The Alberta government has just released a report into mental health and addiction in the province.
The report details several recommendations to make the mental health and addictions treatment system in Alberta better. It lays out 6 major directives for the government to act on. Of those directives, 3 involve addictions, 2 involve children.
The report itself has a heavy focus on access to treatment for aboriginals and youth. Great. It should be much easier to find mental health treatment in our own communities. In the face of the spate in fentanyl deaths and overdoses in Alberta, I’m very pleased to see the government taking an interest in making an investment in addiction treatment. It saves lives.
When you really drill down, the report misses something vital. The report itself seems to include suicide as an afterthought. Given the 30 percent hike in the number of suicides in Alberta, it really should have been a focus not a bookend. While the report refers over and over to the demographics we often think of as the ones who face mental health challenges, aboriginals and youth, it fails to mention the demographic that ends their lives by their own hands most frequently.
Middle aged men kill themselves in remarkably higher instances than any other group. According to Statistics Canada data, men kill themselves at 3 times the rate of women and the highest rate of suicide is men aged 40 to 59. Our dads and grandpas are killing themselves at much higher rates than youth or women. Consistently, year over year. How can any mental health initiative not make this staggering fact a centrepiece? Statistics Canada data also describes the contributing factors to suicide. These include loss and financial hardship. We have a lot of that going around in Alberta.
But really, is the government serious about mental health at all? Well, after this much awaited report, the government has promised to commit just an additional $4 million dollars to mental health in Alberta. This is a province of over 4 million people. That’s a buck a person when we are in the middle of a suicide crisis. The NDP just dished out an additional $5 million in subsidies for green tech companies in January. They also added an extra $30 million dollars in funding for green transit initiatives across the province. Seems to me, the NDP have their priorities wrong.
If the government wants to save lives, our dads and grandfathers need to be a focus in any mental health strategy, not an afterthought. I know middle age, middle class men aren’t exactly the favourites of the social justice types in our government but their lives matter. This government needs to care more about middle aged men than they do about windmills and electric buses.