A motion introduced by the Official Opposition and proposing the creation of a mental health advocate position was unanimously passed, last week in the Legislative Assembly.
Motion 12, introduced by Monique LeBlanc, MLA for Moncton East, and seconded by Robert McKee, MLA for Moncton Centre, urged the Conservative government to create the position of a mental health advocate, with the status of legislative officer, as an impartial and independent voice for persons with mental health issues and caregivers of family members acting on their behalf. Following government’s refusal to create a new legislative officer position, Liberal MLAs amended their motion and proposed the creation of a mental health advocate position. The motion as amended received unanimous support from the government and the other two opposition parties.
Monique LeBlanc says that she wanted the debate to remain apolitical. “Mental health affects all New Brunswickers. It was important not to fall into political partisanship. I am therefore happy that this motion was passed unanimously.” The member for Moncton East emphasized the importance of giving the new advocate the means to respond to the mental health needs of the population. “In order for it to be passed, we had to reduce the scope of our motion. Nonetheless, I believe it is a step in the right direction. Going forward, it will be necessary to ensure that it is an independent senior position with sufficient resources. ”
Robert McKee, Opposition critic for Justice and seconder of the motion stressed the urgency of the situation. “The 2009 Together for the Future Report contained more than 80 recommendations, some of which have yet to be implemented. The latest statistics clearly show that the situation has become critical. We must act quickly and strengthen our capacity to respond to mental health needs. ”
An advocate for mental health, Paul Ouellet was a present at the Legislature during the debate on the motion. “It is clear that this motion will advance the issue of mental health: people with mental illness will finally have a voice and someone to defend them. The fact that the vote was unanimous is a good sign and I hope that all political parties will now work in the same direction, “said Ouellet. “This is a first step. I hope that the creation of the position will be reflected in the next provincial budget, that it will be a senior position and that it will be totally independent. ”
According to Statistics Canada, suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 20 to 29 and the third leading cause of death for adults aged 30 to 44. Of the 4,000 people who die in Canada each year as a result of suicide, more than 90% had a mental health problem. In its latest report, the New Brunswick Health Council also reported that 48% of students surveyed in the province had had symptoms of anxiety and depression in the past school year. Globally, productivity losses from depression and anxiety are estimated at about $ 1.3 trillion a year, according to the World Health Organization.