Lack of Mental Health Services Leave Advocate Dismayed

Posted January 17, 2011
CATHY DOBSON, The Observer

Sarnians need to speak out about the disarray of local mental health services, says the president of the local Sexual Assault Survivors Centre.

Georgette Parsons says she’s frustrated that so much attention has been given to underfunded mental health agencies and children’s services, yet the problem continues to escalate.

“I’m stymied,” she said. “What’s it going to take? We’ve got a serious problem in this community. In fact, it’s right across Ontario.

“We’ve had forums, we’ve asked for more funding, we’ve had petitions about preventing more suicides, but where has it got us?”

Parsons said the community needs to become even more vocal.

“We’ve got to go big. We need to say a lot more about this,” she said.

Agencies like the Sexual Assault Survivors Centre have been underfunded for years, said Parsons. She has lobbied for more money but the battle is uphill.

Her frustration grew after she reading about a 20-year-old suicidal woman who couldn’t find any services in Sarnia.

The woman’s story, reported earlier this week in The Observer, highlighted the grim reality of a person in crisis who spent days searching for help before
finally getting admitted to hospital in London.

“Enough is enough,” said Parsons. “I want a petition that calls for more support for all social agencies. Everywhere I turn, I see the anguish and it’s
more poignant because of the recession.”

She pointed to a petition on Facebook that calls for saving the Children’s Animal Farm in Canatara Park.

“It got all that attention. Well, come on, this is a crisis. We have to do something. Don’t you think this deserves as much attention as the animal farm?”

The “powers that be” need to hear an outcry so “they”ll have no choice but to intervene,” Parsons said.

Ontario’s’ NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was in Sarnia this week and said the province’s mental health system is failing and needs immediate government intervention.

“What makes it so wrong is that people have to be in significant crisis before they can get any kind of treatment at all,” Horwath said.

The system is “a fragmented patchwork of services that are not accessible and not even available in a lot of places.”

Services for children and youth are even worse off, she said.

To its credit, the government assembled a non-partisan committee to analyze mental health issues, Horwath added.

The committee’s report had many recommendations that the NDP endorsed, including the creation of an overseeing body to co-ordinate mental health services.

“The recommendations are there but now the ball is in the government’s court,” Horwath said.

“Now let’s not leave them on the shelf. Let’s get started with the implementation process.”

Article ID# 2933361

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