Lloyd Longfield hosts mental health town hall meeting


Panel listens to Guelph’s mental health concerns

Lloyd Longfield, member of parliament for Guelph, hosted a mental health town hall meeting at Evergreen Seniors Community Centre on Monday, April 24. With the 2017 federal budget allocating $5 billion over 10 years to support mental health initiatives, town hall meetings such as this are being used across Canada to listen to the needs of communities.    

Longfield was joined by panelists Brenda Whiteside, Dr. Margaret McKinnon, Michelle Martin, and Fred Wagner to start a conversation about supporting mental health initiatives in Guelph.

Whiteside, associate vice-president of student affairs at the University of Guelph, shared many statistics on mental health issues faced by postsecondary students and the services that the University offers in terms of mental health professionals.

Whiteside stated that it is not solely the University’s role to be mental health specialists but the community’s role.

The question and answer period provided community members the opportunity to voice their frustrations with existing mental health services. Among these speakers was the mother of a University of Guelph student who died of suicide.

She cited the wait-times associated with mental health emergencies versus physical injuries, the treatment of individuals who are waiting for care, the environment they must wait in, and the lack of resources provided to family members as areas needing improvement. These sentiments were repeated by other speakers, who expressed additional concerns about the expense of mental health services and their taxation.

There was also a question about whether the University was allocating resources to study the relationship between cannabis and depression, since the government is planning on legalizing it.

Whiteside said that the University is concentrating on understanding why youth are drinking and taking drugs in the first place.

Longfield added that part of the legislation to legalize marijuana involved an education component as well as providing funding for treatment and research.

McKinnon, senior scientist at Homewood Research Institute and professor at McMaster University, stated that the research shows there is a stronger link between cannabis and psychosis than cannabis and depression.

The town hall focused on the bigger picture of mental health in Guelph through its other panelists. McKinnon discussed post-traumatic stress disorder and its impact on veterans and first responders.

Martin, executive director at the Alzheimer Society of Waterloo Wellington, asked the audience to imagine the challenges associated with dementia, the toll it has on one’s self-worth, and the relationship between diminished self-worth and depression.

Wagner, executive director at the Canadian Mental Health Association of Waterloo Wellington, discussed local supports and outreach.

He informed audiences about the phone helpline—Here 24/7—which helps callers by directing them to services for addictions, mental health, and crisis. Wagner also stated that one of the biggest needs in the Guelph area is decent housing; he explained the importance of having a decent place to live on the improvement of mental health.    

Longfield concluded the meeting by stating that this was the start of an ongoing conversation and that he would like to keep speaking to the community about mental health; he encouraged the audience to make appointments to meet with him.

Photo by Mirali Almaula/The Ontarion.

3 Comments

  • Lloyd Longfield April 26, 2017 5:02 pm

    Thank-you for attending and providing this summary Mirali. It was really good to have the Ontarian present.

    • Lloyd Longfield April 26, 2017 5:03 pm

      sorry Ontarion (I always get that wrong) sorry again

    • Mirali April 28, 2017 3:22 pm

      Thanks, I hope to see these important conversations continue in our community. And, not to worry, re: spelling, happens all the time.

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