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Mental Health Awareness Week

Promise ourselves to do better with mental health funding

By Kevin J Sabo For the Independent

One in five.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) that is the statistic of the incidence of mental health issues in adults across the country in any given year. In a country of roughly 37 million people, that works out to over 7 million people being treated per year.

Oct. 1 to 7 is mental health awareness week in Canada, presented by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH), and its purpose is to start a conversation about the realities of those dealing with a mental illness. It’s a conversation that needs to persist year-round and one that our government leaders at all levels need to hear.

The funding and support for those dealing with mental illness have improved over the years, however where you live depends on the services available, with each province being responsible for its own treatment and therapy services. Living in rural areas also significantly changes what mental health services are made available, with support groups and counselling in these areas being very hard to access if it’s even available.

In fact, according to the CMHA, out of it’s massive $22 billion health care budget, Alberta Health Services only dedicates around seven per cent to mental health services. The CMHA is advocating that the government increase the number nine per cent to expand services.

Despite the shockingly low number dedicated to mental health services, residents of central Alberta do have options. Many benefit plans allow patients to go to a private therapist, even though what is covered is not usually a lot. If private care is not an option, Castor, Coronation and Consort each have a therapist that travels to those communities on a weekly basis, and for more emergent needs, the area has the Centennial Center for Mental Health and Brain Injury a short distance away in Ponoka. As well, there are AHS funded psychiatrists available at times in both Stettler and Hanna.

Seven per cent may not be seeming to be a significant portion of the healthcare budget but AHS is making good use of the funds they have for the services. Nationally, the seven per cent average holds as well for mental health care funding, which is a far cry from the ten per cent plus seen in other jurisdictions around the world.

The conversation needs to happen, and Mental Health Awareness Week is a great reminder to have it. We are fortunate to have the mental health system we have here in Alberta, but we can do better.

If you are feeling emotional distress please call 1-877-303-2642 for mental health help, or call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you are in crisis. Help is there.

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