An Open Letter To Justin Trudeau On Mental Health

Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

 

You don’t know me. But, I’ve been writing this blog for quite a while. Mental illness is a topic that comes up quite a bit. It’s something that’s very close to my heart.

Every Canadian knows someone that is either living with a mental illness, or has been impacted by it. And yet still, we as a country are falling behind in the treatment of individuals living with these illnesses.

Sure, once or twice a year we see the feel good campaign of a telecommunications giant trot out their hashtag and celebrities and have everyone tweet for mental health. And while I do think awareness is important — and please, do forgive my sardonic sense of humour — it’s not what we need right now.

What we need right now is action.

Recently, a 20-year-old young woman named Hailey Baker lost her battle with mental illness. You did not know her Mr. Prime Minister, and quite frankly, neither did I. But I knew her struggles.

You see, she tried to get help. She told mental health professionals she wasn’t well, that she didn’t want to be released from treatment because she “wasn’t ready”.

A story, I’m sad to say, I’ve heard all too often.

On September 6th of this year, Hailey ended her own life.

The troubling thing about it all, Mr. Prime Minister, is that we all know a Hailey.

Don’t we?

I’m sure in your lifetime you’ve lost loved ones to mental illness. People that you cared about.

We’re sad when it happens, aren’t we? We talk about what wonderful people they are, don’t we?

But you know what we don’t do, sir?

We don’t act.

During the last few elections mental illness has become something of a buzz phrase. Politicians know that it’s important to Canadians, and so they march it out and talk about how we need to start taking things seriously.

But it’s all just gripping and grinning, Mr. Prime Minister — bread and circuses.

Just this past year I began the steps towards treatment for PTSD. I’ve never been to war, sir. At least, not on a battlefield. But, as a child I experienced incredible instances of bullying on every front. I was trapped in a life that was incredibly troubling and unsafe. And that feeling of not being safe stuck with me throughout my adolescence and into my adult life — that combined with the traumatic and sudden loss of a sibling — it’s impacted every inch of me.

I use the phrasing “began the steps towards treatment” very deliberately, sir. I use it because in order for me to officially be diagnosed with PTSD I would have to be followed by a psychiatrist for a period of time.

The waitlist for a psychiatrist in Newfoundland and Labrador (the place where I began those steps towards treatment) is between 2-3 years.

That’s 2-3 years before I can begin the process of diagnoses. Despite the fact that every mental health professional I spoke to said, “yup, it’s PTSD alright.”

Combine the fact that the Newfoundland and Labrador government just cut close to $2m in mental health and addictions services — and well, there’s not a lot of help to go around.

Recently, I’ve moved to Nova Scotia, and it’s no better here — people are waiting for years to just be diagnosed.

Sir, that’s not taking mental health seriously.

It isn’t just falling behind on the provincial level though.

The other day I had a chance to speak with a researcher who is studying the genetic and environmental links associated in mental illness between parents and children.

The hope is that if mental illness is caught early enough, then early treatment can help young people live a fairly healthy and productive life in spite of their illness.

The study ran into trouble, however, when their federal funding was cut by 40%.

40%, sir.

That’s just unacceptable.

It’s time this country stopped the photo ops and rhetoric associated with slick advertising campaigns and started doing something tangible and real.

I’m sure that I wouldn’t have to look very hard to find a hundred Hailey’s across this country. And that fact is astounding to me. And it should be bloody well astounding to you, too, Sir.

Whenever there’s a disaster in this country we come together at all levels of government and help those that need it.

Sir, mental illness is a disaster. There may not be smoke, or fire, or floods — but there are very real consequences to ignoring this problem.

I ask you, sir, as somebody who has lived with mental illness for most of my life — please… please help?

We need to motivate and coordinate all levels of government in order to make real change happen. Research needs funding, professionals need training, services need to be readily available, drug plans need to be introduced — being mentally ill isn’t cheap.

These actions need to come from the top down. It needs the might of a nation.

This issue needs to be more than just a photo op, sir. It needs to be handled.

Will you be the one to do it? Or, will you, like your predecessors, just leave it for the next politician.

How many more Hailey Baker’s will there be before somebody finally does something? Or are we content to sit idly by and watch victim after victim succumb to these illnesses?

As a country, I know we’re better than that.

As a leader, I know you are better than that.

Please, let us set an example for the rest of the world.

Let’s make real change, not just speaking points and Twitter posts.

I hope this manages to find its way to you. If it does, and you wish to talk about any of the things I’ve brought up in this letter, sir. Feel free to reach out to me through this blog. I would love the opportunity to talk.

Be well,

David

 

 

9 thoughts on “An Open Letter To Justin Trudeau On Mental Health

  1. Great letter Dave. I hope you printed it, signed it, put it in an envelope to the Prime Minister. I don’t believe you even have to put a stamp on it when it’s going to him, is that correct?
    Thanks again Dave for taking the time to write all this down and sharing.

