serious enough about the already-productive scientific findings in schizophrenia, depression and related brain diseases.

      It would be a good idea I believe if we concentrated on science
      instead of social engineering–which has already shown its failure.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Let’s direct our healthy minds on making sure we fund sufficient scientific brain research to find the cure for all neurological diseases, like schizophrenia, depression , autism and the other chronic brain diseases that destroy human brains.

    We should be demanding that our politicians fund sufficient science brain research instead of hoping symptom reduction will give us the answers to a cure.

    We should re-think our repeated social research that has not brought a wit of knowledge into root causes or how to eliminate the now identified microbes in our brains that are responsible for these brain diseases.

    A book by science writer, Jay Ingram: How a Misfolded Protein Baffled Scientists and Changed the Way we Look at the Brain should be required reading for every politician.


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