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Mental health needs more work

Saskatchewan health consultant Jayne Whyte liked what she heard in last year’s Kirby report about improving mental health services in Canada.

However, she is concerned that the report did not talk about the issue in terms of gender.

“It is important to recognize that women play major roles in the mental health system: as people experiencing mental health problems; as people using mental health services; as unpaid caregivers for family and friends and as paid health-care providers,” she said.

In her recent analysis of the Kirby report for the Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence, Whyte said the other omission was the lack of analysis about place. Whyte, who grew up on a farm and lives in a small town, said the report didn’t mention the troubles with isolation, lack of public transportation and gaps in services for rural people. They have less choice of therapists and less privacy because everyone can see their car parked outside the local health clinic.

Whyte is happy the latest federal budget committed to setting up a Canadian Mental Health Commission and that senator Michael Kirby, the report’s author, agreed to chair it.

She said it is important to understand health is more than medical care.

“Society can determine whether mental health is treated as stigma or inclusion.”

Whyte made other suggestions:

  • Provide locally based mental health services to enable people to continue living well in their home communities.
  • Provide housing with supervision and support for people with mental health care needs and enable home ownership in small communities where this is the norm.
  • Use computer technology for psychiatry and psychology services and continue support for farm stress lines.
  • Address the underlying causes of stress and poor health for rural and remote women: farm economy; poverty; aboriginal issues; family violence; balancing work-family-community responsibilities and the need for intergenerational connections and cross-cultural understanding.
  • Provide better training for the RCMP in understanding and handling mental health crises.

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