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Mental Health Reform in Canada: The Challenges COVID-19 presents

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

Adhering to social distancing guidelines is difficult enough for a lot of us Canadians, but for those with underlying mental health issues, these times have truly tested our boundaries. My name is Sarah Kabani, I’m 20 years old and I’m from Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Having been diagnosed with a Generalized Anxiety Disorder, remaining in isolation from my friends and extended family has revealed a different side of my condition that I’ve had to learn how to deal with during these difficult times.

For those with pre-existing mental health conditions, or for anyone who has had an incredibly difficult time managing their mental well-being during COVID-19, one thing remains clear: we need resources to help us manage.

Although like many, I have been maximizing the resources I have at home to help me get through my day-to-day challenges, mental health care resources are needed to help people like me during and after this pandemic. I am calling on the Federal and Ontario government, and to my Town of Richmond Hill, to make adequate mental health resources available for all Canadians.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has revealed a plan to invest $240.5 million for online health care support. The Prime Minister announced, “this investment will be used to create digital platforms and applications, improve access to virtual mental health supports, and expand capacity to deliver health care virtually, including projects to reach vulnerable Canadians.” This will be on top of the $6 billion Trudeau pledged to invest in 2019 into health care over the next four years.

I have a few concerns with these planned investments. Firstly, although these are great efforts to help sustain the population’s well being in the short term, the online component to accessing these resources may not be accessible to certain populations. This may include those without access to the reliable internet, or to those who do not possess the skills to proficiently utilize online services. These issues could easily be solved if a person could access a therapist like they do a doctor.

In addition to this disparity, there is no measure regarding how effective these tactics will be for those with severe mental health issues. Therefore, the Canadian government must ensure that a diverse set of services that tackle mental health are in place for the population, so that even the most marginalized communities have a support system. This may include investments into walk-in counselling centers, community support groups, rehabilitation centers, and more.

Future Majority, held a series of digital town hall events during the month of June, where youth across the country used their voices to advocate for a stronger post-pandemic Canada. In a society where young people are sometimes excluded from policies implemented by governments, Future Majority mobilizes young Canadians to raise their voices to fight for the issues that matter most to them. That’s why I am writing this blog, to inspire my fellow youth to take action in their communities and to push for change around the issue of mental health.

The quality of life our fellow citizens experience depends on whether or not the mental health needs of our society are being taken care of. Therefore, I urge the Government of Canada to propose or clarify the funding being placed into long term mental health care for Canadians.

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