My first 2012 World’s Toughest Mudder race is long over (see my results here) but the challenge of shifting our “mental health consciousness” in Canada is an ongoing one. Therefore, I intend to continue competing in a variety of ultra-endurance and obstacle races as a means of raising awareness about mental health issues in Canada. My plan is also to collaborate, as much as possible, with those implementing other mental health initiatives, and to speak to different groups (e.g., students, athletes, academics, physicians, the general public) about the importance of seeking help for mental health issues and pushing our government to improve access to psychological services.
The general argument I like to give for why you, as a Canadian citizen, should fight for greater access to psychological services is straightforward and can be broken down into a series of five premises. First, as is the case with physical health, mental health issues affect all Canadians, either directly or indirectly (indeed, physical health and mental health are two sides of the same coin!). For example, at any given time, 1 in 5 Canadians are struggling with diagnosable mental illness (this doesn’t include those who are experiencing more moderate mental health issues), with the remaining 80% (e.g., friends, family, coworkers) being affected indirectly by these illnesses [i]. Second, while mental health issues affect all Canadians in this way, effective and economical psychological treatments are currently available for a wide variety of these issues [ii]. Third, although Canadians want access to these psychological services [iii], 2 out of 3 individuals struggling with a mental illness will not seek help [iv]. Fourth, the major barrier to why most people do not seek help for mental health difficulties is problems with access [iii] – that is, most people cannot access psychological services, either because they cannot afford them or because the waitlist for the few publicly available services is too long (the stigma associated with mental illness is another major barrier). The fifth and final premise is that the economic cost of poor mental health in Canada (both direct and indirect), is staggering: an estimated $50 billion annually [v]. Of course, the human costs of poor mental health are impossible to quantify.
The conclusion is simple: Like it or not, the current lack of access to psychological services is affecting you, personally. This can affect you directly, by limiting your access to effective psychological treatments that are available or by forcing you to pay for these services yourself, or both. The lack of access to effective psychological services can also affect you indirectly, via the colossal negative impact of mental illness on the economy or because someone in your life is struggling with a mental health issue and they similarly don’t have access to these services, or both. The good news is, you can actually do something about this problem, and it’s very, very easy to do. Read on….
Since I began my mental health awareness campaign last year, there have been a couple of important developments on the advocacy front. First, at the Manitoba Psychological Society (MPS), we have officially launched our Mind Your Mental Health campaign. The MYMH.ca website proudly sports a dynamic, user-friendly interface that clearly outlines our campaign objectives, has plenty of fact sheets about common mental health issues. It also offers straightforward information on how to obtain psychological resources, and has hi-resolution wallpaper downloads for your laptop, tablet, and/or smartphone. Most importantly, it offers a link to a built-in letter-form feature (hosted at http://www.cpa.ca) that allows you to contact your local politician to let them know that you think psychological services should be covered by the health care plan. Filling out one of these letters takes five minutes and is currently the single most effective thing you can do to push our government to increase access to effective mental health services.
A second, more recent development is that the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), in cooperation with MPS, has adopted our MYMH campaign as its national mental health awareness campaign! This means the MYMH campaign is here to stay, and that you’ll likely be seeing the Mind Your Mental Health message wherever you are, from coast to coast! CPA has also launched a MYMH Facebook page, so I encourage you to “like” it in order to keep up to speed with what’s going on with the mental health movement in Canada.
In sum, the success of this campaign is a huge accomplishment that we at MPS feel very proud of…and all you Manitobans out there should feel very proud too! We’re leading the way in the fight for a more progressive health care system in Canada! There’s still plenty of work to be done and with your continued support we’ll do our best to make it happen.
I will also do my best to provide regular updates about my personal and professional activities as things evolve (you can also follow me on Twitter @Psych_Clone). For now though, keep your eyes peeled and your ear to the ground. And don’t forget to use the resources around you (e.g., here, here, and here) to Mind Your Mental Health!
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Caelin White, Ph.D.
Registered Clinical Psychologist
[i] Health Canada. A Report on Mental IIllness in Canada, 2002.
[ii] Refer to document here.
[iii] Refer to document here.
[iv] Statistics Canada. Canadian community health survey: Mental health and well-being. 2002.
[v] National Physician Survey, 2007.