We need to focus more on mental-health care

TheStar.com – Opinion/Readers’ Letters – Re: Gift a symbol of progress, Editorial, Jan. 14
Sat., Jan. 20, 2018.   Steve Lurie / Catherine MacTavish / Dr. James Deutsch, Toronto

Although Bell Canada and other philanthropists have stepped up to support mental health at CAMH and elsewhere, access to appropriate, effective mental-health care needs to be seen as a basic human right and component of a publicly funded health-care system.

Governments need to step up and fund services and community supports. For example, Ontario has yet to declare how is will use the $1.9 billion in funding it will receive from the federal government over the next 10 years to improve mental-health services.

It should also be recognized that the federal funding only gets Ontario 16 per cent of the way to the 9-per-cent health spending target recommended by the Mental Health Commission of Canada in 2012. Even the Progressive Conservative Party’s recent pledge to match the federal dollars if elected only gets us 30 per cent of the way there.

The McMaster Health forum estimates there is an annual deficit of $1.5 billion based on disease burden. Ontario’s mental-health share of health funding has declined from 11.3 per cent in 1979 to 6.5 per cent now.

In the next budget, the provincial government has the opportunity to show that mental health is a priority. Between 2011 and 2016, it invested $180 million in community mental-health and addiction services while investing $3.8 billion in other areas of health care. This needs to change.

Steve Lurie, Canadian Mental Health Association, Toronto

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After decades of fruitless research dedicated to seeking quick fixes for complex problems, in which patients serve primarily as guinea pigs, CAMH has had its chance.

People suffering mental illness were deinstitutionalized without necessary community supports, to be managed by law enforcement and ER staff who lack the skills and facilities to respond respectfully. Except for the slapdash integration of a few meditation techniques wrenched out of cultural context, psychiatric research unimaginatively has generated only variations on existing pharmaceuticals, the side effects of which outweigh sketchy benefits.

Individuals report that the short-term and group therapies accessed after distressingly long wait lists are an insult to the intelligence of patients and service providers alike.

Psychiatry wields the power to apply stigmatizing labels to people mistakenly pitied and dismissed as hopeless. The failure of medical professionals to advocate for rigorous research into the evident medical potential of cannabis and to curb lab opioid profiteering, disqualifies them from further public trust.

The $100 million needs to be invested into housing, employment supports and the long-term intensive therapy that humane care for mental illness entails.

Catharine MacTavish, Toronto

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A donor is giving a record $100 million to CAMH — and doesn’t want to be named, Jan. 12

The article understates real-world factors (marginalization, social determinants, and access to competent help) that can thwart the potential impacts of even the most cutting-edge research.

There is also no way to know the source of the anonymous donor’s fabulous wealth, nor the size of the resulting tax deduction (taxpayer-funded).

Why are institutions forced to beg for funds to operate or expand when progressive taxation, demilitarization and public banking would do the job? And why must donations so often go toward glamorous buildings and programs?

Dr. James Deutsch, Toronto

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