Dr. Swann Member Statement on Mental Health and Addiction Education and Services – 4 May 2017

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Thursday, May 4, 2017.

Member Statement – Mental Health and Addiction Education and Services

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday I had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion on indigenous youth mental health sponsored by the U of C’s Mathison Centre and the Canadian Mental Health Commission. We heard directly from youth at the Kainai board of education and watched a video on the headstrong program encouraging youth to talk about the stigma related to addictions and mental illness. Unfortunately, the stigma is still too common even among some of our health professionals. In fact, there is often a double stigma: first, simply being indigenous and, secondly, with addictions or mental health issues.

Another common theme was the lack of culturally sensitive and more holistic approaches in our mental health system. Several panellists spoke eloquently about how traditional practices and mentoring from elders helped them break free from depression and addictions and regain a sense of identity and self-worth.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has identified a long history of intergenerational trauma and its lasting effect on our First Nations community. Updates to Alberta’s curriculum should be aimed at giving all Albertans a deeper understanding of this and encouraging further participation in the reconciliation process. Tragically, we continue to see increasing incidents of mental illness and addictions across Alberta, including opiates and preventable deaths, now approaching two per day. While I commend the government for increasing investment in this area, spending alone is not the answer.

Since 2008 the elimination of the Mental Health Board – there is a lack of consistent leadership and co-ordinated planning for mental health and addictions in this province. System change is difficult without strong, sustained leadership. Once again I must call on the government to reconsider establishing the provincial mental health and addictions officer. We need immediate implementation of the recommendations from the Valuing Mental Health report, including the long-overdue reform of primary care networks and their important role in mental health and addictions. Timely system changes will not only save lives but will substantially reduce costs and boost staff morale.

On Mental Health Week let’s reaffirm our commitment to reducing the stigma of addictions and mental health, support our indigenous people, and show . . .

The Speaker: Thank you, hon. member. Your time is up.