It’s easy enough to spot a broken arm from skateboarding or a scrape on a leg from a playground accident. It’s not so easy to see the effect of a young mind that’s hurting or in distress. That doesn’t mean the damage is any less real.
Given that, it was heartening to learn that Chatham-Kent is going to be on the forefront of a nationwide study to upgrade the quality of, and access to, mental health care for young people. The stigma of mental illness is finally beginning to fade, thanks to efforts by people such as Clara Hughes who recently completed her cross-Canada bicycle ride as part of Bell’s “Let’s Talk” campaign.
Like any topic, the more we discuss it, the more we foster understanding and eliminate the guilt that has been associated with mental illness. Just as we wouldn’t consider someone weak who couldn’t run a marathon on a broken leg, we shouldn’t question the strength of someone battling depression while they carry with on their daily life.
Chatham Rotarians have been at the forefront of youth mental illness for nearly a decade, having funded a comprehensive study of the subject, paving the way for the current project. Young people are particularly at risk because they don’t have the life experience to cope or the resources to necessarily find out what it is they need to do to get treatment.
Although well-intentioned, the $25-million study will only see results if senior governments back the results with the funding necessary to implement treatment. Comparatively speaking, mental health funding lags far behind.
The issue only seems to generate public interest when some tortured soul takes his or her life, or the lives of others. The cost of treatment is an investment we need to make because the cost of ignoring mental illness is incalculable.