Liberal leader and incoming prime minister Justin Trudeau hugs his mother Margaret Trudeau as he makes his way on stage at Liberal party headquarters in Montreal on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015 after winning the 42nd Canadian general election. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canada has to improve its mental health care and access to acute mental health services across the country, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Speaking during an episode of the popular television show The Social aired Wednesday night, Trudeau said he has directed Health Minister Jane Philpott to make improving mental health care and destigmatizing mental health problems a priority.
“Yes, we need a mental health strategy but we also need mental health action and that is where I have tasked her to work with the provinces, to work across the country with experts and professionals to figure out whether it’s veterans with PTSD, whether it is addiction issue in First Nations communities, whether it’s just dealing with depression in the workplace and lost economic activity, we have to lean in across the board and be much more proactive about the mental health side of our health system.”
“That’s exactly what she has started to do and I’m really excited about how it’s going.”
Under the constitution, health care is a provincial responsibility. However, Trudeau said the federal government has to do more to take the lead.
“The federal government needs to first of all show some leadership around health care. We have, over the past years, seen a federal government that has stepped back from working with the provinces on all range of health care and the health care system. By starting to lean in, that’s a really important thing.”
While hospitals do a really great job if you show up with a health crisis like a heart attack, it’s not always the case when it’s a mental health crisis, he said.
“Why should it be any different with mental health – particularly when we know (that) if you’re in crisis and you need help and you try to reach out and you hear ‘Well yes, we can schedule you a meeting with a psychiatrist a month and a half from now.’ You’re like ‘Yeah, but I’m in crisis now and I need help now.’”
“So getting the system to understand the need for immediate, acute mental health care and crisis care is a huge part of how we’re going to get a system that is responding to real needs out there.”
Trudeau said his government also wants to do a better job of handling mental health problems in the military and among veterans.
“When they come home some of them are going to need help and we haven’t done a good enough job as a society, different governments all together, in giving them the kind of health (they need),” he said, pointing to Israel where older veterans also help younger veterans deal with problems like PTSD.
Trudeau said he would also like to see more support for police officers who are often the front line people dealing with those in mental health crisis.
“We do have to do a better job of empowering them, supporting them, training them but already, I have to say, they are doing, by and large, an exceptional job in very, very difficult circumstances.”
Trudeau’s appearance was part of Wednesday’s Bell Let’s Talk campaign, which is trying to raise awareness about mental health problems and encourage Canadians to share their experiences.
Trudeau, whose mother Margaret Trudeau was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, shared stories from his own childhood, growing up with his mother’s mental health problems.
“I got to see the resilience and the strength that comes through, not always being externally super and all put together…but being vulnerable and being open and really demonstrating a real core resilience and strength.”
Trudeau admitted his job as prime minister is stressful and full of surprises. But while his wife encourages him to do yoga, he said he finds walks in the woods, canoeing and boxing much better ways to relieve stress.