A call to end discrimination in mental health

Note: David Sweet is my local federal Member of Parliament in Canada. This past summer at an Ontario street festival, I had a chance to promote awareness of men’s issues with Mr. Sweet. One of those issues was male suicide. I recently sent a letter to Mr. Sweet to follow up in more detail.—DP.

October 7, 2014

Mr. David Sweet, MP
484 Confederation Building
Ottawa Ontario
Canada K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Sweet,

We spoke briefly at the Dundas, Ontario, Cactus Festival this past August. We talked for about 10 minutes, and I explained to you how men face issues from the cradle to the grave. One of the topics we discussed was men’s mental health and the fact that men are 76% of the suicide population. For certain age groups, such as those at university, men are 80% of the suicide population. I wanted to follow up with you sooner and personally deliver this letter to your office in Ottawa, but unfortunately circumstances did not permit.

Eight men a day are killing themselves in Canada, and given that the province of Ontario has close to 40% of Canada’s population, approximately three of those men will be here. We both expressed profound concern at men committing the vast majority of suicides, as well as professing our mutual desire to help put an end to this tragic fact.

In the course of the conversation, you had mentioned how your party, the Conservative Party of Canada, had produced a paper on male suicides. The most recent one I have found was written in 2012, and the situation has not improved.

However, I recently found myself shocked and somewhat disgusted to learn just how little Canadian society, and its government, values men’s mental health.

The Movember Foundation, the charity organization best known for raising awareness about prostate cancer, donated approximately $12 million toward men’s mental health last year. This dwarfs what the Canadian government has contributed to men’s mental health over the past 15 years, according to Professor John Oliffe:

“The $12 million that Movember Canada is spending on men’s mental health is unprecedented,” said Oliffe, explaining that it dwarfs what Canada’s government-funded health research bodies have spent in the field in the past 15 years. (http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Douglas+Todd+Unprecedented+effort+improve+mental+health/10138302/story.html#ixzz3EuyIUYS8)

Applying Professor Oliffe’s claims, that works out to less than $1 million a year invested to correct a problem the Canadian government has known about at least since 1995, when this was written about in a Statistics Canada paper by Kathryn Wilkins.

I have researched and written on this topic twice and have found a glaring discrepancy in the amount of literature on women’s mental health compared with men’s mental health: 11 papers compared with 1, with 1 common to both so I didn’t include it in my tabulation (http://www.avoiceformen.com/men/mens-issues/suicide-the-problem-they-claim-to-be-working-on-but-arent/).

I believe you will remember Hamilton’s loss of Sergeant Ian Matthews last December (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/hamilton-police-officer-ian-matthews-dies-after-shooting-himself-at-central-station-1.2467867).

I am also aware of another recent incident in which a police officer killed himself in the Ottawa area (http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/the-unspoken-toll-police-suffering-in-silence).

The number of military personnel who died by their own hands over the past 10 years is higher than all who were killed in combat while in Afghanistan. And again the vast majority of those suicide victims are men (http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/09/16/suicide_claims_more_soldiers_than_those_killed_by_afghan_combat.html and http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/news/article.page?doc=suicide-and-suicide-prevention-in-the-canadian-armed-forces/hgq87xvu).

Our military and first responders experience higher rates of suicide than the general population and yet the contributions of the very nation and government they serve is eclipsed by a $12 million donation by a single charity.

Mr. Sweet, I believe all Members of Parliament, along with Canadians across our great nation, will agree this simply is not acceptable.

Therefore, I am asking you and all Members of Parliament to bring forth legislation to remedy this tragic oversight.

Dan Perrins,
Canadian News Director at A Voice for Men

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