Ottawa Tragedy – Lack of help for mental illness and cutbacks in healthcare and education, a dangerous mix.

In December 2012, in the wake of the Newtown Tragedy, I did my coming out as a person dealing with mental illness. Since then, I have chosen to be an advocate fighting against prejudices towards mental illness.

Once again, I find myself having to speak up about a tragedy.

The Ottawa shooting is not about radical Islam, it’s about mental health. Why? Mainly for two reasons:

A)     Justin Bourque who shot down RCMP officers a few months back was not a Muslim
B)      The Muslim community across Canada has been very active lately at sizing up radical individuals in Mosques, often reporting them to their Imam to ensure that action will be taken before it is too late. Muslim people aspire to live in peace and do not advocate violence

So we face something else: people struggling with mental illness, vulnerable to radical ideas. In the might of their despair, they look for a solution and choose the wrong direction, such as radical idealism of all nature.

Why? Because it is very hard to get help for mental illness. Did you know that, if you are lucky enough to have private insurance coverage, your session with a licensed therapist is covered for an average of 20$ per session when the total session costs between 90$ to 120$?

Then, what happens if you don’t have any insurance coverage and you work at minimum wage? If you are lucky enough, you might referred by a General Practitioner to be put on a waiting list to see a therapist in about 3 to 6 months. If it is urgent, you are told to go to the ER and claim that you are considering doing something radical such as killing yourself. You will then be transferred to the psychiatric department for a while.

With all the cutbacks in Health care now, these resources are becoming less available. The lists are only getting longer.

With all the cutbacks in education, the resources to intervene at an early stage are also disappearing. We are currently firing specialised educators and psychologists in schools to save money. Those who remain have so many cases to take care of; they are getting harder to have access to. Not to mention that other disappearing resources are causing more and more youth to drop out of school.

So now, we have all the ingredients to allow radical people to prey on youths. With less education, comes less incomes therefore less accessibility to health care. Easy solutions are found through  Social Media and the Internet which is more accessible than Health Care.

Not to mention another important factor: men have even fewer resources to turn to. It is unfortunately viewed as “normal’ for women to seek help for mental health. They have always been “socially allowed” to expose their feelings and problems. So without resources aimed specifically at men, there is even more chances that young men will turn to a “manly radical solution”. Young men become easy prey.

Maybe it is time for us as a society to make some serious choices: do we keep investing in more security and fixing the situation once it is too late or do we invest in prevention and healthcare, therefore going to the root of the problem before it is too late?

As a mother I hope we can choose the latter before another tragedy creates new orphans.

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