On March 16, NSCSW joined together with the Nova Scotia Division of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA-NS) and the Nova Scotia office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA-NS), supported by Senator Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard and SENgage, to create our first Advocacy Day.
Bringing together community stakeholders, social workers, first voice advocates and research experts, this event was composed of two parts: a morning community forum directed to the Office of Addictions and Mental Health, and an afternoon advocacy presentation to government leadership. We were especially hopeful because Dr. Sam Hickcox affirmed that we were “preaching to the choir” and that he wanted to schedule a follow up conversation with the speakers. We are actively working to follow up with him in order to make this happen, as well as sharing with his office the direct chat transcripts of the event, which contained many thoughtful questions and comments from participants.
Our goal was to advocate for a broad community consultation, and create an opportunity for government leaders to hear directly from those affected by their policies. We also are working to ensure that these community conversations continue, and that any mental health strategy developed be grounded in the voices and perspectives of first voice speakers, and utilize an evidence-based and intersectional social justice policy framework with a strong focus on the psychosocial determinants of health.
As part of our ongoing advocacy efforts, we are hoping to create a broad community mandate for this work. As such, we invite all who attended our event, as well as all others who wish to do so, to sign our open letter, which we intend to share with our government leaders. While individually, our voices may be easy to dismiss, we believe that combined, we have the potential to transform policy and, indeed, lives.
Here’s how you can join in:
- Share this page and the Advocacy Day videos with people who weren’t able to join us
- Morning session: Turning promises into policy
- Afternoon session: Advocating for intersectional social justice policies in Nova Scotia
- Sign the open letter below: scroll to the bottom of the page and add a comment with your name.
- If you represent an organization that wishes to co-sign the letter and partner on future advocacy efforts, please contact [email protected].
We are joining our voices with those of the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers (NSCSW), which partnered with the Nova Scotia Division of the Canadian Association of Mental Health (CMHA-NS), and the Nova Scotian office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA-NS), to create its first Advocacy Day in March 2022.
Together, we are advocating for a profound shift in the way mental health services are currently being delivered, away from addressing mental health concerns as if they were purely biological and medical conditions, or ones that short-term individual counseling can resolve alone.
- We believe that no amount of individual, short-term behavioral therapy or pharmaceutical medication will be enough to fully help someone whose struggle against systemic barriers of poverty, oppression and discrimination has led them to a place of hopelessness.
- Our well-being is inextricably linked with the well-being of every other living being, and the well-being of the eco-system within which we live.
- We also believe in the therapeutic benefit of clients recognizing the root systemic causes of their symptoms of distress.
- We affirm that any policy to address mental health services in Nova Scotia must be part of a plan that centres the psychosocial determinants of health.
- We request that all policy be developed, grounded in the voices and perspectives of first-voice community members, clients and other stakeholders.
We, the undersigned, are joining with the NSCSW and their partners CMHA-NS and CCPA-NS because we intend:
- to hold our elected leaders accountable to their promises, in particular to ensure a greater investment in universal mental health services for Nova Scotians;
- to ensure that the agenda of the Office of Addiction and Mental Health is aligned with voices of addiction and mental health community stakeholders;
- to ensure that government decisions and priorities are grounded in the voices, experiences and perspectives of the community, and reflect the need to ensure that services are delivered in ways that are culturally safe and accessible for a diverse community; and
- to advocate for social policy and legislation that is broad, inclusive and intersectional.
It is our hope that the Advocacy Day events on March 16, 2022, will contribute to an ongoing dialogue that will build communication, collaboration and transparency between community and government, in order to improve the mental health and well-being of all Nova Scotians.
By signing our name to this letter, we commit to continuing to advocate for these principles.
Nova Scotia College of Social Workers
Canadian Mental Health Association — Nova Scotia Division
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives — Nova Scotia Office