The BC Green Party joins the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in celebrating World Mental Health Day. 2013 is dedicated to highlighting Mental Health and Older People.
The WFMH and WHO are working to highlight the tremendous challenges of global mental health. In British Columbia mental health issues continue to challenge our communities.
On September 13, 2013, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu held a press conference to address the significant issue in the Lower Mainland:
“We are now in a situation where there are hundreds of people with severe, but untreated, mental illnesses that are at a high risk to both themselves and residents of the city.” Mayor Gregor Robertson (1)
“If we truly want a community that is safer for everyone, we must find more resources and medical professionals to help those who are suffering from severe mental illness.” Chief Jim Chu (1)
In 2011 the provincial government released Healthy Minds, Healthy People a comprehensive report (2) which outlined the government’s basic vision on tackling mental health and established a decade long plan. It prioritizes three main goals,
Improve the overall mental health and well-being of British Columbians,
Improve services and accessibility to them, and
Reduce the economic costs (both public and private) to British Columbians.
Mental health and substance use problems in our society must remain a priority. We must trend away from exasperated mayors and police chiefs making public pleas for help to effective mental health programs and services. Recognizing that it is not an issue that will be solved tomorrow, it is the right approach to develop a long-term plan and it will only work if this government makes it a priority and keeps momentum on the file.
Local governments and police services are not the appropriate authority to be adequately addressing the problem:
“The police are becoming the first point of contact for those who are severely mentally ill, and that is wrong. These people require health care, support and medical treatment – not the criminal justice system. Chief Jim Chu (1)
"Mental health is the responsibly of the B.C. government, and there have been many calls around the closure of Riverview and the lack of new facilities since that time to ensure that there is an adequate supply of treatment beds," Mayor Gregor Robertson (3)
The provincial government’s 10-year plan clearly identifies a number of objectives, specific outcomes and a timeline. Unfortunately, addressing mental health has not captured the attention of this government, the plan has fallen off the radar.
While the Mayor of Vancouver, and lower mainland organizations have been successful in highlighting mental health issues in their region, this affects all communities around the province.
Mental health touches everybody, whether on the streets of the community, in the work place, or at home. There is no quick fix but the resources outlined in the plan would go a long way to effectively addressing the collective mental health of our cities, towns and villages.
(1) Andrea Woo. "Vancouver mental health crisis demands resources, Robertson says ..." 2013. 10 Oct. 2013 <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/vancouver-mental-health-crisis-demands-resources-robertson-says/article14311755/>
(2) "Healthy Minds, Healthy People - Ministry of Health - Government of ..." 2012. 10 Oct. 2013 <http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2010/healthy_minds_healthy_people.pdf>
(3) "Mayor and police chief say crisis growing for untreated mentally ill ..." 2013. 10 Oct. 2013 <http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/life/health/mayor-and-police-chief-say-crisis-growing-for-untreated-mentally-ill-people-223654831.html>
World Federation for Mental Health
2011: Progress Report - Healthy Minds, Healthy People