"As we approach the second winter of this pandemic, the impacts on mental health are increasing and demand immediate action. Mental health and well-being have long been ignored or met with caring words, followed by little else. This World Mental Health Day, we are demanding governments show their commitment through action! The pandemic has greatly harmed the mental health of many. As a society, we must take on the challenge of providing support to those struggling with mental health issues." ― Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (07 Oct. 2021) ― This World Mental Health Day (WMHD), October 10, 2021, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is recognizing the mental health crisis as urgent and unrelenting, and is calling on all levels of government to act.
Mental health in an unequal world
The theme of WMHD 2021 is "Mental Health in an Unequal World" and this is a critical message. The pandemic has not impacted everyone equally; it has caused disproportionate harm, often based on status and security within the society. The economically disadvantaged often have little choice but to do the most dangerous frontline jobs that have a higher risk of infection. The combination of fear for economic security and physical health exacerbates mental and emotional disorders.
There is no health without mental health
Mental health is a hidden scourge, often going undiagnosed and untreated. It has a direct impact on physical health. with some pre-pandemic estimates suggesting that 14% of the global burden of disease can be attributed to mental health disorders. The pandemic has likely increased this percentage as social isolation, economic uncertainty and anxiety about the virus all contribute to greater risk.
Real impacts and needed investment
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "Mental health is one of the most neglected areas of public health. Close to 1 billion people are living with a mental disorder, 3 million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide."
Globally, spending on mental health is only 2% of health care budgets. There is obviously much more room for investment and the opportunity to make a real impact.
Mental health and universal public health care
There is still social stigma, discrimination, and human rights abuses against people with mental health conditions, which further pushes people into crisis. It is only by destigmatizing mental health and having it seen as another health care issue that we can begin to acknowledge that most of us will deal with mental health issues at some point in our lives, to varying degrees. NUPGE believes that mental health should be part of our public health care system, but that additional resources and programs will be required to properly address these illnesses.
Unfortunately, an indicator of how low a priority mental health is in Canada is that we do not even have a pan-Canadian and simple way for people in crisis to receive aid. NUPGE has called on the federal government to implement a 3-digit number for people to access mental health and suicide prevention services. This is just one small step in a more comprehensive way forward on mental health and must be linked to accessible programs and supports.
Canada too slow moving forward
The health care crisis caused by the pandemic has resulted in unprecedented spending and attention on mental health, with good reason. There is a direct link between the pandemic and the rise in mental health issues. Yet, this past election we saw only vague promises with little substance. We must invest in treatment and support for mental health issues and, like all health care, the sooner people receive care, the less acute the illness may become.
We all know someone who is struggling with mental health issues, and we may well be suffering ourselves. NUPGE represents many front-line workers, including in health care. The pressure of dealing with the pandemic has impacted all of us and as a society, providing support for mental health and well-being must be a priority. As a society, we must do more to help people sustain and strengthen their mental health.
If this is an urgent situation, call 9-1-1 if you or someone you know is not able to stay safe, seek help right away.
Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) if you have mental health concerns including thoughts of suicide
Call 310-Mental Health, (310-6789, no area code necessary) for support, information and resources specific to mental health.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good.
While our Components are located from coast to coast, the office of the National Union of Public and General Employees is situated on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg people and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.
We recognize and acknowledge the crimes that have been committed and the harm that has been done.
And, we dedicate ourselves, as a union, to moving forward in partnership with Indigenous Peoples in a spirit of reconciliation and striving for justice. — NUPGE