Supporting loved ones facing mental health challenges

By Paul Calandra

MPP, Markham-Stouffville

What do you do when a crisis in mental health affects a family member or a loved one?

This question has become increasingly important in recent years as approximately one in three Canadians will have their lives impacted by mental illness at some point. Most of us will know friends, family members or colleagues that face challenges and barriers to their mental health and well-being.

When I talk to people in Markham-Stouffville about issues which affect our community, mental health and addictions are brought up time and time again. York Region Police invest considerable time and resources managing issues and activities which stem from mental illness and addiction, which are becoming some of the most serious health and social challenges facing us today. Between 2012 and 2016, York Regional Police and York Region Paramedic Services saw a 40 per cent increase in calls related to mental health issues.

Unfortunately, Ontario’s current mental health care system is not equipped to address these challenges. This existing approach to care is not meeting the needs of our families. Those who are familiar with trying to access care and supports know we need to do better for our family, friends and loved ones. People should not have to be in crisis to get access to mental health care.

That’s why our government is supporting more mental health services on the ground – in schools, health centres and communities. Budget 2019 committed to investing $3.8 billion for mental health, addictions and housing supports over 10 years to address these issues. Thousands of Ontarians, young and old, will benefit from our additional investments.

In 2019-20, investments of $174 million will support expanded services. We are building a Centre of Excellence in Mental Health and Addictions Services at Sunnybrook’s Hurvitz Brain Sciences Centre which will be an important project for innovation in caring for the full range of brain disorders including mental illness and addiction; dementia; and neurodegenerative disorders.

On May 9th, Ontario announced $18.3 million in new funding which will support those affected by mental health and addictions challenges in the justice sector, including new mobile crisis teams that will help police officers and other first responders manage sensitive situations when assisting people with severe mental illness; and de-escalation tools and training for police officers to better respond to interactions with people with mental health and addictions issues.

Our government will continue to listen to those providing care, community organizations, families and people with lived experience as we move ahead with transforming the mental health and addictions system.

Working together, we will create a connected system of care where everyone with mental health and addictions challenges is truly supported.

If you are personally interested in accessing training in how to spot and help loved ones you think may be suffering mental illness, Mental Health First Aid Training is available and extremely helpful. Visit Basic | Mental Health First Aid for upcoming courses in York Region.

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