4.5 million dollars to reduce stigma?

The Toronto Star recently reported that the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) released a policy paper asking for “an additional $4.5 million a year earmarked for the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) to ramp up its anti-stigma campaign in schools, colleges and universities.”

The MHCC already has 65 anti-stigma partners and 45 active anti-stigma projects.  By the end of this fiscal year, 210 million dollars will already have been spent on the MHCC, with anti-stigma projects being a primary focus.

Presumably one reduces stigma so that people are more likely to seek help, but we are also told that there are “long waiting lists” for those who seek help now. 

So the question arises: before giving another few million dollars to the MHCC so it can urge students to get help they are not seeking, wouldn’t it make more sense to use this money to get help for those already seeking it?  The 4.5 million dollars requested could buy five psychotherapy sessions for every student at the University of Toronto.  The MHCC budget to date could have paid for 21 million psychotherapy sessions.

Another question: who really benefits from making stigma the focus of the mental health conversation?  Is it a coincidence that this whole campaign was led by “one student from the University of Moncton” who now sits on the MHCC’s Board of Directors?

Is it another coincidence that psychotherapy is simultaneously being transformed by Bill 21 into a therapeutic specialty of doctors and psychologists to the exclusion of non-medically-based therapeutic models?

What if de-stigmatizing “mental illness” really means adopting a medical treatment model that pathologizes all psychological suffering?  What if it really means meeting psychosocial problems with psychological testing and psychiatric diagnoses?

After all, once mental illness is “de-stigmatized,” won't publicly funded programs and insurance companies quite logically require a psychiatric or psychological diagnosis of mental illness before covering psychotherapy?  Yet isn’t it that diagnosis which carries the very stigma that so many fear? And won't more people then be discouraged from simply going to talk to someone, from seeking help in the form of psychotherapeutic support and advice?

Something tells me that the MHCC won't be spending the 4.5 million dollars on considering these questions but on funding another "anti-stigma project" run by someone now sitting on their BOD.

Please sign my petition.

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