The Stigma is Still Alive as Disregard for Experts Continues in Canadian Mental Healthcare


The stigma of mental illnesses continues to thrive when the experts who care for Canadians with a mental illness are disregarded, disrespected, and ignored in setting policy for their care. This week, the Canadian Psychiatric Association learned exactly that is happening as the Canadian Health Standards Organization is developing mental health standards and haven't consulted a single psychiatrist!

Appropriate comparisons to other specialities would lead any reasonable observer to conclude that the professed priority of mental illnesses in Canada is nothing more than PR tactic and electoral manipulation and actually reinforces the stigma that mental illnesses aren’t like other illnesses. We’re different. This dark corner doesn’t deserve respect, apparently.

The stigma and discrimination is so intense that even the experts in mental illnesses are not given equity. I won't stand for it and I call on psychiatrists across the country to not stand for it either. We cannot expect equity in care if the stigma is entrenched through every layer of the system.

Oh, the Poor Psychiatrists

More than a gripe from a group of professionals, the closeting of psychiatrists and their unquestioned expertise is indicative of the larger problem that feeds the stigma. Psychiatrists are working for the betterment of Canadians who need care, just like every other specialist in the country. But if Canada’s Health Standards Organization can’t even pretend to consult with the experts on mental health policy, how can any Canadian feel confident that the best care available is being made available to them?

This most recent example of systemic disrespect has brought into the open once again that, for every superficial attempt made to make us think the stigma is gone, the real hardcore stuff where decisions are being made about care, the standard-bearers of Canadian healthcare behave as if experts in this field don’t even exist. Why do we even bother to train psychiatrists in this country?

If the system is not even willing to understand the significance of ignoring the experts on a given matter, how serious can they be about solutions to that issue?

“Let’s Talk” Is Woefully Inadequate

As a person in this society, I am deeply troubled about our collective satisfaction with superficial progress while ignoring the serious breaches of trust in the services we pay for and rely on. How can I possibly trust that the care I am receiving is appropriate for my illness if the policy and programs have been created by laypeople, administrators, and NO EXPERTS on my mental illness and the care I need?

How comfortable are you with standards for the construction of the bridges you drive on today being set without any input from engineers? How seriously would you consider the system’s regard for your well-being if they did so? This is what is happening today in mental health care - in Canada!

We’re not as afraid of mental illnesses as we used to be as a people. We’re not afraid to speak up on “Let’s Talk” days like we might have been not long ago. But those who suffer with mental illnesses are not receiving the care they need and your governments are not making mental health the priority they tell you they are in Canada. Instead, they are resting on the good feelings these campaigns produce on social media and spending desperately needed dollars elsewhere. The sugar flakes generously dusting the box while the doughnuts are long gone!

Put the superficial stuff aside, the stigma of mental illnesses is still so broad and so deep that your governments even disregard and disrespect the experts in your care. The stigma even affects our reputations in healthcare and throughout the system to everyone involved in the care of people with a mental illness. Will MY voice ever be heard as a person who suffers if the voice of the expert caring for me is not?

Do you care if experts are involved in setting public policy in Canada? Is mental health policy important to you or anyone you know? I’m sure it is. So let’s talk about our personal experiences with mental illnesses but also - let’s DEMAND priority in healthcare when we do. THAT’s how we make life better for people who suffer.

Please take a moment to read the letter below (or the original file) from the President of the CPA, Dr. Wei-Yi Song and please make this an issue with your representatives who can do something about it.

Today’s reality is a result of years of malaise and neglect. The discrimination is so deeply set in our collective consciousness that those who discriminate don’t even know that they are doing it. On the contrary, if you asked them, they’d tell you that they care. It’s time we, as a society, stood up and stopped being satisfied with the sugar flakes in the box! It’s time to demand that real effort is made and real dollars are put in the realm of mental illnesses.

Talk is cheap and if the only time society has for mental illnesses begins and ends with “Let’s Talk”, then I wonder where we stand and is anybody really listening?!

This letter is important and worth every Canadian’s attention:

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