Morgan Forry is tired of not being heard.
The resident of Delta, B.C. recently visited Whitehorse armed with a petition demanding more funding for mental health resources across Canada.
He’s following a plan that’s been four years in the making. On May 1, he left his home, permanently, donating it to the Big Brothers Big Sisters Society of Canada.
He will be on the road until November 20, when he will end his journey in Ottawa, his petition in hand.
Whitehorse was the 12th community he’s visited, and so far, he said, the most limited in mental health resources.
A 24-hour crisis centre, long-term housing options, an emergency shelter and education initiatives for youth and family members of those affected by mental illness are some of the resources he’s advocating for.
“You guys aren’t treated equally or fairly from the legislative view or perspective of it. Health Minister Graham is trying to correct some stuff, but he’s been trying for too long, he’s just not doing it. He’s not cutting it. It’s sad.”
Doug Graham did not respond to an interview request.
According to the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey, conducted by Statistics Canada, Yukon has a higher rate of hospitalization for mental illness compared to the rest of the country – 787 per 100,000 people in 2011, compared to a national rate of 489.
Yukon’s rate of self-injury hospitalization was also higher than the Canadian rate – at 175 hospitalizations per 100,000 population compared to 67 nationally.
After three days in Whitehorse, Forry, who had been standing in front of the legislative building, had collected 12 signatures.
In Dawson Creek, he collected two pages of signatures in two days. In Kamloops he collected 12 pages in three days.
“I’ve got a handful of signatures and that’s it,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. I’m just trying to help the community. That’s all.”
Forry mentioned the recent visit to Whitehorse by Olympic speedskater and cyclist Clara Hughes, who stopped in town during the Big Ride Across Canada, promoting a more open discussion about mental health. He had hoped that would help stimulate the discussion further. To his mind, it hasn’t.
“What I’m trying to do is create an after-hours and weekend program and safe places beside a hospital,” Forry said.
During his time in Whitehorse, Forry stayed at the Salvation Army Shelter, and called it an “experience.”
“I’m grateful for the bed and hot shower and a meal, but it’s a drop-in centre for alcoholics.”
Forry, who will be in Alberta shortly as a guest speaker for a youth suicide prevention conference, was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder at age 12.
He will be traveling to 11 legislative buildings over the next six months, visiting 32 communities in total.
He’s left his petition at the Second Option Society, Yukon Council for Disabilities, Yukon Learning, Bridges, and Salvation Army.
“They’ll all got the petition so hopefully it will make some noise in this town. You guys are part of Canada and Canada’s voice needs to be heard so it’s worth it. Even it’s only 12 signatures.”
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