Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House today as a follow-up to my question on funding for a national framework for mental health. I would like to start today by sharing how mental health has impacted my journey here.
I began my career as an educator. One day, a 14-year-old student got into some trouble in class and was sent down to see me. As we talked, it became clear there was a lot going on. I was aware of some social struggles in the friend group and I knew a bit of family history.
Suddenly and unforgettably, this student for whom I cared deeply, said the words, “I do not want to live anymore.” The student had the means and the motivation to escape this painful experience. The weight of the suffering hung thick in the air. I did what any human would do under the circumstances. I did my best to stumble through the rest of the conversation with empathy, but I recognized very acutely that my colleagues and I were not equipped to navigate the complexities of these conversations with the youth who trusted us the most. I would spend many hours and resources finding the tools to tackle this crisis, and I wish many other Canadians would also have that opportunity.
I am acutely aware of the pain of suicide, as many of us are. We have all lost someone. a cousin, the child of a teammate, a co-worker, a friend, a grandmother. Research shows that approximately 90% of people who die by suicide suffer from mental illness or addiction. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 24. Rates of suicide are three times higher for members of first nations communities than they are for non-indigenous people. Risk factors are directly linked to socio-economic characteristics, including household income, employment status, level of education and family support.
I have shared a story. I have shared the data. I would now like to look to the solution.
Canadian provinces and territories need financial support from the federal government to ensure they can address the mental health crisis impacting families and communities across the nation.
We need to invest in training for professionals across sectors, educators and everyday Canadians to access resources and learning opportunities to support those suffering from mental illness.
We need to invest in a timely diagnosis process. Service providers and families need access to early diagnosis to ensure early intervention.
We need to invest in a national pharmacare system. Canadians should never have the financial anxiety of needing to choose between buying groceries or life-saving medications.
We need to invest in support for sexual assault survivors. This is a massive missing link in this conversation.
We need to invest in support for elders, like intergenerational housing, to avoid isolation and loneliness.
That is why on February 26, I asked the Minister of Finance if the budget would include funding for a national framework on mental health so the provinces and territories could work together to find solutions to address this crisis. I look forward to hearing the response from the hon. member as to how we might come together to restore hope for Canadians across the country.