Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bell's "Let's Talk" mental health campaign is good, but more action needs to be taken

I commend the people working for Bell's "Let's Talk" mental health campaign who are bringing attention to the issue of mental health in a dignified way. It takes a lot of courage to share a story about mental illness, especially when there continues to be so much stigma attached to mental health issues in Canada. Overcoming the stigma by talking openly about mental illness and raising awareness are important steps in dealing with the issue of mental health--we cannot provide resources for mental health issues and treat them properly if we don't acknowledge the importance of mental health in the first place.

However, Bell's "Let's Talk" mental health campaign does not go far enough. It is not enough just to talk about mental health for one day--mental health awareness and activism should be encouraged every day of the year. If Bell really wants to be a leader in promoting better mental health, they should be supporting mental health initiatives all year round, not just one day. Bell is a large company with many resources--they have the power to change the way mental health issues are dealt with in Canada.

Another problem with Bell's "Let's Talk" mental health campaign is the fact that no real changes are happening at the political level to ensure that people who need to access mental health care actually get help. Kelly Bradley, a woman from British Columbia, is still struggling to get better mental health care in her province. Her adopted daughter with bipolar disorder was turned away from the hospital three times, despite being in a crisis. Kelly Bradley has set up a petition to advocate for better mental health care in British Columbia: http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/b-c-needs-to-provide-emergency-mental-health-services-for-children

Kelly Bradley isn't alone. Despite Bell's "Let's Talk" mental health campaign that has been running for the past few years, people suffering from mental illness are still falling through the cracks. On March 9, 2013, Toronto resident Christopher "Kit" Skelly killed himself, because he could no longer bear to live with schizophrenia. If appropriate mental health resources were already in place, Skelly's needless death could have been prevented. How many more tragedies similar to that of Christopher "Kit" Skelly need to happen before real change in Canada's mental health care system takes place?

As a society, we need to stand together and demand better from our mental health care system. Sign petitions that advocate for better mental health care. When politicians say there is not enough money to fund mental health care, force them to find the funding. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and should be treated as such. We would not tell someone with cancer or any other physical chronic disease to wait for treatment, yet why do we have a completely different attitude when it comes to mental health? If the mental health care system does not change, more people will continue to fall through the cracks.

Doctors and other professionals working in the mental health field also need to take the lead in this matter--when a patient is concerned about their mental health, take their concerns seriously. Listen to what your patient has to say, and treat the cause of the problem, not the symptoms. Psychiatrists who do nothing but over-medicate their patients without treating the cause of the problem also need to be held responsible for their unethical practices.
Above all, attitudes towards mental health must change. The next time you see someone who is upset in any way, whether he or she is suicidal or even just having a case of "the blues", listen to that person. Don't dismiss their concerns by saying "it's all in your head" or anything else along that line. Someone could look like he or she has it all on the outside, but on the inside, that person is facing real mental health issues. Reach out and help that person--we cannot afford to have more tragedies like that of Christopher "Kit" Skelly.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ongoing Syrian crisis leaves Syrian female refugees at risk for forced marriages, abuse

The failure of politicians to deal with the Syrian conflict effectively has now left Syrian female refugees vulnerable to forced marriages! By continuing to ignore what's happening in Syria, politicians in the West are also complicit in the Syrian crisis, by allowing Syrian female refugees to be exploited through their inaction! Syrian female youth are also at risk for forced marriages--this issue must be dealt with immediately! Authority figures and imams in Jordan also have a responsibility to protect Syrian females, and intervene immediately if they suspect any kind of exploitation! The government of Bashar al-Assad and other human rights abusers must be punished for their actions--an intervention that respects the rights of Syrians is long overdue! The longer Syrians are ignored, the stronger the distrust between Syrians and the West will become!
To help protect Syrian female refugees, please sign the following petition: http://forcechange.com/71262/protect-female-syrian-refugees-from-sexual-assault-and-forced-marriages/

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hosting the 2024 Summer Olympic Games is a major waste of money for Toronto!

Toronto should not host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games--there are far more important things that the city of Toronto should be spending its money on. One of the many issues facing Toronto is the aftermath of the ice storm that hit in December 2013--let's focus on cleanup and recovery efforts instead. Another issue facing Toronto is public transit--Toronto is a large city that needs an efficient public transit system. Homelessness is another major problem in Toronto--more resources should be put into dealing with this crisis.
If Toronto gets to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, it will be a disaster in the long run. The few short-term benefits provided by getting international media attention for a few days will be vastly offset by the long-term consequences of the large financial costs. The city of Toronto will also pay more over time if it funds the 2024 Olympic Games, but fails to find solutions to the various issues that affect it, such as homelessness. The bid for the 2024 Olympic Games is too risky--let's not take that chance!
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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Despite new guidelines, Bangladeshi garment workers continue to be exploited

The latest revelations showing that Bangladeshi garment workers continue to be abused despite new guidelines prove yet again that factory managers have no respect for workers' lives! Bangladeshi garment workers continue to be overworked and underpaid, and it is clear that more pressure needs to be put on the managers to treat their workers fairly! Another clash between garment workers and management has left one female worker dead and several other workers injured--how many more tragedies need to happen before the rights of Bangladeshi garment workers are taken seriously?!
I would like to send my condolences to the family and friends of 20 year old Parvin Akhter (no relation), the female worker who died of a severe head injury during the clash. She was a young woman who died much too soon, and her death could have been prevented, had the factory managers given their workers proper wages. I am also concerned about the other workers who were injured in the clash. Nobody should have to struggle THIS MUCH just to get a living wage!
To put more pressure on Bangladeshi factory managers to treat their workers fairly, please sign the following petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/jc-penney-gap-co-put-an-end-to-the-murders-of-garment-workers-in-bangladesh 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Police officer who threatened to tie homeless man to pole is cruel and callous!

The police officer who threatened to tie a homeless man to a pole in the freezing cold should be fired from his job! This is no way to treat one of the most vulnerable members of our society! Other ways of dealing with this homeless man were possible--the police officer could have arranged for a social worker to take the homeless man to a shelter without being in a police car, or offered some other kind of help in a non-threatening way! Instead, the police officer chose to abuse his power, and has aggravated tensions between homeless people and the police through his actions!
What is your reaction to this story?