Mental Health Week

Statement from Alberta Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann commemorating Mental Health Week

“Today marks the start of Mental Health week here in Canada. This week individuals, organizations and businesses are working together to make our homes, our communities and our jobs a healthier place to be. 

“Here in Alberta we have taken some crucial first steps towards improving mental health by studying exactly what healthcare practitioners and healthcare users require. In February, the government pledged to implement the 32 recommendations of the Alberta Addictions and Mental Health report. Then, following the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate Report on First Nation’s Youth suicide last month, the government again pledged to follow recommendations on improving the mental health system for First Nations. 

“Now comes the mountainous effort of implementing these recommendations; a task made harder by the extreme revenue drop due to oil prices. Nonetheless, the many recommendations such as working and communicating between professionals inside government and with non-government organizations have huge cost benefits.

“First, Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services must find a way to work together more effectively. The ambiguous leadership and sometimes fractious relationship was repeatedly mentioned to the Mental Health and Addictions panel as a detriment to providing quality health care. The government has made a good step in appointing the new AHS Board and it should now step back and allow the board to implement government policy.

“Second, there is a drastic need for primary care reform. Expanding the role of family physicians and strengthening their teams for mental healthcare and evaluating services are essential to improve care and take the pressure off psychiatrists and hospitals. From changing the way doctors are paid and trained, to increasing the use of Nurse Practitioners in community clinics, to screening in families at risk, to prevention and early intervention, to creating better access for First Nations, our front line mental health system requires a drastic overhaul. The irony here is that rather than costing more money, making these changes will save millions as well as reducing wait times for specialists such as psychiatrists.

“Third, and this is where Mental Health Week really comes in, we must all work to reduce the stigma around mental health. As co-chair of the Mental Health and Addictions panel, I heard over and over about the shame and isolation still experienced by many with addictions and mental illness. Everyone in Alberta is affected by mental illness at some point, whether oneself, a family member, a friend or a co-worker – and we all share the responsibility for compassion and support. Until the stigma is eliminated many who are ill will not seek treatment and the consequences are often dire. Suicide is the most tragic outcome but addiction, self-harm and failed relationships are also common for those suffering with mental illness. 

“The Canadian Mental Health Association’s theme for Mental Health Week is #GETLOUD and I urge all Albertans to speak up. By telling our stories and getting involved we can change the way mental illness is experienced, identified and treated here in this amazing province.”  

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