Advocating for Change in the Mental Health and Addictions System in Calgary
The Case for Change
This assessment has been made form the perspective of a person with lived experience with mental illness, any statement of the website reflects only my personal opinion based on my experience- backed by facts found on my research.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada, estimates that mental health disorders affect one in five Canadians with an annual societal cost of $50 billion.
It is thought that one in three Albertans are affected by mental health and/or addiction issues.Yet, the Mental Health and Addictions System is Heavily underfunded both at national and provincial level.
In addition, the system in place follows a model that is reactive in nature and puts the burden in the client. This, paired with the stigma surrounding these conditions; rather than being the solution that is intended to be, becomes part of the problem.
My Two Cents
On the last 2 and some years I have used many of the programs and services that are currently offered, I have attended groups, courses, workshops, both as a client and as an advocate, and it is my impression that there is a profound awareness of the need for change amongst clients/patients and more importantly, amongst many of the people working in the sector.
I have identified however, both external and internal barriers:
Because of the way our society has evolved, with the lack of connections amongst people, isolation, social pressure in almost every aspect of life, and in the case of Calgary with the unfavorable economic situation of the last few years; we are seeing an increase in Mental Illness and Addiction cases, which is undoubtedly putting pressure on the system.
Public policies (and therefore funding) have not evolved at the same rate, which makes the current funds allocated to the sector insufficient.
There is both social stigma and perceived stigma surrounding Mental Health and Addictions which significantly affects the ability of the individual to ask for and received help in a timely manner and often lead to poorer treatment outcomes
Limited funding results in: - internal challenges in the delivery of services and work overload for the agencies’ personnel which in turn causes lack of internal and external coordination and information sharing
Calgary is fortunate enough to count with an involved local government, which is willing to play a role in the change and is allocating resources to it. We also have an array of organizations full of committed, compassionate and skilled staff offering a variety of services and programs to support clients with addiction and/or mental health issues. Furthermore, the Provincial Government has recognized the crisis we have and has appointed an Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions as of April, 2019.
Some of the conditions necessary to effect a successful systemic change are there: there is an undoubtable need, engaged key stakeholders and political support; the challenge lies in overcoming the existing barriers. By working towards reducing the internal barriers - lack of internal and external coordination, information sharing, inter-organizational coordination, and service promotion - the mental Health ad Addiction Sector in Calgary can start to build a foundation for success.
As an internationally trained lawyer with personal experience with Mental Illness; I’m committed to use my skills, background and all the tools and experiences gained throughout my recovery journey from Anxiety and Depression to influence change in the Mental Health and Addictions System in Calgary by creating a user centric, sufficient, and sustainable model. Through education, empowerment and standardized best practices throughout the sector, I believe we can change the system, one organization at a time.
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