Canada’s Mental Health Crisis: Experts Warn of a “Time Bomb”

Recently, the percentage of people suffering from psychological and mental problems has increased in Canada, especially among young people. The situation has deteriorated, especially in the big cities, which makes experts talk about the emergence of a “time bomb”.

The dire consequences of post-pandemic years of chronic underinvestment in mental health are now unfolding in Canada, which experts saw as a “time bomb”. There are many indications of this situation in the emergency services, especially in major cities, with the significant increase in hospital consultations, and the high rates of suicide and addiction.

“The number of young people with mental health and addiction problems in Canada is steadily increasing,” says Peugeot Burgundvaag, an emergency physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. “We are trying to do our best, but our offer is very limited,” he added.

They stare blankly or shout incomprehensible words

In Toronto, the situation has become so bad that former mayor John Tory has called a “national summit on mental health”, calling the problems in the country an “epidemic”.

In the streets or subway stations of this major and ultra-modern Canadian city that is the country’s economic and cultural front, many wander, staring blankly, or shouting incomprehensible words.

Newspaper pages are filled with stories directly related to mental health and addiction problems. A phenomenon that also affects major cities in the neighboring United States, but it is less clear so far compared to what is happening on the Canadian side.

Fatal error

“Historically, we have underfunded mental health,” says David Gratzer of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. “In Canada, for every dollar we spend on health care, seven or eight cents goes to fund mental health services,” which is far less than what is expected. it is in most other developed countries.

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“We made a huge mistake in the 1960s and 1970s when we closed off a lot of hospital beds for people with mental illness,” the psychiatrist adds.

In Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, more than half of young people say they suffer from a mental disorder. The demand for psychological services has increased by 50%.

Associations provide support

“Many people have great needs and they don’t receive the care they need,” Gratzer explains, noting that “substances used on the street have changed, particularly methamphetamine.”

So, faced with the shortcomings of public services, charitable organizations take responsibility, but they are also unable to deal with the influx of people affected by this situation.

Jacques Charlan of the psychological helpline Ecout Untrade describes the situation as a “time bomb”. “We will have to take care of people who are suffering (psychological problems) and stop waiting for them to be admitted to hospital,” he says.

“It will take more money to do more prevention,” adds the man, who has recently returned to service to help cope with the scale of needs.

waiting lists

“We are living in a real crisis because it affects all aspects of the population, and for young people, the numbers are even more alarming,” says Nzinga Walker, executive director of Stela’s Place.

Close to Toronto’s Chinatown, this organization welcomes young people between the ages of 16 and 29 in mental distress, free of charge, without an appointment.

“There are no services available. Everywhere they put you on a waiting list, and when someone is going through a crisis, the last thing they want is to be put on a waiting list,” Walker explains. In this organization, which was established in 2013, it is possible to provide counseling sessions and group programs for young people, and to consult psychiatrists.

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Helping “change the life” of a patient

Kat Romero, who has long hair with some blue streaks, admits that the association “literally changed her life” after months without finding help. “I was lost, and they taught me different types of coping mechanisms to help me deal with crisis situations and maintain my daily mental health,” the young woman continues. Today, Kat helps the center set up programs.

The organization also trains young people to help people in ethnic minority communities.

“I know a lot of people who are in difficult situations, so the program helps me understand them better,” says Chantelle Cruza Werfan. “I can go back to my community to help people in crisis.”

“For us people of color, these resources are hard to access,” she says, expressing hope that this will change because “the issue of mental health is finally getting real attention.”

2023-05-31 14:30:46

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