Statements & Speeches

Mental Health Care

May 8, 2012

Honourable senators, on March 27 of this year, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology tabled its report on the progress in implementing the 2004 10-Year Plan to Strengthen Health Care in Canada, titled Time for Transformative Change: A Review of the 2004 Health Accord

Over 10 weeks, we heard from more than 50 witnesses and received countless written submissions. Testimony during this study revealed a health care system that prioritizes treatment over prevention, inhibits collaboration, and consistently overlooks the link between physical and mental health.

Health professionals emphasized that mental health was often neglected or undervalued. Physicians from the primary care sector advocated for collaboration between psychiatrists and family health teams. Representatives of the home care sector urged the adoption of early mental health assessments and training for home care providers. Psychiatrists and psychologists cautioned against over prescribing psychotropic drugs to compensate for a fragmented mental health system.

Witnesses also agreed that mental health services specifically targeted towards children and youth have a significant impact. In fact, witnesses stressed that targeted prevention programs, intervention services and supports had the highest success rates and greatest return on investment in this population. Witnesses recognized the complexity of working with this young population, noting that professionals in health, social services and education sectors should work coherently to coordinate care.

Furthermore, the lives of children and youth cross many domains: family, school, friendship groups, sports and recreation, cultural events and faith communities. As we move forward, approaches to mental health promotion, prevention, intervention and research also need to cross these domains and sectors.

In the report, a clear recommendation recognizes the importance of the use of research and ongoing data collection to better inform policy and program development for children and youth.

Honourable senators, May 6 to 12 is Mental Health Week. Yesterday, May 7, was National Child and Youth Mental Health Day, an opportunity to raise awareness about mental health promotion and illness prevention. First, we must rethink the definition of “health” in Canada. We can begin with the holistic view of health championed in this report that calls for transformative change in the way we deliver health care.