Mental health advocates from various fields met in Province House yesterday to warn the system is in a state of chaos.
They say mentally ill people are slipping through the cracks because outreach staff are too overburdened to keep up. However, they said the first and most urgent step is cheap and easy to fix.
Nova Scotia currently does not have a comprehensive mental health strategy. They said that needs to change
“They are our family, our friends and our coworkers,” said Stephen Ayer, executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia.
“As many people as I am able to help, I know there are just as many who continue to suffer alone wondering what exactly is wrong with them, wondering if anybody can help. Sadly, some don’t survive. They die by suicide.”
Ayer estimated 180,000 Nova Scotians will battle mental illness at some point. But he said people still suffer in silence and shame because of social stigma, while issues like swine flu get swift government action.
In the meantime, they’ve taken new action to get the word out. Yesterday they announced the website oneinfive.ca, dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues in Nova Scotia. The name comes from global studies showing one in five people will deal with serious mental health issues at one point in their life.
Along with information and personal testimonials, the site allows visitors to sign a petition and send letters to politicians urging the creation of an overarching strategy.
Liberal MLA Diana Whalen, who helped organize the event, has put forward a bill to create an advisory council on mental health made up of educators, psychiatrists, mental health consumers and their family members.
The council would advise government on how to best meet the mental health needs of the province.