Women have unique experiences of mental illness. Women have depression more often than men, for example, and are depressed in different ways. Many women have traumatic experiences that affect their mental health, such as violence and abuse. Mothers with mental illness face particular challenges. Achieving balance between work and home life is one of the keys to improving women’s mental health. Girls are experiencing eating disorders in larger and larger numbers. Youth suicide is increasing.
NCWC has a history of developing strong resolutions and policy in the area of Mental Health. We know too that Councils have developed provincial policies, and programs. The Provincial Council of Women of Manitoba produced, with other community partners, a DVD, The Way We See It, a documentary in support of individuals who live with mental illness and their families. They also released a Discussion Paper, in 2006 which examines Perspectives of Families and Clients within the Current Mental Health System in Manitoba. The paper also shows the importance of Medical Examiner’s Reports and the fact that Enquiry Reports and the recommendations are mostly ignored.
In 2009, NCWC urged the Government of Canada to work with the provinces and territories to:
a) develop a national mental health system which is comprehensive, integrated, and accessible to all, and sensitive to linguistic and communication issues including language and culture that will be accessible to residents of Canada;
b) address as part of the national plan, priority issues including:
i. public education about mental illness
ii. early intervention programs with infants, pre-school children and school age children
iii. community treatment programs for all children, including age-appropriate facilities for adolescents
iv. support for families with children with a mental health illness
v. access to supportive housing for the homeless with mental health problems
vi. treatment for mental illness as an alternative to incarceration or as a component of incarceration for offenders with mental illness, and
vii. reduction of wait times for assessment and treatment
c) ensure adequate funding for mental health services
The World Health Organization (WHO) of Mental Health states: Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
According to WHO, advocacy is the key to building the momentum on mental health. Politicians and the general public are only partly aware of the fact that effective treatment of most mental disorders is possible. The image of mental illness is contaminated with images of violence, sin and laziness. Most health workers are not conversant with modern methods of treatment of mental illness and often do not possess the necessary skills to deal with it. Among them there are many who believe that the only way of dealing with mental illness is long term hospital care. In the majority of countries, including developed ones, there is no parity of care for mental and physical illnesses. Stigma of mental illness gains strength from these misconceptions and reinforces them.
Advocacy objectives include, among others: the promotion of human rights of the persons with mental disorders and of their families, and monitoring the life conditions of people with mental illness and their families. Parity of care needs to be assured in all health schemes.
Successful advocacy efforts require, among others:
- to motivate the decision-makers;
- to empower consumers, families and NGOs by, for example, promoting the establishment and work of the organizations, creating appropriate lobbying bodies;
- to organize and launch with interested parties anti-stigma programmes in all population groups;
- to collaborate with the media by, for example, informing more objectively about problems and solutions, creating a cultural change with regard to issues related to mental disorders;
- to promote, with all parties concerned, programmes leading to reduce the burden of the selected disorders noted above and the risk factors for suicide, particularly of the young, and the provision of support to the survivors; and
- to authoritatively inform decision-makers regarding the mental health impact of economic and social policies.NCWC and NCWC Education Fund will support the work on the Common Program by educating our members, and the community on the very important topic of Women and Mental Health. Following are some basic resources for you to review. We will also identify upcoming programs supported by Local and Provincial Councils so book mark this page, and come back often!