How are you?

We all get asked this question, but how many of us respond truthfully? “I’m fine,” is a typical response, but in many instances, we are not fine and we rarely acknowledge that or ask for help.

Stigma can lead to feelings of shame about mental health struggles, preventing people from opening up to those closest to them and asking for help. But bottling up trauma or difficult emotions can make them grow and come out in ways that disrupt our lives – like snapping at loved ones, losing sleep and struggling at work, or turning to more risky forms of coping such as substance use.

May 3 to 9, 2021, marks Mental Health Week in Canada – and Friday, May 7 is Child and Youth Mental Health Day. This is a week to end the stigma around mental illness and problematic substance use by having open, honest conversations.

Mental illness and substance use affect everyone, young and old. Whether it’s you or someone you know, people in your community are struggling right now. This week, please reach out to friends, family and colleagues to check in and offer support.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on our mental health, amplifying stress and anxiety for everyone in British Columbia and around the world. Forty per cent of Canadians say their mental health has deteriorated since the onset of the pandemic, and 24 per cent describe themselves as depressed. Now more than ever, protecting people’s mental health should be a priority for everyone.

It’s your government’s vision to build a system for mental health treatment in B.C. that is on par with any other health condition. This means working to ensure British Columbians can access the mental health and substance use services and supports they need, when they need them. At the onset of the pandemic, we quickly launched new and expanded free and low-cost virtual mental health and substance use supports so nobody needs to face their challenges alone.

In Budget 2021, we made the largest investment in mental health and addictions services in B.C.’s history with $500 million to continue building the comprehensive system of mental health and addictions care that British Columbians need. This includes $97 million to expand and strengthen mental health and substance use care for youth.

Providing every child with the best possible start is the surest way to set them up for a lifetime of health and wellness. Building a better network of mental health and substance use services and supports for children and youth is at the core of A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s plan to help ensure no one falls through the cracks and everyone has the supports they need to thrive. The goal is to ensure that every young person can access the help they need early, close to home and free from judgment and discrimination.

By creating new integrated child and youth teams in 15 additional school districts in urban, rural and remote communities throughout B.C., we will support 350 full-time staff being hired in the next three years. The teams will include peer support workers, Indigenous support workers, education counsellors, and mental health and substance use clinicians who will work together in a co-ordinated way to deliver wraparound support for children, youth and their families. Further, by investing in the expansion of early years services, we are creating 60 full-time jobs to prevent or minimize future mental health and substance use challenges in children up to age six. Budget 2021 is supporting this work and much more.

Our government is working to build a province where supports and services are available when and where people need them most. But we all play a part in ending stigma and nurturing a culture of positive mental health. This week and beyond, let’s #getreal about mental health and substance use by reaching out to those we care about to say #Icare and start an important conversation. So that next time someone gets asked how they are, they might feel comfortable enough to ask for the support they need.

Learn More:

For virtual mental health and substance use supports, visit:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/managing-your-health/mental-health-substance-use/virtual-supports-covid-19

For more on the integrated child and youth teams, visit:
https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021MMHA0019-000769

To read A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s roadmap for mental health and addictions care, visit:
https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BCMentalHealthRoadmap_2019.pdf