Friday, April 30, 2010

The worst kind of illness....ignorance.

One in five Canadians are impacted by mental health. It is the number one health issue in this country. More hospitals are occupied by people affected by mental illness than cancer and heart conditions combined. In 2008 the provincial government spent more the $2.5 BILLION dollars on treatments for mental health & addictions. Through six degrees of separation almost every single person in the country has had their life touched or impacted by the issue of mental health. It is for me, a very serious business.

I work in mental health. For the past five years I've been the Executive Director of an agency that provides support to families where any mental illness is an issue by providing education, resources and coping strategies. Families are a cornerstone in the wrap around process of recovery of those impacted by mental health issues. They become primary caregivers, case managers, medication management, crisis intervention, housing & financial support and a lifeline for those who struggle with the every day challenges of living a life with mental illness. A life, I would like to say, deserves to be lived with decency, respect and dignity.

I have been privileged to address the Honorable Michael Kirby, Chair of the National Commission on Mental Health, to be a voice for families. I have advocated for families to be included under the Federal Compassionate Care Act and I've lobbied for ongoing changes to the Ontario Disability Tax Credit. I have been fervent in my position on the use of tasers by law enforcement. I have been most critical of the Ontario Disability Support Programs that force the most ill to live well below the poverty line. More recently I've been invited to be a part of the Toronto Police Services Board newly struck committee on Mental Health. I consider myself a fortunate person to be able to do work that not only I believe in but work that impacts the lives of so many families in our communities.

I suspect a few people are wondering why I've taken off on this tangent in my blog that has been so slanted to the political offing's of my community. Well there is a reason for this direction. The first reason is this; I was pondering on Joe No Show's cheap shot at me with his reference to me working in mental illness and the stupid comment on being strapped in to a straight jacket. I was thinking to myself this morning that one of the only illnesses that I can think of that would be far worse than an illness such as schizophrenia is the illness of ignorance. Ridicule me Joe but ridiculing mental illness is just plain wrong. For that you get the Knob of the Month Award.

In Bolton, mental health services have become a focal point of interest, both from a community and a political perspective. My agency delivers family support services in Caledon and more specifically in Bolton. I have been involved with the Central West LHIN's (local health integrated network) in their ongoing efforts to address the gaping hole of health services delivered at the community level. I am so proud and so pleased to be a voice at this committee, not only from my agency but also as a citizen of Bolton. I feel I bring a much more real perspective and can speak to real grassroots concerns. So now this brings me to final chapter of this blog and this conundrum that I find myself in on this Friday afternoon....

Just before Easter my office got a call from George Smitherman's campaign team asking if my agency was having an family events for Easter that George could come out and "volunteer" at. Uh huh. (insert head shaking action here). I don't think so. Families are dealing with serious issues and you want a photo op? This is just another kind of ignorance....different from Joe No Show's but none the less looking at using struggling families as a backdrop for political gain shows a real lack of respect for families. If you think this political pandering happens only in the great big cold hearted city of Toronto, think again.

This morning during a team conference one of my Family Workers told me that on this past Monday evening at the Bolton Family Support group that a political wannabe made an appearance at this group. This person actually told my staff that they were running for office and even mentioned that they knew me. Holy hannah. My jaw dropped. The family group is sacrosanct. These groups are life lines for families in need they are not playgrounds for the political wannabes. A very big and unacceptable line in the sand got crossed on Monday night. Thankfully my staff managed to get this person out the door before other family members arrived.

There is a proverbial ass kicking that needs to be doled out. My message to that candidate (and you damn well know who you are), you better keep your head down because I've got you in my sights. You mess with my are messing with me. Geez, don't I kinda sound like Sandra Bullock in the film "The Blind Side" with that retort. Please note, you've been served notice.

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