Mental health is an often invisible, always difficult, and uniquely unaddressed challenge affecting Canadians young and old alike. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, in any given year 1 in 5 Canadians will be affected by a mental health problem or illness. Bell, a telecommunications company, created the Let’s Talk campaign to raise awareness around and help combat stigma towards mental health problems. Bell Let’s Talk Day is January 29th. It’s a day for Canadians to raise money for mental health initiatives and discuss their own struggles.
This year at York University, the Sociology Undergraduate Student Association partnered with the Student Council of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies to put on a mental health awareness event on January 29th. It was meant to be a safe place for students and faculty members to share their stories in solidarity and support of one another.
Upon entering the chamber, attendees were asked to write what mental health meant to them on a sheet of paper and then one by one got up and shared their stories. Some were tender and intimate, others sharp criticisms of systems that are clearly failing, but all contained one common element: a lament for a lack of resources.
Some students wondered, through teary eyes, if loved ones lost to mental health problems may still have been here if they could have gotten the help they needed. Others recounted times they needed the help and couldn’t access it.
The issue does not seem to be improving, either. In fact, under the current government, the wait list for child mental health services has doubled. One of the first decisions Premier Ford made upon election was to cut a planned increase in mental health funding, a reduction of 2.1 billion dollars over 4 years.
Though stigma persists, open dialogues about the mental health challenges facing Canadians are becoming more common, the problem that is not being addressed is how underfunded and inadequate mental health services are. As more stories are shared, perhaps we will continue to hear the same resounding problem: struggling Canadians are not always getting it even when they ask for help.