A few weeks ago I was at a meeting where someone pointed out that while Inuvik has mental health community counsellors, there isn’t a full-time psychologist in town.
Given its size, and the fact that Inuvik acts as a hub for Beaufort Delta communities, this is both surprising and unacceptable. The Canadian Mental Health Association reports one in five Canadians will personally experience some kind of mental health problem or illness in any given year.
That means there are approximately 1,500 people in Inuvik alone who are dealing with one mental health issue or another right now.
But this issue affects us all – especially in Inuvik, where everybody knows everybody – because we all likely have a family member, friend or colleague who is dealing with a mental illness, whether you know it or not.
While the mental health community counsellors are doing great work, the Beaufort Delta region needs more help. Given that the isolated communities of the Delta experience some of the most extreme weather conditions and 30 days of polar night – both of which can have major impacts on one’s mental well-being – more resources are absolutely necessary.
May is Mental Health Month, and Inuvik’s mental health working group is putting on several events to raise awareness about mental illness and mental wellness.
Awareness is the first step in dealing with mental illness, as it reduces stigma and paves a road for people to follow to get the help they need.
But if there aren’t enough resources at the end of that road, what good will the awareness campaigns be?
Earlier this year, $500,000 came from the federal government to support mental wellness programs across the territory in what was the final of three payments agreed upon in 2016.
The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that mental illness costs the country’s health care system at least $7.9 billion each year, and while that number accounts for the entire country, I can hardly see how $500,000 dollars would be enough to support the entire territory’s mental wellness initiatives.
More resources directed towards mental health care need to come from Ottawa if the territory is to start seeing meaningful changes towards mental wellness.