Mental illness and addictions affect thousands of Nova Scotians. The impacts and suffering are felt by thousands more – partners, children, parents, friends, caregivers and the communities we live and work in.
As a province and as a society, we need to do more – more to embrace those who suffer and more to address the many concerns surrounding mental illness and addictions. We can do this by addressing the stigma against mental illness and addictions, by looking at social needs like housing and income and how they contribute to mental health and addictions, by eliminating barriers to accessing our health-care system and by expanding access to the right services and supports needed for recovery.
The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is Mental Health in an Unequal World. It speaks to inequitable access to mental health care, and that is something we have committed to address. Our government will ensure that all Nova Scotians, regardless of where they live or their income, will have access to mental health services. We also need to address, head-on, the added barriers and increased mental health challenges among marginalized populations including African Nova Scotians, Indigenous people, members of the 2SLGBTIQ+ community, and the need to provide culturally appropriate and gender specific supports.
We know the enormity of the tasks ahead of us to achieve these goals.
There is no single solution. The work ahead will take time and a willingness to take bold action and challenge the systems in place. It will mean taking an honest look at the social structures in place to support us and acknowledging their failures.
We cannot take a narrow view of mental health, in isolation from physical health issues or from the social determinants of health. We need to work alongside those in our education system, justice system and housing and community services network on solutions that make a positive impact on the health and well-being of Nova Scotians.
I worked on the frontline of mental health and addictions treatment and know some of the challenges that need to be addressed. There is much we can learn from our community-based grassroots organizations and from front-line mental health workers.
We have incredibly dedicated front-line mental health professionals and community workers in Nova Scotia who have devoted their lives to making life better …….