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Rally targets mental health gaps

Aug 15 2012

A Victoria non-profit society is gearing up for its second annual rally to raise awareness about mental health issues and suicide.

The Society for the Development of Treatment Services expects hundreds of people to again link arms through city streets Sept. 8 and "connect the dots" in support of seamless mental health services.

The Dots B.C. rally drew about 300 people last fall, but founder Jean Oliver hopes to boost this year's turnout by extending the invitation to anyone affected by mental health issues and suicide.

"I want to support survivors in general, anyone who's been touched by suicide in the health care field, or [through] their family member, or someone who has survived an attempt like I have."

Oliver said organizers want to eliminate long waits for psychiatric services and plug gaps in the system that allow teenagers to go untreated because they fit neither pediatric nor adult care models.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada reported in May that one in five Canadians experience a mental health problem or illness in any given year at a cost to the economy of more than $50 billion.

Yet, unlike other health conditions, only one in three people with a mental health problem - and as few as one in four children or youth - report that they have sought and received services and treatment, the commission said.

"Considerable progress is being made across the country, yet we are still very far from where we need to be."

The commission released a national mental health strategy that recommended governments increase annual spending on mental health from seven to nine per cent of overall health dollars. The spending hike would total about $4 billion a year.

Oliver said it's time that governments acted on the strategy. She said that people can put a human face on the issue and show how many are affected by it by taking part in the rally.

"We have to come together in big enough numbers that the government starts to think its worth their while to pay attention to us and to ask us what we need," she said.

The rally will begin at 10 a.m. on the lawn of the B.C. legislature before heading down city streets.

For more information, go to www.dotsbc.com.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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