Today, December 10th, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Alberta Division celebrates Human Rights Day. CMHA, Alberta Division believes every Albertan should have the right to mental health care services that are “universal, comprehensive, accessible, portable and publicly administered. Achieving equity between mental health and general health services is critical to improving health outcomes.” (CMHA, 2014) Currently, Canada’s ‘universal health care’ system does not cover psychologists, addiction counsellors, social workers or specialized peer support workers.
It is important Albertans have access to local mental health and wellbeing programs, and publicly funded and administered services. These programs and services should be a part of an inclusive mental health system without barriers.
Barriers to mental health
Mental health as a human right cannot be accomplished without acknowledging systemic racism and discriminatory barriers within Alberta’s mental health care system. Mental health barriers include “..stigma; poverty; lack of integration between mental health and health services; shortage of mental health professionals; regional disparities and cross cultural diversity.” (CMHA, 2012)
Those who receive mental health care want to experience inclusion, acceptance and mental health care that is culturally relevant. Just like anyone, those who go through mental challenges deserve a good quality of life, positive self-esteem, purpose, belonging and hope.
COVID and mental health
Even before the pandemic, eighty-five per cent of Canadians believed mental health services were among the most underfunded services in our health care system. The majority of Canadians agreed (86%) that the Government of Canada should fund mental health at the same level as physical health. (CMHA, 2018)
According to a recent CMHA survey conducted in partnership with UBC researchers, the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in intensified stress and anxiety throughout Alberta. The majority of Albertans (66%) are worried about COVID’s second wave, with 54 per cent worried about family or loved ones dying, and only 17 per cent are feeling hopeful about the future. There has been a concerning increase in suicidality. The survey found one in 10 Canadians (10%) experiencing recent thoughts or feelings of suicide, which is up from six per cent in the spring and 2.5 per cent throughout pre-pandemic 2016. (CMHA, 2020)
“Individuals experiencing mental health challenges in Canada find themselves attempting to get help with their concerns in a matrix of intersecting supports, interventions, clinical and community-based support which can at times be confusing and even contrary,” says CMHA, Alberta Division Executive Director David Grauwiler. “Most mental health interventions are not covered by Canada’s health care system. All Albertans should be able to access affordable, appropriate and timely supports to mental health as well as therapies and treatments for mental illness.”
How you can take action
Reach out to your local MLA and ask for comprehensive and inclusive community-level mental health programs and services to be a priority as we continue to face COVID-19 in every corner of our province.
CMHA, Alberta Division’s mental health programs
Community-based and grassroots-run programming is essential to mental health and wellbeing across Alberta. CMHA, Alberta Division facilitates virtual and in-person mental health programming throughout the province. Please access these services for yourself or your loved ones:
- Free virtual mental health resources with BounceBack and Recovery College
- In-person and virtual community-based peer support for military and first responders through OSI-CAN
- Rural and remote community mental health through the Rural Mental Health Project
- In-person and virtual peer support for family caregivers through Caregiver Connections
- Community conversation and inclusivity support on campuses with Healthy Campus Alberta
If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health distress during this time, please call 211 (Alberta only) or the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.
Canadian Mental Health Association. (2014, November 17). Child and Youth – Access to Mental Health Promotion and Mental Health Care. [Webpage]. Retrieved December, 2020, from: https://cmha.ca/documents/child-youth-access-mental-health-promotion-mental-health-care
Canadian Mental Health Association. (2012, February 3). Access to Services. [Webpage]. Retrieved December, 2020, from: https://cmha.ca/documents/access-to-services-2
Canadian Mental Health Association. (2018, September 14). Mental Health in the Balance: Ending the Health Care Disparity in Canada. [Webpage]. Retrieved December, 2020, from: https://cmha.ca/ending-health-care-disparity-canada
Canadian Mental Health Association. (2020, December 3). Despair and suicidal feelings deepen as pandemic wears on. [Webpage]. Retrieved December, 2020, from: https://cmha.ca/news/despair-and-suicidal-feelings-deepen-as-pandemic-wears-on