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The doctor is out - but they don’t have to be

Jody Vance: The case for public mental healthcare

When it comes to support for Canadians battling mental health issues, round and round we go: discussions, studies, and even acknowledgement of failure.

When it will be less talk, more action? I think most people have grown weary of watching and waiting for some sort of meaningful action on the mental health file.

This Middle asks, bluntly, when will mental health supports be simply part of basic Canadian healthcare?

The beancounters constantly counter with: “that’s a big ask.”

It’s a bigger ask to keep such supports reserved for those who can afford it.

In Canada healthcare is a basic human right, but with asterisks for serious ailments you can’t see on an X-ray or MRI. Setting and casting the broken arm is totally covered — so why not the broken synapsis?

Yes, it’s a big money ask. We shouldn’t dismiss that. But I believe the finances of funding mental health supports would be eclipsed by the long-term savings on our social system.

So much could be solved if real access to therapy was universally available. Imagine if seeing a therapist regularly was as normal as taking kids to early life paediatrics or childhood vaccine appointments; not everyone needs it, but available for those who do. Imagine.

Upfront costs have given politicians of all stripes pause, and deficits are already at issue – but consider what could come off the bottom line if unavoidable life traumas were talked through, supported or intervened upon in real time?

Just for a moment, consider what long-term costs to society might be avoided if people had access to help before resorting to self-medication, or worse.

Let’s start with the kids of 2020.

Kids growing up under the threat and shadow of COVID-19 will likely suffer serious residual stress; it only makes sense to start with them. Post-traumatic pandemic disorder can be avoided for this generation.

With kids basically at a standstill, why not offer it up gratis? Do it on Zoom. Have real-life therapists available for quick, regular check ins. Kickstart this next chapter with a better new normal, one where seeing an accredited therapist is a no-cost no-brainer.

Mental healthcare should not just for the wealthy. And I believe the lives saved by putting mental health among the most vital of preventative medicines would outweigh long-term costs.

It’s time. For the kids, let’s stop spinning our wheels.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.