Alleviating Life Stress
In my experience, a lot of mental health issues are tied into lacking basic necessities such as housing and food. As a unified council, we should push back on the province and create a coalition of city councils who demand the province fund accessible, low income housing. We need to insist that they raise social service incomes like the Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works. We also must petition them to pay for mental health programs and properly fund healthcare so people actually have options. Council can work with the Federal government, Wellington County and local poverty groups to help fund local housing initiatives.
I would motion that we create tax incentives for developers who build rent-geared-to-income housing, and that we give property tax rebates to homeowners who rent to people who use social services.
Many groups are providing services to help these populations in lieu of the province doing their job; council can support them. I would move for motions to help fund their work, shifting around funds from other city services that would be freed up by the results of helping that community improve their lives.
Training in Mental Health Responses
Some other things we can do include educating first responders and front-line service providers with training to help people living with mental illness or at risk of suicide. We can improve services needed by people living with mental health problems or illnesses to improve quality of life and help with affordability (such as free transit, libraries and sliding scale costs for programs offered by the city).
Leading by Example
We can also lead by example with mentally healthy workplaces to reduce short and long-term disability claims and increase quality of life for city staff. As a project manager who has led large teams, I have always been a supporter of work life balance. I'm a disabled single parent, so I definitely support being able to have ample family time. I would love to reduce stigmas around mental health problems and illnesses.
Providing Space for Community
Through locations like the library, we could support programs where people can get together and create community. Sometimes just knowing you're not alone can make all the difference.
I know as a disabled person policing responses to mental health issues can be problematic. I had a meeting with the police equity officer about LGTBQ+ and minority treatment as well as mental health issues. We agreed that criminalization of infractions due to mental health issues isn't helpful long term, and police need better training in this area. Our prison system is not equipped to help people so we need to work on better solutions that include all levels of government. I am committed to working with all groups to find a solution.