  2. I needed to read these words today. Both of my sons have autism and like 40% of individuals with a developmental disorder they also have to deal with a Mood Disorder. This population, our most vulnerable, has been completely over looked …even in the Kirby Report. So that means in my province NS there is no one to help the over 10,000 individuals with autism alone not to mention others with intellectual disabilities.

  3. Reblogged this on dumboptimist and commented:
    Dave is a blogger I had the opportunity to meet and one I have shared in the past. As someone who has also dealt with the healthcare system here, perhaps if someone 10-11 years ago didn’t get phased by my mask and told my mother I needed more help rather than brushing me aside as a overdramatic teen, perhaps I would be in a different stage of my fight.

    1. Hi Dave,

      I’m also a hailey just like yourself. I’ve only recently been blogging and writing is not my strongest point but I’m so passionate for everything you have said in the post to me. Trudeau. I hope it had made it to his set of eyes. After a very serious attempt in Ottawa no less (originally from Newfoundland as well), my psych doc couldn’t even see me for three months after and two hospitals turned me away after frikin attempting… So wrong. So so wrong. Let’s keep writing and posting and doing everything in our power so that people no longer suffer like we and hundreds others have. I appreciate this post more than you know. Stay brave warrior

  4. Thank you for sharing your letter Dave. I am a grieving Mom, my Son Matt died by suicide last year and we also did everything in our power to seek help, sadly, we got none. All we ever did receive was a prescription, or as my Son called it a bandaid. Action is needed not just words! I am sickened that in this day & age there is still no long term help provided for all who are still suffering & living with the stigma associated with mental illness.

  5. Fantastic letter, thanks souch for sharing your story and your passion about mental health and the treatment of it within our country. As a clinical counsellor I also see the need for many changes to be made. One change that could help would be to have a college of counsellors like the college of physicians, then hopefully much more help would be available to those who have coverage through Medicare or through their work benefits. At the moment these regulations aren’t in place and many of us counsellors would love to be able to offer services to more people who could access them through these systems if a college was put in place. Keep up the fight sir, and know that you have the support of many mental health professionals as well.

  6. Thank you,
    for writing the words that are in my head, that are too afraid to be spoken from my lips. As a young adult I am seen as an attention seeking subscription to the countries medical money pool… and sadly so was Hailey, the harder we try to show our pain, the more we are put into that class, and the more we try to hide it, the more they say we’re fine. WE ARE NOT FINE. We are sick with a cancer that can not be cured, a thought process that is so screwed up by society that we are left to feel as though we do not matter. And we don’t, no one wants to hear, I don’t know why I feel like this; because society says they’re has to be a reason! But that’s not always the case. I pray to god everyday that he will take my life, so that I don’t have to live with the burden of fighting with myself, because the hardest battle to win is the one in which you control.

  7. Diagnosed with PTSD and severe depression
    Some four years ago,
    I have come to live with monsters
    I never thought I’d know.
    My job was to save the world
    Armed with sirens and red lights,
    The days were filled with “how do you do it”???
    While terror filled the nights
    Deal with it, suck it up !
    Hero’s never cry.
    Don’t lose that edge or show the cracks,
    Tell yourself a lie.
    I did that for so many years
    Then one day lost the fight
    Frustration, guilt and anger
    Consumed me in its spite
    Despair is deep, so very deep
    Hope is all but dead
    Is suicide the answer?
    Is all that fills my head
    Somewhere there’s a whistle blown
    And all the suits arrive
    Making themselves feel better
    By keeping me alive
    They give me this and they give me that
    Then they slip away again
    By their charts and calculations
    I no longer feel the pain
    You’re as good as new they tell me
    We’ve done all we can do
    Your treatment plan’s expired
    The rest is up to you
    I know that I’m still broken
    Some parts, I can’t replace
    But I’m scared to death of tomorrow
    The uncertainty I face
    Yet, if I succumb to my illness
    And I cut my journey short
    All the suits will be back again
    To offer their support
    Until the dust is settled
    Then they turn back to the trough
    To gorge themselves on the funded cash
    They manage to siphon off
    I hope I awake tomorrow
    With a brighter point of view
    ‘Cause I know, as far as the government goes…..
    Nothing will be new.

    I am a broken paramedic. My employer informed me that since I could no longer fulfill the role for which I was hired, I should seek alternative employment. I fought to be recognized as a victim of PTSD and was finally accepted after an eight month battle with Quebec’s version of workman’s compensation {CSST} Having exhausted my claim benefits, I have been informed that my benefit check will be cut by over 75%. Over the course of the next four years even that paltry amount will be reduced by 25% annually until I have reached the age of 65. The Quebec government is doing virtually nothing for paramedics diagnosed with PTSD. With every suicide there are promises of new funding and studies…….that fade away with time. If I appear jaded, it is because I am. Thanks for reading my story. Stay safe.
    Daniel

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