A healthy nation is a happy nation, or at least that’s how it should be. While Canada boasts one of the best healthcare systems in the world, it’s not enough to address only the physical health of the people, but their mental health as well.
That’s exactly what a Canadian province aims to do. British Columbia has announced they have plans underway to better address addiction and mental health issues within the next few years.
But why is this suddenly a necessity? What problems have British Columbians been facing recently? Why are there concerns about addiction and mental health, and what do the next five years have in store? Let’s take a look.
Mental Health Issues on the Rise
British Columbians, between the age of 20 and 59, are reporting lower life satisfaction rates. They’re more physically active than the rest of the country and enjoy overall healthier lifestyles. But still, they rate their mental health lower than the rest of the Canadian population.
What might be the most concerning is that younger generations seem to suffer the most – particularly students. Over 20% of girls and 10% of boys report dealing with depression. There are also more reports of anxiety, panic attacks, and a rise in the number of students who have reported that they’ve seriously considered suicide in the past year.
The causes for this vary, and they tend to be rather unclear. It’s well known that poverty and lack of early childhood education can have a detrimental effect on health, both physical and mental.
Today’s youth is also facing greater challenges. The rise in bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, discrimination, etc., is a very likely cause of numerous mental health issues. Either way, whatever the cause, dealing with the problems is essential.
While addiction can come in all shapes and sizes, going from gambling, to tobacco and alcohol addiction, the most worrying is none other than narcotics addiction.
In 2018, there were almost 1,500 deaths caused by illicit drug overdose reported in British Columbia. For the sixth year in a row, the province had set a record for drug overdose deaths. And the number is higher than that for deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents, suicides, and homicides put together. This paints a worrisome picture for the people living in British Columbia.
Luckily, not everything is so horrid, the situation seems to be improving, and things are looking up this year. Compared to May 2018, there was a 28% decrease in the number of drug toxicity deaths in May 2019.
The fact that the number of deaths is lower provides hope. Nonetheless, immediate action needs to be taken to provide help to those with substance abuse problems. Instead of incarcerating people suffering from addiction, the government needs to support them and offer them better care and better assistance. This is exactly what the British Columbian government intends to do in the coming years.
A Pathway to Hope
Earlier this year, the British Columbian government has announced a long-term program Pathway to Hope in an effort to help the younger population deal with mental health and substance abuse issues.
The idea is to provide better and easier access to the care and services that the people dealing with these issues need.
Considering that one in five people in British Columbia experience mental health issues and substance abuse problems that significantly affect their everyday lives, this program has so far been well-received.
The focus is primarily placed on children, teens, young adults, and the indigenous populations. The reason behind this being that these groups have traditionally experienced more inequality in their access to adequate health care.
The plan is to organize integrated teams that will work together with schools and specialized service providers. The goal is to offer better, and more complete care to the students and families struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues.
So far, the government states that they currently spend $2.5 billion annually on mental health and addiction services. While most of the budget is allocated to hospital-based services, they still offer to fund various departments that help them with mental health promotion and intervention.
The Five-Year Plan
Of course, change doesn’t happen overnight. The previous government hasn’t given nearly enough attention to improving healthcare and services for those dealing with addiction and mental health issues.
Things need to be prioritized for A Pathway to Hope to be successful in the long run, so the British Columbian government has placed their focus on 6 most important things.
Affordable Counselling and Support
The government has allocated $10 million in grants to non-profit organizations that offer affordable counseling. The aim is to extend the health coverage for those facing discrimination based on their ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, social class, etc.
Organize Integrated Teams
Within the next two years, multi-disciplinary teams will be established in 5 school districts. This will provide support directly to the youths, and bring them wraparound services.
More Foundry Centers
The number of Foundry centers will be increased from 11 to 19. Here, young people can access all the necessary health services and resources.
Expanding Treatment Centers
Existing treatment centers will undergo renovations, and new centers will be constructed.
Intensive Services for Children and Youth
Children and young adults will be provided with intensive programs that will help them deal with severe mental health and substance abuse issues.
Early Childhood Social-Emotional Development
New educational resources and professional development tools will be provided to caregivers of children 6 years old and younger.
You can take a closer look at the detailed plan here.
If properly implemented, these changes in the services and support offered to the people dealing with mental health issues and addiction should result in a healthier and happier population for British Columbia.