Many Mondays ago, my house was full of people. Employees, my sales manager, my best friend visiting from out of town, and my wife. All these people were oblivious to the most pressing thing going on in my head, which was that I wanted to die.
I’d been having suicidal thoughts for years but hadn’t acted on the impulses. The reasons were complicated. I hated myself but loved those around me too much to be able to do it, so on I went.
That Monday I couldn’t pretend I was okay, but I couldn’t fall apart in front of everyone. I went to my bedroom, pulled the comforter over my head and lay there crying hoping the oxygen would run out. It didn’t. Eventually my wife came looking for me. Her finding me was the start of my journey towards recovery.
I’m grateful my mental health issues are a thing of the past, but I’m all too aware that many people struggle daily. I was fortunate. My wife was incredibly supportive. She helped me get through that day and we were able to access the necessary mental health resources (counseling and medication) in fairly short order. My wife’s workplace benefits program covered some of the costs and we were fortunate we could afford the rest.
Not everyone has the ability to access the mental health resources necessary to get them through a crisis. If you’re in need of counseling, navigating the healthcare system to get the appropriate care can be a huge challenge. Some services are covered by OHIP and others are not. As one might expect, there’s quite a long wait time to see an OHIP funded practitioner but if you have the money you can access private services faster.
Today is Bell’s “Let’s Talk” day. This is my attempt at talking, but what I think we really need to do is act. Individually we are starting to recognize that mental health is just as important an issue and should be treated as seriously as one’s physical health. That’s good, but collectively we need to step up and direct our politicians to properly fund mental health care in the public healthcare system.
If you need a triple bypass because of heart disease it will be fully funded by OHIP. If you need cognitive behavioural therapy you’ll wait months or even years before being able to access an OHIP funded psychiatrist or psychologist. On the Ontario government website that outlines what OHIP covers, the phrase “mental health” doesn’t even show up. (Link here.)
I know I was lucky to be able to get help quickly. It is my hope that in addition to talking about mental health, removing the stigma that has surrounded it and learning how to be supportive of those who are suffering from mental health issues that as a society we will commit to working together to create a system that provides quality, publicly-funded mental health care in a timely fashion to all Ontarians.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call ConnexOntario at 1-866-531-2600 or click here to find a local Niagara crisis line.
You can also call 911 and explain to the operator what is happening.
If you are able, you can also visit the nearest hospital emergency department.