Mental Health: The Impact on Business & Canadians

Opening Address by Brianne Moore, National Co-chair

Canadians for Equitable Access to Depression Medication (CEADM)

to

Sandra Rotman Centre for Health Strategy Inaugural Conference on

Mental Health: The Impact on Business & Canadians

I am 1 in 5 Canadians living with a mental health disorder. I’m a daughter, sister, friend, volunteer, and mental health advocate. I love dancing, and Broadway shows. I prefer Starbucks over Tim Hortons. That is what makes me, me. But, I am also 1 in 5 Canadians living with a mental health disorder.

My struggle with mental health began at a very young age. I was 3 when I first began experiencing severe anxiety. I was constantly worrying about things that other kids my age were not worried about. I once had a panic attack watching Sesame Street, and I didn’t go trick-or-treating until I was 10. My loved ones just thought I had fears, and there was hope I would eventually outgrow these feelings of worry as a teenager. No one understood the extent of what was going on, and I was too young to explain it.

I was 13 when I started grade 8. My anxiety was under control, but I began to feel very depressed. I also felt angry, and I began disobeying my teachers at school. I didn’t know how to cope with all of these intense feelings, and I began self-harming. It wasn’t until I began struggling with low moods and self-harm that I learned about mental health. Despite struggling with mental health from a young age, I didn’t know that your brain could experience illness, just like the rest of your body. Once I had the awareness of being able to identify how I was feeling, I knew I wanted help, I just wasn’t sure how to get it.

Although I identified I wanted help when I was 13, I didn’t commit to treatment until my final year of high school. I had let my depression become so unmanageable I was feeling physically ill from anxiety, I had been attempting suicide, and I even lived in a shelter for a portion of my senior year. I was struggling to find help in a mental health system where the wait lists were up to a year-long, and I was unable to find a medication that would work well in managing my symptoms. While waiting for treatment, I received my diagnosis. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Persistent Depressive Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. After receiving my diagnosis I began an intensive program for 5 months, and I attended therapy 4 days a week. Recovery is not easy, but as I worked hard to learn coping strategies, I saw an improvement in my mood. I learned that even though I was always going to struggle with mental illness, sick was not the only thing I was ever going to be.

Despite all the obstacles I was facing, I was able to find purpose in my struggles. I was in a group called IMUM, and we gave presentations to grade 9 students in our school about mental health. In 2015, I won the Royal Ottawa Youth Inspiration Award for my work in IMUM. Despite being in the hospital during senior exams, I still graduated high school, and received a scholarship for my community involvement. These accomplishments remind me that you can do anything you set your mind to, no matter what life throws at you.

Recovery is not linear, it is constantly up and down. I have bad days, and good days, but now I have the skills to take care of myself on the days that feel impossible. Anxiety and depression will be lifelong illnesses I have to manage, but I have come far along enough in my recovery that

I no longer fit the criteria for a diagnosis of BPD. Recovery is not a decision you make once, it is a decision you make every day.

Recovery is a decision that I am making every day, and I accomplishing things that I never thought were possible. I continue to share the story of my journey with mental illness across Ontario, and I advocate for better access to mental health services. In May, I received the Sharon Johnston Youth Mental health Award from Canadian Alliance for Mental Health and Mental Illness.

I now serve on a national coalition called Canadians for Equitable Access to Depression Medications. We are advocating for every Canadian to have access to innovative depression medications. These medications are not available for Canadians without private insurance, because the current public drug plan does not cover these innovative medications. Canadians like me won’t know if these medications can really make a difference in our recovery if they aren’t even offered to us.

Recently, we commissioned Nanos Research to conduct a national research project with CEADM, to find out how Canadians feel about access to depression medication. Through our national omnibus survey, we learned that 8 in 10 Canadians believe public health plans should include innovative depression medication, and that 91% of Canadians believe this access should be high or at least medium priority for our government. The results are clear, Canadians feel the access to innovative depression medication should be better. When we conducted in-

depth interviews of our participants, they told us things like “I have it somewhat easy because i have benefits, a good pharmacist and doctor. It would be difficult if I lost my job.” I am calling on all political parties at all levels of government, to make a commitment to Canadians with depression, that barriers to accessing these medications will be removed. Access to innovative medications should not an employment lottery.

We’ve come a long way, but there is still so much work to be done in ending stigma, and making mental health care more accessible. My biggest hopes for the future, are that we can end the mental health stigma, that every Canadian can access mental health treatment in a timely manner, and that the insurance will not be what stops Canadians from accessing the full range of depression medications. All of us being here today is a step in the right direction. I’ve told you my story today, and now the power of continuing the conversation is in your hands. How are you going to advocate for the 1 in 5 Canadians struggling with a mental illness? I hope everyone leaves the conference today feeling empowered to take action in their own communities, to advocate for 1 in 5. Our voices are strong and powerful, and people will listen to us. Thank you for listening.

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