Jeff Moat, CEO of Partners for Mental Health, at OPSEU Tuesday.
The change in fortune for the federal government is making Jeff Moat very nervous.
The CEO of Partners for Mental Health, Moat has been lobbying federal MPs to support a five-year $100 million project to pilot a youth suicide prevention program that has already shown impressive results in Europe. In Canada three times as many youth (15-24) die from suicide than by all forms of cancer.
Moat says MPs have been very receptive to the proposal, but a drop in government revenues from falling oil prices likely means the Partners will have to demonstrate significant public support to keep it in this year’s budget.
Normally delivered in February, Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver recently announced he was pushing the budget back to April or later to deal with the current economic instability brought on by falling energy prices. That has prompted fears that the Harper government is taking a chainsaw to the supports Canadians need in order to keep the Prime Minister’s promise of a balanced budget.
The proposal the Partners have brought to the federal government is based on one piloted by the Nuremburg Alliance in Germany that reduced youth suicide by a staggering 24 per cent. That initiative takes a whole community approach to suicide prevention, giving everyone a role from mental health and child welfare professionals to police, teachers and the media.
At the very end of the launch of Canada’s first ever mental health strategy, a reporter asked Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq if the government intended to seek uniform mental health services across the provinces.
Senator Michael Kirby jumped in, saying there never has been uniformity. The level of access to services presently varies between provinces. Some will need to do more than others. The gaps were different.
Dr. David Goldbloom, the new Chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, said the recommendations were meant to be at a high enough level that they could be shaped by the individual provinces.
The presenters had begun the presentation by describing the strategy in historic terms; the reality became clear by the end that there was a considerable job ahead to sell the provinces on one guiding path forward.
Employers in the public sector may need to think a lot more about the state of mental health as it impacts the workplace.
A new round of restraint is likely to create heightened anxiety among those at risk of losing their jobs, and among those left behind, the threat of work overload and an upset work/life balance.
This is on top of a media environment where public service is being rapidly devalued; raising issues of esteem among those whose career choice is to serve their community.
Mental illness is already the number one cause for disability claims in the workplace.