By Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller
This week is the two-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in Canada. The past two years have been very difficult in a number of ways but probably hardest on people’s mental health. In case we needed proof of that, this week we learned that in the past year the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has recorded more opioid overdose deaths than ever before.
So it is appropriate that today, January 26, is Bell Let’s Talk Day, a day to talk about and try to break the stigma around mental health.
Talking about mental health isn’t going to solve the problem but it is the first step. Talking about mental health openly is part of breaking the stigma around mental health issues. That stigma prevents many people from seeking help. Raising awareness of mental health issues helps mental health groups fundraise and ensures governments prioritize mental health supports. The next step is making sure that help is available when and where people need it.
If you need mental health supports or if you know someone who does, there are a number of provincial and local organizations that can help such as:
- Muskoka Parry Sound Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) – https://mps.cmha.ca/ or in case of crisis call 1-888-893-8333
- Simcoe Muskoka Family Connexions – 705-645-4426 ext.6270 during business hours Monday to Friday or in crisis situations call 1-844-287-9072
- MiND AID – 1-844-MINDAID (646-3243) – this is a new local organization dedicated to helping people find the right mental health services. Note this is not a crisis line.
- ConnexOntario – 1-866-531-2600 – for any Ontarian with mental health or addiction needs.
- Kids Help Phone – 1-800-668-6868 – for children and youth 5 to 20.
- Good 2 Talk –or 1-866-925-5454 – for postsecondary students.
- Hope for Wellness Help Line – 1-855-242-3310 – for Indigenous peoples.
These are all great organizations and I encourage anyone who needs their services to reach out. However a lot of them have a waiting list. I know that we don’t have enough access to mental health and addiction services here in Parry Sound-Muskoka. We don’t have enough access to these services across Ontario, especially as the pandemic and the restrictions required to try to control COVID-19 have caused greater mental health challenges.
In the past two years our government has made an additional investment of $194 million in pandemic-related emergency funding to enhance and expand mental health and addictions services and supports for Ontarians of all ages, including specific programming to support the mental health of frontline health care workers. This funding has helped to expand many virtual mental health services that have since helped thousands of Ontarians experiencing heightened anxiety, depression, burnout, and even PTSD during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Muskoka-Parry Sound CMHA received funding for laptops with upgraded video capacity and other equipment to allow for video counselling sessions as well as funding for PPE and other COVID measures.
Our government has also allocated an additional half a billion dollars for annual funding for mental health and addictions support since 2019. Through our Roadmap to Wellness, we are continuing to transform Ontario’s mental health and addictions system into one that is more consistent, accessible, and client-centered.
The appointment of Minister Michael Tibollo as Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions is one example of how seriously our government takes this issue. This is the first time the Ontario Cabinet has included someone who is responsible solely for Addictions and Mental Health. And Minister Tibollo brings significant expertise and experience to this role. For 10 years prior to his election, Minister Tibollo worked and advocated for Caritas, a residential, mental health and addictions treatment centre in his home town of Aurora and he is pursuing a PhD in psychology focusing on mental health.
Last September I was pleased to have Minister Tibollo join me for a roundtable meeting with many local mental health service providers and advocates.
We met at the Port Carling Community Centre where we heard about a lot of issues including access in rural areas, youth mental health, addictions, and the need for supportive housing. One of the specific issues we heard about was an increase in eating disorders among young people during the pandemic. Our government heard that concern and in December announced $8.1 million in additional funding to create more inpatient beds and day treatment spaces for young people dealing with eating disorders.
Today I noticed that the Muskoka-Parry Sound CMHA is advertising a number of positions including for therapists, counsellors, and case workers. Our communities need people to fill these jobs and provide the much-needed addiction and mental health services. If you know anyone who is looking for an opportunity in this field, please encourage them to check out https://mps.cmha.ca/get-involved/careers/.
The Ontario government is listening to local organizations like those in Parry Sound-Muskoka and we are working to create a mental health system that will be accessible to all Ontarians. While the government works on that I encourage everyone reach out to talk to – and listen to – any friends and neighbours who want to talk today and every day. #BellLetsTalk
Photo of MPP Norm Miller is courtesy of his office. Queen’s Park photo “June 2012 Ontario Legislature Toronto” by Priscilla Jordão, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original.
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