NationalOpinion

Alberta needs to prioritize long-term mental health supports

Crisis lines are important, but not enough attention is being paid to long-term care

Digital resources appear to be the future of mental health treatment, but that does not mean the system is working.

The United Conservative government recently announced that extra funding will be allocated towards Kids Help Phone and the creation of a new digital hub that connects all existing mental health services and hotlines. Besides Kids Help Phone, this includes Health Link/811, United Way’s 211 and 311. In addition, post-secondary institutions will be receiving $22 million in grants to go towards 24/7 support.

These decisions seem to continue Alberta Health Services’ investment in band-aid solutions when it comes to mental health, rather than seriously addressing underlying issues. Instead of just providing resources for people in acute crisis, more attention should be paid towards ongoing care as well.

The majority of mental health hotlines are not known by most people, and are designed for use when one is in a critical state. A caller can only be redirected to a therapist or to emergency services in urgent situations. Eventually, these people are turned away until the next crisis emerges rather than gaining access to long-term treatment.

For people hoping to receive more permanent and reliable care for their mental health, it is not currently offered by the province. Time between appointments prevents consistent treatment strategies. This prevents patients from being able to remain with their practioner. It is possible that the hiring of more professional therapists could lift the weight of some of the burden, but it doesn’t seem like that will happen anytime soon. Eventually, all routes lead towards private care. Going private may not even be an option for all however, due to the high prices charged per appointment.

Another issue the province must come to terms with is the barriers created through the lack of diversity. Therapists without accommodations for cultural differences, language barriers, and proper training for specific conditions can become troublesome for people who wish to have their voices heard. We need better long-term mental health supports for all Albertans, regardless of background or mental health condition.

In the future, the provincial government must put the sustainability of their mental health services into consideration. With the limits on spending due to Budget 2019, any decisions made should be calculated ones. If these resources are to be used by all Albertans, they should reflect the needs of Albertans.

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