‘Let’s talk,’ indeed

'Let's talk,' indeed Last week I saw a picture of ministers Mike Nixon, Elaine Taylor and Doug Graham promoting Bell's "Let's Talk" campaign, holding handmade signs proclaiming that we should end stigma about mental health with "open, empathetic and real

Last week I saw a picture of ministers Mike Nixon, Elaine Taylor and Doug Graham promoting Bell’s “Let’s Talk” campaign, holding handmade signs proclaiming that we should end stigma about mental health with “open, empathetic and real conversations.”

Their signs also mentioned “listening and validating conversations around mental health.” So, let’s talk openly.

I am happy to see corporations like Bell and NorthwesTel stepping up to talk about stigma. I applaud corporations helping out and I think that choosing this cause is admirable, whether it earns them corporate tax breaks or not.

Bell’s initiatives have provided millions of dollars in funding to research into mental health and have earmarked a much-needed $1 million for mental health resources for the territories. In fact, it is these dollars that are predominantly funding our new distress line.

But let’s talk about why the government thinks it’s OK to underfund research and access to services to the point where corporations must step in to improve access? Let’s talk about why, with yet another surplus year in the budget, we haven’t allocated “surplus” resources to access to mental health services?

It’s no secret that, despite the staff in our mental health services across the Yukon working very, very hard, that waitlists are long and thresholds to be admitted are high. I don’t mean to target the staff here. I believe people are doing the best they can with the resources they have, and I think the burnout rates are high.

Emergency and front-line services are an issue very close to my heart, and really, should be close to everyone’s. This week’s publicized suicide of a Canadian paramedic was the 34th in nine months. Let’s talk about how, in Alberta, the worker’s compensation board has taken the progressive position that every case of post-traumatic stress disorder in a member of their emergency services is work-related unless proven otherwise, but here in the Yukon, our courageous front-line staff must struggle on their own for a diagnosis and treatment?

Let’s talk about how the Tories want to criminalize people with mental health struggles, introducing mandatory minimum sentencing, and how they overcrowd prisons, exacerbating mental health issues? How about people in the Yukon ending up in solitary confinement long enough that the UN deems it torture? That can’t be good for their mental health. Let’s talk about how Ryan Leef’s FASD bill got scrapped and no-one cared.

Let’s talk about how lots of support services are underfunded. We’ve all heard about how the food bank in Whitehorse is struggling to feed people, how there’s been an ongoing battle for affordable housing in Whitehorse for years now, and how advocacy organizations are really struggling too. How do you think being hungry, homeless and unheard affects people’s mental health?

So let’s talk – I’ll talk your ear off if I get the chance, and I know I’m not alone. The question is, are our governments listening?

Erik Miller


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