An argument could be made that Canada’s mentally ill were among the biggest beneficiaries of the September federal election campaign.
The Liberals, Conservatives and NDP all made pre-election promises to take action on this broad issue.
This was welcome news to the estimated 1.6 million Canadians who need mental health treatment but are not getting it.
Documentation has shown the pandemic has caused a mental health decline, even among young children. About 38 per cent of Canadians have seen their mental health become an issue during the pandemic. A staggering two-thirds of children too young to attend school are enduring worsening mental health over the course of the pandemic.
The Liberals have been credited with pushing this issue particularly aggressively.
“It seems to me that the Liberals, at least Trudeau and others, maybe have talked about it more than the other two parties,” said Nelson Wiseman, political science professor at the University of Toronto.”Although I’m sure during parliamentary debate, NDPers probably talked quite a bit about this, and possibly a number of Conservatives.”
Trudeau suggested creating a Canada Mental Health Transfer, which would move money from the federal government to the provincial governments to fight mental illness. It was claimed this program would move $6.5 billion to the provinces over a period of five years.
“One of the things the Liberals are promising is 7,500 new doctors and nurses,” Wiseman also noted.
Another Liberals promise was to allocate $1.4 billion for mental health services and support among First Nations, Inuit, and Métis for the next five years. This would involve a partial focus on those impacted by residential schools.
“I thought maybe a factor that makes Trudeau particularly sensitive is his mother [Margaret Trudeau], who has talked, has written about her struggles with mental health,” Wiseman said.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has expressed a worry about the potential for suicide. Those who may be sensitive to such danger could be one in 10 people with children younger than 18, or one in six individuals who identify as Indigenous, according to a CMHA website post.
The association contends that community services to support the mentally ill are consistently facing inadequate amounts of funding to achieve CMHA’s expressed and ambitious goal of providing mental health treatment for every Canadian that needs it.
Another necessity highlighted by CMHA is the provision of housing that would be suitable for those recovering from mental illness and substance abuse habits.
Aside from monetary support, CMHA is suggesting the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of drugs.
Other ideas brought forward by the Liberals included setting up a three-number phone line for those contemplating suicide, improved mental health supports for veterans, and more accessible support for perinatal mental health problems.
CMHA described this election as a rare chance to improve care for the mentally ill.
Advocates for the mentally ill hiope CMHA is wrong here and we Canadians will constantly continue to develop more effective ways to care for one another and keep each other safe.