Last week we lost Carrie Fisher, who died drowning in moonlight, strangled by her own bra. The perils of lingerie in outer space are endless. We lost many great people in 2016, but this was the death that hit me the hardest. Carrie Fisher had been a personal hero of mine, not so much for her portrayal of Princess Leia because I grew up under a boulder and never saw her in that role until The Force Awakens. But because of her writing, particularly her frankness about her experience living with bipolar disorder, I saw her as a person to look up to.
I won’t presume that I wrote today’s article in honour of Carrie Fisher, but I have wanted to write something like this, and it seemed more fitting than writing a proper eulogy for some reason. I pity the dead I may need to honour in the future. What I wanted to do today was to write about mental health services in Toronto, coming from a place of knowing how difficult it can be for people to connect to resources, especially while contending with the very issue that makes seeking these resources necessary.
The first thing I can tell you is that, at the very least, there are services out there, and figuring this out is relatively easy. A quick Google search will take you to lists upon lists of services that are available in Toronto; the city’s website has a neat little list with short descriptions of what each service entails, and a page with another list that focuses specifically on services for youth. The Toronto branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association also provides different community support programs, employment services, and family support among other types of assistance. The trouble is navigating all this information, and that is where the Mental Health Helpline comes in.
The Ontario Mental Health Helpline is probably the most comprehensive resource we have for mental health services. It is basically there to help you navigate the programs and services that exist according to your needs, though it does require calling a number. They understand how complicated it can be to pin down exactly what a person in distress needs. I called in to get a general overview of the resources in Toronto and was told that such a thing would be incredibly difficult, judging how complex mental health is, the fact that many services require referrals, how tough it is to pin down a diagnosis to begin with, and the fact that Toronto is composed of many regions which sometimes have their own resources. They, if anyone, will at least understand how difficult it is to seek help, and will make the process somewhat easier. Here’s the number, for easy access: 1-866-531-2600.
Canada as a whole is not famed for its commitment to mental health; a 2011 study found that we spend much less per capita on mental health than most of our peer nations. Fixing the system may be a daunting task, but if you are able, it is possible to volunteer with organizations that provide support. You can volunteer with distress centres, and with the Canadian Mental Health Association.
If you’re experiencing distress, please reach out. It’s difficult, and it may not seem worthwhile when you’re in the thick of it, but believe me, the world will be better off if you fight and survive. We need you. This puppy, in particular, is rooting for you.