We’ve come so far in destigmatising mental health care. Most folks agree: mental health care is health care.
So why does it cost so much? And why is it so hard to get?
On the campaign trail, I met a young man who told me that he was bullied in school, and suffered from depression. But he couldn’t get any kind of regular mental health supports — even after he tried to die by suicide. His story is heartbreaking. He’s still not getting the help he needs. He feels alone — but he’s not.
From kids’ worrisome personality changes after two years of pandemic isolation to depression and anxiety exacerbated by the grief, fear and financial stress of the pandemic, Ontario is facing a wave of mental health concerns. And too many families either go without help or rack up credit card bills to pay for it.
The cost of everything is going up, and paycheques aren’t. How is anyone supposed to afford hundreds or thousands of dollars extra for therapy? Or dentist bills and braces, for that matter?
There’s something we can do about it. If elected on June 2, Ontario is going to have Canada’s first Universal Mental Health Care plan.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath exits the campaign bus following her nomination meeting and campaign kick-off in Hamtilon, Ont., on Saturday, April 30, 2022. (Nick Iwanyshyn/The Canadian Press)
We’re going to train thousands more health professionals to deliver therapy and make it easy for you to just book an appointment and go, no cash needed.
Mental health affects us all.
It’s our family, friends and co-workers.
When we ignore mental health or cut services, we see the results in our emergency rooms and hospitals, justice system and social services system.
We have to fix it. We can fix it. And to do it, we have to stop the cuts.
Under the Kathleen Wynne Liberals, with Steven Del Duca at the cabinet table, we were all let down. His party froze hospital budgets and fired 1,600 nurses. They had a roadmap for improving mental health services and they left it on a shelf. They tried to keep wages low by imposing wage caps on teachers and education workers and freezing the minimum wage for years.
Then Doug Ford made things even worse. He’s cut $2.1 billion from planned mental health funding over his term. He’s cut things from OHIP, so you might have to pull out your wallet and rack up an $80 charge next time you get a blood test. He’s frozen wages at one per cent while inflation runs close to seven per cent — driving away a lot of health professionals and making it all harder to pay for what we need.
Now our health care system is at the breaking point — and Doug Ford’s budget includes $2.7 billion more in cuts.
We can ease the strain. We can deliver more health care with your OHIP card — not your credit card.
Not only mental health care — but dental care, too. About 50 per cent of Ontarians have no or little dental coverage. For many, it means they don’t go to the dentist unless they’re in pain. And too often people are so worried about the cost, they ignore a toothache until they end up in the emergency department.
Together, let’s fix it.
On June 2, we can come together to stop the cuts.
We can choose a government that’s here for everyday working folks, instead of just the people at the top.
We can have a government that believes in investing to fix health care, and deliver universal mental health care and dental care coverage. It’s the right thing to do, and together we can do it.
Andrea Horwath is the leader of the Ontario NDP.
QP Briefing and iPolitics asked the leaders of each of Ontario's four main parties to contribute an op-ed to speak directly to voters before election day.
And Liberal leader Steven Del Duca did not submit an op-ed by deadline.