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Michael Kirby takes your questions

Continued from Page 3

Lester Biddle from Toronto Canada writes: To Michael Kirby I'm concerned about the absence of communications channels to members of the Canadian Mental Health Commission. To date, there is only a general voice number and e-mail address. My communication to that e-mail address returned a response amounting to 'we'll see what happens' and no official privacy policy. Office staff will filter all communications and decide what happens to them.

The CMHC already seems to be taking on the face of yet another heavily bureaucratized institution with too many self-important, corporate ladder-climbing executives at the top. I am really worried that the CMHC will fade into relative obscurity over time except for media opportunities and fundraising, thereby missing the opportunity to make a real change. In my view, the CMHC should be something like a parliament for the voices of Canadians living with mental illness.

Will the public be allowed to have direct access to key CMHC members? Will you be more than just another club of elite corporate and academic bureaucrats?

Michael Kirby: Thank you for comment on the difficulty of accessing members of the commission and its staff. Based on your comment I will ensure that all procedures are reviewed because we must be open and accessible. Indeed one of the reasons why the senate committee report was so successful is because we conducted public hearings from coast to coast to coast and encouraged individuals to contact the senate committee through the committee's website. The commission must be equally accessible.

Elizabeth Templeton from Hamilton, Ontario Canada writes: Dear Senator Kirby: I have always held you in the highest regard throughout your senatorial career for your humanist approach to the posed laws standing before the senate. It appeared to me that you did give each proposed law a 'sober second look' for which the red chamber was designed.

What would you suggest would be the appropriate actions for someone (average Canadian citizen - no special influence anywhere) who is interested in seeing the 12 steps outlined in Saturdays' Globe and Mail implemented?

I am a consumer of mental health services here in Hamilton at St. Joseph's hospital outpatient clinic. At the out patient clinic; Community Psychiatric Services, I chair a client centred support team (C.A.S.T.) to get some of the same messages across to fellow patients that were spoken of in the series - you are not alone, help is here, more than one combination of both therapy and/or drugs may be necessary to continue on the road of recovery. I am also involved in Peer Support community here in Hamilton.

Thank you for your valuable time and continued efforts in reducing the shame and stigma of mental illness in our communities. Thanks also to The Globe and Mail for bringing forth the topics of mental health, addictions and corrections to a population that are or who have access to Canadian power brokers who can affect change in these very important areas of concern for all Canadians. Kindest Regards, Elizabeth Templeton

Michael Kirby: Your question illustrates why the mental health commission will organize a national mental health movement. There are thousands and thousands of Canadians like you across the country who want to help improve the mental health system but who feel voiceless and powerless to do so. I believe that by enabling these individual Canadians to coalesce into a national movement we will be able to ensure that all governments develop the political will to improve services to the mentally ill Canadians.

Carol MacDougall from Stratford Canada writes: Have you come across information on the importance of young people's attachment to parents/caring adults throughout childhood and adolescence as prevention for some mental health issues? Can this be included in the Mental Health Strategy that is being drafted for Canada--esp. increasing the capacity of parents/caregivers to maintain strong attachment to their children (the importance of raising awareness about this and of putting resources in place when this is a struggle, e.g. during separation/divorce)?

Michael Kirby: It is critical that children whose parents are separating receive counselling help. This will be part of our child and youth strategy.

jodi cohen from Canada writes: I don't have a question but I very much want to pass on a note of huge respect and appreciation to The Globe and Mail for this tremendous series and Senator Kirby for his work in mental health. As an active volunteer with the Canadian Mental Health Association, I have been particularly thrilled to see this kind of exposure. Battling stigma, having conversations around mental health and promoting understanding and compassion are very significant wins. Thank you so very much. Jodi Cohen, Calgary

Michael Kirby: I completely agree with your comment. This series by The Globe and Mail has provided the opportunity for thousands of Canadians to learn the real truth about mental illness. The mental health commission strongly applauds The Globe for this extraordinary work.

Worried mom from Etobicoke Canada writes: I have a 17 year old with learning disabilities, a mood disorder and anxiety who spent a year in a residential treatment centre and now we are having difficulties getting a school to accept her before she turns 18. She wants to get her high school credits - to whom do we turn? Please do not print my name as I work with children in my community. Thank you.

Michael Kirby: You should call the Ontario branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association. The phone number is 1-866-531-2600. This link on the association website will direct you to policy on education.

Marnin Heisel rom London Canada writes: Mr. Kirby, Thank you very much for taking the lead in helping to address the issue of mental health in Canada and for making quality mental healthcare the concern of the Federal government (e.g., the Kirby commission report 'Out of the Shadows at Last' and the Canadian Mental Health Commission). I have one question. The WHO tells us that suicide-a leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality and of unspeakable emotional pain-claims over 1,000,000 lives worldwide annually. In Canada, nearly 10 people die by suicide every day; as many as potentially 100 times that number engage in self-harm behaviour.

We have among the world's leading experts on suicide and suicide prevention, leading intervention scientists and clinicians, top public health scientists and policy analysts, social scientists, educators, care providers, and a thriving survivor network. Canadians helped the U.N. and WHO mount a conference in Banff in 1993 leading to the call for nations worldwide to develop national policies for suicide prevention. Many countries worldwide have now done so (including England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S.). Canada is one of the last leading first-world nations NOT to have a national suicide prevention policy. This despite the fact that the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (nearly 4 years ago) released a self-funded document 'The CASP Blueprint for a Canadian National Suicide Prevention Strategy' outlining how such a national policy could be developed. To date, this document has inspired provincial and community-level suicide prevention strategies, and yet, no national strategy exists.

How will the Canadian Mental Health Commission help our nation's suicide prevention experts and survivors develop a suicide prevention strategy separate (but companion to) a Canadian Mental Health Strategy? Thank you very much for your thoughts and again for your leadership! Dr. Marnin Heisel

Michael Kirby: The mental health commission will work with experts to devleop a suicide prevention strategy particularly for children and youth. Suicide is the second largest cause of death among canadians aged 15 to 24, second only to motor vehicle accidents. Moreover the suicide rate among first nations youth is five times the national average. It is critical that Canada adopt an aggressive anti-suicde strageby in order to reduce the needless waste of lives among our young people.

Christine Diemert, globeandmail.com writes: Thanks for your time Mr. Kirby. We had a lot of questions and I apologize to anyone we didn't get to. Before we close, do you have anything you'd like to add?

Michael Kirby: The e-mails today have clearly established the importance of creating a national mental health movement in order to improve the current dismal state of services for the mentally ill particularly children and youth. I hope that all of the readers of The Globe series will join that movement when it is launched later this year.

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In Breakdown, The Globe and Mail documents the enormous, unaddressed cost of mental illness to Canadian individuals, families and society. The series closes with a search for solutions.

 

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People with mental illnesses face a stigma that can prevent them from getting care. It also stops the public from seeing the problem. Has mental illness affected your life or that of a loved one? Share your experiences with globeandmail.com readers and let us know what single change in society or policy would help the most.

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