Blog: Space for Mental Health in Social Policy
Over the years, mental health has become part of the daily conversation for many, and there is a need for social policies that create collaboration space to improve human well-being.
By Eanimi Deborah Agube, ESPC Volunteer
Although the term Mental Health has become more popular and acceptable today, there is still a need for awareness on implementing initiatives, procedures and policies. Social policies on mental health work to improve human well-being and contribute to better and more healthy communities. These social policies ensure funding and collaboration opportunities to address access to the need for Mental Health services without discrimination. Many Mental Health initiatives are centred around communities for services, funding and support. However, “engaging community members in localized actions for well-being does not remove from governments’ responsibilities to provide high-quality social services” (Fisher, 2022, pp. 567–581).
Why is this important?
The conversations around Mental Health are becoming more about action and awareness since the COVID-19 pandemic; there has been an increased observation on mental health individuals and organizations have become more aware of the need for mental health initiatives. It is reported that insurance companies paid out $580 million in mental health claims in 2022, a 75 percent increase from 2019 (O’Hara, 2022). This increase in awareness and action is also shown in a study by the Alberta Medical Association that noted that 70 percent of parents in Alberta said their children’s mental health was worse since the pandemic (Smith, 2022).
Mental Health concerns have indeed existed long before the pandemic, as it is noted that “one in five adult Canadians will have a mental disorder in their lives” (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2023). However, the pandemic brought about a higher rise in awareness. The reality of so many Canadians surviving mental health issues makes it crucial that social policies address mental health in communities. These social policies should be able to manage mental health at all stages, which means including programs like the Provincial Mental Health Diversion. This program is intended to address the criminalization of mental health crises. Social policies around mental health ensure adequate funding, advocacy and mental health awareness.
Mental Health and Social Policy in Alberta
Organizations like the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Alberta Health Services (AHS) have taken action to advocate for mental health in Alberta. These actions include reviewing the AHS mental health and addictions programs (Bellefontaine, 2023). The logistics of this review are still in progress, as the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions is seeking an outside contractor. The Government of Alberta is also working on a new Alberta model that adopts a recovery-oriented approach and will aid in building six new recovery communities (Government of Alberta, 2023).
The province of Alberta continues to take numerous steps to acknowledge the need for better mental health measures and promote better funding for mental health advocacy. For example, the Red Deer News Now reported that in 2022, the Alberta government announced a $3.4 million investment (rdnewsNOW Staff, 2022) to build a Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre (CACAC). The CACAC provides services to children facing abuse and mental health issues. This investment is part of a framework that collaborates in providing social services.
How to get involved?
Many communities and groups have taken various steps to continue the conversation around mental health; some of these steps include working with local organizations to provide services that address the different needs of the community. For a more general approach that ensures that the Government of Alberta introduces social policies, the CMHA suggests that members of communities reach out to their MLA to ask for more mental health programs. (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2021)
The Mental health and Addictions advisory council’s recommendation helps the Ministry of Health transform mental health services; this is evident in the recent recovery-oriented system approach. Community members can contact the board to voice suggestions and share experiences highlighting the importance of social services and policies.
The CMHA Alberta Division also has multiple mental health programs that are community-based and grassroots-run, including;
- Free virtual mental health resources
- In-person and virtual community-based peer support for military and first responders
- Community events like conferences, fundraising events, conversations and inclusivity support
In summary, awareness of mental health and the issues that arises from poor mental health is crucial for the well-being of Canadians. Alberta’s social policies ensure that mental health is not just a buzzword. Social policies ensure that steps are taken to ensure that the issues are being addressed. Mental health conversations and actions continue to be needed in today’s world, and policies are being implemented to ensure that actions are taken to improve citizens’ well-being. While there is evidence of change and implementation of social policies, this is only a journey.
Eanimi Agube’s interest in working to understand better ways to empower communities and learn more about the challenges faced by marginalized communities has led her to complete her Master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning. In her spare time, she is an avid podcast listener, an aspiring adventurer and an animal lover.
Alberta Health Services. (2018). Provincial Mental Health Diversion Program Service Operating Requirement. Calgary: Alberta Health Services. Retrieved from https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/info/Page2767.aspx
Bellefontaine, M. (2023). Alberta Health Services to undergo review of mental health, addictions services. CBC. Retrieved from: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-health-services-to-undergo-review-of-mental-health-addictions-services-1.6736266
Canadian Mental Health Association. (2021). Mental Health Must Be Part of the Equation. Canadian Mental Health Association. Retrieved from: https://alberta.cmha.ca/news/mental-health-must-be-part-of-the-equation/
Canadian Mental Health Association. (2023). Mental Illness in Canada. Alberta Division Canadian Mental Health Association. Retrieved from: https://alberta.cmha.ca/mental-illness-in-canada/
Fisher, M. (2022). Moving Social Policy from Mental Illness to Public Wellbeing. Journal of Social Policy, pp. 567–581. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047279421000866
Government of Alberta. (2022). Mental health and addictions advisory council. Government of Alberta. Retrieved from: https://www.alberta.ca/mental-health-and-addiction-advisory-council.aspx
Government of Alberta. (2023). The Alberta Model: A Recovery-Oriented System of Care. Government of Alberta. Retrieved from: https://www.alberta.ca/alberta-recovery-oriented-system-of-care.aspx
O’Hara, C. (2022). Insurers see leap in claims for mental health services amid pandemic strains. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-insurers-see-leap-in-claims-for-mental-health-services-amid-pandemic/
Red Deer News Now Staff. (2022). Province announces $3.4 million investment for Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre. Red Deer News Now. Retrieved from: https://rdnewsnow.com/2022/03/01/province-announces-3-4-million-investment-for-central-alberta-child-advocacy-centre/
Smith, K. (2022). More than 70% of teens report worse mental health compared to before COVID: Survey. Global News. Retrieved from: https://globalnews.ca/news/8882754/alberta-teens-mental-health-covid-survey/