By Mark Korthuis, Executive Director of the Mental Health Foundation
We are still a young nation, very much in the formative stages. Our national condition is still flexible enough, that we can make almost anything we wish of our nation. No other country is in a better position than Canada to go ahead with the evolution of a national purpose, devoted to all that is good and noble and excellent in the human spirit.Lester B. Pearson, 14th Prime Minister of Canada, Canada Day 1967.
Pearson spoke these words during Canada’s 100th anniversary and, fifty years later in our 150th year, we are very much still a young nation. In regards to mental health and mental health care in particular, we are very much still in the formative stages. To riff further on Pearson, our national mental health care condition is still flexible enough that we can make almost anything we wish out of it. Based on recent investments made by both the federal and provincial governments, no other country is in a better position than Canada—and closer to home, Edmonton—to go ahead with the evolution of a local and national purpose that is devoted to world-leading, innovative, and evidence informed mental health care. Our Foundation’s vision reflects this: mental health care that is preventative in nature, accessible, and timely for those Canadian individuals, families, and communities that need our help, guidance, and support.
Individuals like my friend Tim, a kind and gentle soul, intelligent and caring, who has been struggling to find appropriate treatments for over 20 years and is bravely advocating for better treatments closer to home. Families such as my own, which lost a member this year as a result of a fentanyl overdose, my cousin and childhood best friend, Eli. Communities like the ones served by my colleague Tammy Cook-Searson. Chief of one of the largest Indian Bands in Canada, Tammy has had to steer her people through a two year period that has seen a distressing upturn in youth suicides.
We are at a critical juncture for mental health. Government and corporate interest—and media representation—are at a high, while public perception of mental illness is changing for the better. That said, the two proven treatment options available at our disposal – medication and psychotherapy – are stagnant (the former), and not publicly funded (the latter), and the number of individuals seeking help is rising.
We continue to espouse the merits of reducing stigma, which, in and of itself, is a noble endeavor. Our success towards such reduction invariably leads us towards increased demand for services, which places an increased strain on an already underfunded system. As the only Mental Health Foundation in Alberta, we are undertaking a relentless pursuit towards ensuring mental health and mental health care is on the top of the agenda, particularly in the philanthropic community. The time to act is now. One in five Canadians will personally experience a mental illness over the course of their lifetime, but it touches everyone’s lives, and it is everyone’s responsibility.
While for many celebrating 150 years of colonialism is contentious, and reconciliation is still far off, i believe it is still worthwhile to treat this moment as an opportunity for some national self-examination. This Canada Day, as we reflect on how far we have come (or haven’t come) as a nation in 150 years, I ask that you take some time to imagine the possibilities for the next 150: the potential for more resilient communities, and for a healthcare system that adequately addresses both physical and mental needs. We have a better future in mind and, with your help, we can make that future a reality.
The Mental Health Foundation is dedicated to building better mental health and mental health care for people in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. We do this through raising, managing and distributing funds to support ground-breaking education and programs, cutting-edge research, next generation technologies, and facility enhancements within the addiction and mental health care system. You can support what we do by donating here.