Hélène David
Back to the blog
13 February 2019

Mental Health is at the Heart of Our Priorities

Hélène David


Hélène David
Official Opposition Critic for Social Services, Secularism and the Status of Women

I asked the Health and Social Services Committee to consider accepting my initiative mandate proposal regarding the creation of a nonpartisan parliamentary committee on mental health.

Mental health problems are rising considerably in secondary school-aged children. The number of students experiencing high levels of psychological distress is now estimated at 29% and more of them are taking prescription medication than ever before. The number of 6 to 20-year-olds who have received a prescription for antidepressants has increased by close to 50% in four years.

Concrete actions were implemented by the Liberal government. Recall for instance Aire Ouverte, which offers services for health and well-being in environments that are adapted to young people aged 12 to 25. The first public psychotherapy program was also established by that government and $35M of funding was earmarked for its creation. There was also the action plan for mental health which was lauded by sector stakeholders. But there is still so much more work to be done, both in terms of improving care and eliminating taboos surrounding mental health.

One out of five Quebecers will be affected by mental health issues during his or her lifetime. Four out of five Canadians will come into contact with someone with mental health problems.

In short, that means that we will all be affected by this issue. And yet, there are still so many obstacles. That’s why I asked the National Assembly’s Health and Social Services Committee to accept my initiative mandate proposal to create a nonpartisan parliamentary committee on mental health, like the one that was created for “Dying with Dignity”. I sincerely hope that my colleagues will accept this very important mandate.

We have already received support from over sixty organizations throughout Quebec that are also asking for nonpartisan, travelling consultations. They include Mouvement Jeunes et santé mentale, an organization demanding major changes to mental health care services. As the 2015-2020 Mental Health Action Plan will soon come to an end, this is the ideal time to begin discussions with the sector stakeholders, social and community organizations, as well as actors from civil society.

This week is suicide prevention week. While suicide rates have decreased in Quebec, every death is one too many.

It is therefore essential that we continue our efforts to create awareness among the population and provide adequate tools to the stakeholders whose work contributes to preventing suicides.

Rumour has it that the government might be tempted to hold a forum. Choosing this option rather than creating a parliamentary committee and holding consultations would leave out stakeholders who want an opportunity to be heard.

If the government truly intends to follow through on its promise of audacity, ambition and non-partisanship, then I am extending a hand and offering to work towards consultations that would generate the kind of visibility we need to advance the cause of mental health.

The downgrading of the General Directorate on Mental Health within the ministry does not reflect the importance that mental health deserves.

Last fall, the minister assured us that mental health was a priority. However, her first actions are cause for concern. Downgrading the General Directorate on Mental Health within the ministry is not an indication of the importance this issue merits. We hope that the government will listen to reason and accept our outreached hand.