On September 10, the federal government of Canada announced an investment of $11.5 million in funding for mental health and wellness organizations across the country.
In a press conference, Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu mentioned the funding will help promote mental health awareness across the country, as well as tackling systemic challenges and barriers, especially those that are faced by Black Canadians.
The funding will aim to support community-based programs and increase health equity while addressing any underlying determinants of health.
The funds have been distributed through the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Mental Health Promotion Innovation Fund, which will receive $6.6 million, and the Promoting Health Equity: Mental Health of Black Canadians Fund, which will receive $4.9 million.
During the press conference, Hajdu also vocalized her concerns about the increasing rate of opioid overdoses and substance and alcohol abuse since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, the Government of Canada funded the “Wellness Together Canada” online portal, which provides digital mental wellness programs and substance use support to Canadians, in response to growing mental health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the beginning of October, the number of suspected overdose deaths in the Waterloo Region reached 68 within the year, according to data released by the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS). The total number of opioid deaths has surpassed the number of suspected opioid deaths for the previous two years. 2019 saw 63 suspected deaths, and 2018 saw 61.
However, according to CBC News, the co-ordinator of the Region’s integrated drug strategy said a toxic drug supply could be to blame for the higher number of drug fatalities.
Barb Riley, scientific director of the Knowledge Development and Exchange Hub (KDE Hub), located at Renison University College at the University of Waterloo, is thrilled to hear about the funding. Through the Government of Canada’s Mental Health Promotion Innovation Fund (the MHP-IF), the KDE Hub will help support the work of diverse projects focused on supporting mental health promotion among Canadian children and youth.
The KDE Hub engages a diverse range of 20 projects of the MHP-IF. The MHP-IF — funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada — is a national program that aims to improve mental health for individuals and communities where interventions are delivered, as well as to reduce systemic barriers for population mental health and improve public mental health policy and practices in Canada.
These projects anticipate operations in over 120 locations spanning 11 provinces and territories across Canada and include work with diverse groups such as First Nations, Métis, Inuit, newcomers, refugees, immigrants, and LGBTQ2+.
According to Riley, the investment from the federal government is important for creating mental health incentives for both local and national innovations, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think [the federal government] have done a really good job in understanding that you have to learn from these projects, to be able to help make the country a safer, more mentally resilient place into the future,” said Riley.
“Mental health promotion is that protective equipment for people in communities … We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got conditions for strong mental health in the first place, and that’s what we’re doing.”