Mental Health Crisis

I’ve been posting to social media about the current mental health crisis we’re facing in Niagara, and I felt it was probably most appropriate to share that information here as well.

The initial post was intended to be more of a personal post, but – as I am a regional councillor – there is little I can do publicly that isn’t viewed through the lens of my role as that regional councillor.

During the campaign, I talked a lot about poverty and all of the things we need to do to address it, including writing a five-part series for this blog. I have long been an advocate for more and better mental health services and supports in Niagara. I don’t believe it is a challenge that can be resolved with regional tax dollars, rather we need a great deal of provincial and federal help, but I will do everything I can to help at this level.

Originally posted to Facebook and Twitter on December 19, 2018:

News today that someone has jumped from the Lake Street overpass is gut-wrenching for me. Every death of this nature is.

Many of you may not know that I am a survivor (I was fortunate that someone found me before it was too late), and I’d be shocked if anyone here doesn’t know that my sister died by suicide a few years ago. (My therapist and my physician likened my grief to losing a twin, given our very close ages and relationship.)

I am familiar with the anguish experienced both by those who would make this decision and by survivors.

People in the community are calling for barriers at the Burgoyne Bridge (and I don’t disagree with that approach), but it’s not enough. Can we put barriers at every single bridge and overpass in the Niagara region? How many even are there? And, even if we do, it’s still not enough. Barriers and nets are not the solution.

We have a mental health crisis. We need to find concrete solutions that involve providing necessary services and supports to those in crisis whilst also removing the stigma to make it possible for people in crisis to seek out those supports and services.

And we need to do a much better job of not putting the onus on those who are struggling to reach out to us. We have to reach out to them.

Originally posted to Facebook and Twitter on December 20, 2018:

I know, of course, how emotionally taxing it is to share the most private and difficult parts of one’s life. Knowing this, I do it for a reason (when I feel it’s necessary to do so and that I’ve got the strength to do it), and I still am a bit taken aback each time by how taxing it is.

Thank you to everyone who reached out after my post yesterday about mental health and the crisis we’re facing in Niagara.

I can’t solve the problem (if only…) and certainly not alone, but here’s what I believe we really need:

We need to treat mental health concerns much earlier. We can do that by continuing to reduce (and eventually eliminate) the stigma. Statistically, women have higher incidences of mental illness and men have higher rates of suicide. We need to make it acceptable (and encouraged) for men to seek help before they reach that point of anguish and despair. (As an aside: I imagine mental illness statistics would be roughly equal between genders if it was more acceptable for men to seek the help they need.)

If we put more resources into eliminating poverty, we would see lower crime rates, lower incidences of mental illness, lower incidences of addiction, less domestic violence, less childhood abuse…so much less of all the things that perpetuate and exacerbate mental illness and all of the complex issues that go along with it.

The greatest single social indicator of health is income. The more money one has, the healthier they are/are able to be. (This is not to say that people who have money don’t live with mental illness; just that they have the resources to seek out the necessary help, if they feel they can do so.)

When we reduce poverty and we address mental illness and addictions (and the trauma people have experienced in their lives), we spend far less overall on healthcare, policing, etc., etc., etc.

Being proactive, rather than reactive, with our healthcare system and provision of programs and community supports is a far less expensive venture than where we’re currently at. And this applies even to diseases of the body (rather than the brain). The trauma people experience changes their bodies. People who have experienced trauma, especially from a young age, frequently, sexual violence, etc. are impacted physiologically (there’s a robust body of research on this).

If we put our money into treatments and supports and resources much earlier in someone’s life, we will have a much greater impact on solving these problems.

I can’t possibly address all of the issues in this single Facebook post, and I’m really hoping not to receive a slew of “you forgot this and this and this” comments. I know. I know the issues. I’m well-versed from personal experience and through my education with what we need to do. I just can’t do it alone.

As I noted on the radio yesterday, regional tax dollars (I’m a regional councillor) can’t solve this issue. We can help (with your support for those decisions), but we can’t solve it. We need provincial and federal support with this. We need to be proactive, we need to reach people earlier, we need to make it okay to ask for help, we need to make it absolutely clear that help is available.

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