On Canada’s Healthcare Shortcomings

I want to talk today about trauma, mental health and overall healthcare here in Canada. I have PTSD, and have had issues with anxiety and depression in the past. These issues are deeply personal for me. Although Canada is usually thought of as an advanced nation when it comes to healthcare (especially relative to our US neighbours), there are still significant gaps in our system that we need to work to fill. Namely, dental care, a national pharmacare program and, especially, mental health support. Our society is worse off when we don’t provide people with the support that they need to cope with, and prevent, personal health issues.

I’ve dealt with symptoms from my PTSD for years. I was very fortunate that I had the resources to seek treatment, provided by my university at the time. Even so, it took a lot of work to find a psychologist I trusted. Finding the right professional to help you, as a unique individual, doesn’t happen by magic. I have learned about my PTSD over time, so I now know what’s happening to me when I get symptoms. But I’ve asked myself many times: “What if I lived a challenging life and didn’t know what was happening to me?” I can imagine that it would be so jarring that a person would go straight for whatever type of comfort they could find. That might be addictive substances.

Returning to British Columbia and looking for help here really drove home how difficult it is to get good mental health support under our current system. It was a shock to realize how little support I had access to under the system here at home, compared to the resources I had access to in university. Wait lists for registered psychologists are long, and as I noted before, the first person you find may not be the right fit for your personality or needs. The only other immediate option is to seek out counseling from private firms, which can be a fine option for those with the means to access it. But, this arrangement severely underserves those who need help and can’t afford to pay for private sessions at close to $100-$120 per hour.

We need counselors that people can talk to without stigma, to address trauma, or harmful, painful patterns. Attitudes towards mental health in Canada need to change, and better access to treatment can move us towards that goal. Beyond this, medications also need to be accessible and affordable for everyone who needs them. We must also recognize that medication doesn’t work for everyone, or every cause of mental and emotional anguish. Mental health in Indigenous communities is often handled horribly. I have heard of cases of over prescription, that can lead to addiction and suicide, while programs that focus on healing and coping without using medications are underfunded or cut. Gardening as part of counseling programs is an example of something that genuinely helps people, but is often cut with little regard for the tangible benefits it provides.

We can also do better to support people in other areas of the healthcare system in Canada. Dental treatments often put people far out of pocket when a procedure is needed. We need to, at the very least, establish dental care for people who do not make a living wage. Maintaining good dental health is extremely difficult when getting proper treatment is beyond one’s financial means. Even with additional coverage through work or a spouse, dental procedures can still be a serious financial burden. Good dental health is linked to better overall health. We cannot afford to keep health care support broken into these discrete components when the results of good care in one area so strongly affect the results of the others.

This is also why enacting a national pharmacare system is so important, and why it is such a significant Green Party policy. Many people need access to prescription medications on a regular basis, and that cost adds up significantly over time. This is about supporting everyone who lives in Canada. The cost of medication should not be the barrier that stands between a person and their ability to live a healthy life. Providing this type of personal stability allows people to live better lives. That’s what I want for everyone.

We should be investing in preventative medicine. Medical treatment is often positioned in terms of what it costs after the fact. But the overall cost of healthcare systems goes down when you have fewer individuals being treated for advanced conditions that are treatable early, as long as access is made available. More importantly, this increases the actual quality of life for people, because they can seek the care they need when it’s necessary instead of putting things off due to personal financial concerns. I’m committed to making these changes because it improves everyone’s lives in Canada. Other countries have systems that are properly set up to support the people who live there, and those systems work. It’s time for Canada to get on board for all of us.