Updated: Aug 20
Mental illness is a serious issue that affects everyone. In fact, 1 in 5 Canadians will personally experience a mental health issue this year alone. Mental health is often overlooked and brushed aside; as a society we tend to take broken bones and other physical ailments more seriously than mental health complaints. There is a push now more than ever, to end the stigma and put a greater emphasis on the crisis that is mental illness. Countless factors can effect a person's mental health including, but not limited to: excessive stress, childhood trauma, societal discrimination, substance abuse, and the loss of a loved one.
The past year has been indescribably challenging for many in our city. Countless Edmontonians experienced mental and emotional distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lock-down measures, job losses, financial strain and restrictions on social activities. I personally found myself in an unsettling battle against depression and anxiety which resulted in me seeking out detrimental solutions in an attempt to ease my pain. Without proper support in place, access to programs, proper diagnosis, medications or education on distress tolerance and healthy methods of coping, it's far too easy for a person to resort to destructive behavior that can cause them to fall deeply into the void of mental illness.
I frequently look back on the support that I received from my family during my time of psychological hardship. I am so thankful for their outpouring of love and encouragement that ultimately motivated me to seek professional help. This experience is one of the key factors that led to me deciding to run for city council. I know that the situation I endured is not one of common narrative. Millions of people suffer in silence every day.
Those suffering from mental illness should not fear societal judgment, and they should have access to the services and programs they need, when they need them. Waiting lists to meet with a psychiatrist to get a diagnosis can be over a year long, finding the right therapist or group that is equipped with the tools that resonate with an individual can be financially straining or even impossible. Many programs are provided by hospitals which are already daunting places to visit. Mental illness affects every individual differently, and as such, treatment will never be a one size fits all scenario.
I understand that our municipal government does not have much leeway in terms of how our citizens access health care, but what if we could open up city owned facilities like our libraries, community halls, recreation centers, etc. to host therapy groups, and addiction services? Throughout the pandemic most of these buildings have been closed to the public when they could have been utilized to help so many people in need. Knowing where to start when seeking out treatment options can prove to be a difficult task. Our city could very easily utilize their many social media platforms to showcase different accessible options and run targeted ads on these platforms to ensure they are reaching everyone.
Our current city council has repeatedly fallen short in terms of delivering assistance to citizens in need. Edmonton needs members on council that have the ability to relate to all citizens, especially those struggling the most. We need counselors that think outside of the box and can effectively and efficiently solve the issues Edmontonians face. Your voices should never be muffled, or ignored by the people that you have chosen to represent you. If elected, I will work diligently to ensure that the people I represent no longer suffer in silence. I will amplify previously muted voices, you have my word.
There may not be a clear prescription to deal with mental health issues, but talking to someone you trust can be a powerful first step. I want to encourage all of you to reach out to your loved ones whenever possible, let them know that they are loved and cared for. You never know who could be struggling, sometimes the warning signs are hardly noticeable. Some may just need a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on. Others may need to be reminded that there is no harm in seeking out a medical professional's opinion. I urge you all to respond to those struggling, with empathy, love and an open mind. This year has been hard enough on all of us, you'd be surprised by how much of a difference a little kindness can make.
If you or someone you love is struggling, here are a few resources available:
Alberta Mental Health Line 877-303-2642
24 Hour Distress Line 780-482-4457
Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 text 686868
Feel free to reach out to me at any time.