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Why Should We Talk About Mental Health?


Canada spends at least $50 billion dollars a year to fund mental health services across the country. An estimated $1.2 billion of that budget is shared between the provinces of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Yet many people are arguing that Nova Scotia’s mental health system is not meeting the demands of its residents. A possible contributing factor to the issue is the shortage of family doctors, psychiatrists and other professionals within the province’s mental health system. In Cape Breton alone, waiting times to receive mental health care can be as long as a year. The current state of Nova Scotia’s mental health system has led an overwhelming number of people dealing with mental health issues to seek help within hospital emergency departments. 

Despite these shortcomings, some progress is being made to address Nova Scotia’s mental health crisis. For example, the North End Community Health Centre here in Halifax has recently opened a mental health walk-in clinic called Pause. The clinic is led by 2 social workers who serve 8 to 10 people a night on Tuesday evenings. Initiatives such as Pause are a great step in the right direction, but there is still work to be done to improve Nova Scotia’s mental health system. 

The Nova Scotia Quality of Life Survey includes several questions on the topic of health, such as how Nova Scotians feel about the overall quality of the health care services in their communities. Thus, the Nova Scotia Quality of Life Survey could provide some valuable insight into how we can work together to better our mental health system. 

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Conversations around mental health continue to largely be eurocentric, meaning that we often discuss mental health from a European standpoint. Therefore, we fail to account for how people’s relationship with mental health differ across cultures. Depending on which groups or communities we identify with, our experience with mental health will vary. For example, within marginalized groups, various forms of discrimination such as racism are often a source of trauma. Most predominantly, intergenerational trauma has a dramatic effect on indigenous and black communities, as well as communities experiencing high poverty or seeking asylum. 

Furthermore, for African, Carribean, and black (ACB) Canadians such as myself, the topic of mental health is generally shunned. There is a lot of misinformation within the community that prevents individuals struggling with their mental health from reaching out for help. Moreover, it is rare to find therapists of colour, or organizations focused on improving the mental health of our community. Notably, the way that the media portrays mental illness as largely being a non-coloured issue is a significant barrier for people in our community struggling with their mental health. Having more diverse representation in the media could greatly help de-stigmatize having mental health issues as a POC (Person of Colour). 

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There are many other factors that contribute to a person’s experience with mental health, such as gender, class and religion. Therefore, it is important that we understand the intersectional nature of stigma when we talk about mental health. 


The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that  500 000 Canadian employees a year are unable to go to work due to mental health issues or illnesses. Moreover, Canadian employees have expressed that workplace stress is the main cause of their struggle with mental health and that they worry about how their mental health issues could affect their career and job performance. By prioritizing mental health within the workplace organizations can reduce presenteeism and absenteeism, which could lead to greater productivity. 

There is support available to organizations to help them form strategies for addressing mental health in the workplace. For example, the National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace has created tools that can help organizations establish policies and encourage good mental health in their workplace. 

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To continue the conversation around mental health, Engage Nova Scotia will be releasing an interview with the Nova Scotian Division of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) next week. The interview will touch on several pertinent questions relating to Nova Scotia’s mental health system. In the meantime, join the conversation by submitting a comment below!