MP Pam Damoff Sends Letter To Health Minister Asking Funds From Budget Be Used For Perinatal Mental Health

Today, MP Pam Damoff wrote and sent this incredible letter on our behalf to Health Minister Patty Hajdu supporting our asks as well as suggesting funding be set aside from the recent Budget for Perinatal Mental Health research, awareness, organizations, and holistic resources based on Indigenous principles including peer-to-peer supports and mentors from the community trained in culturally appropriate prevention and treatment methods. Thank you MP Damoff!! 💙💚

Here is her entire letter:

Dear Minister Hajdu,

In Canada, 20% of women and 10% of men suffer from perinatal mental illness; rates during the COVID-19 global pandemic have doubled.

Perinatal mental health refers to the time period from conception to one-year postpartum and can include and/or postpartum anxiety, depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and psychosis. Our government knows that women especially, have been significantly more impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic than men, this includes their mental health.

I recently met with the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative (CPMHC) to discuss what our government can do to support maternal and paternal mental health. When discussing this issue, it was clear, mothers and pregnant women during the pandemic have felt more hopeless and isolated than before. This is an issue that is not talked about enough, I had a phone call with a constituent who was young mother of two this past month who felt lost and without support during the Pandemic, this broke my heart.

According to CPMHC, 87% of health care practitioners in Canada do not have mandated screening for perinatal mental illness at their workplace. Perinatal mental health services differ across health regions. More than half of health care practitioners surveyed (57.3%) reported that they have not received specialized training in PMADs or were unsure if they received specialized training. Perinatal Mental Health Care differs across the provinces which makes this type of care inconsistent and unstable.

CPMHC is calling for a national strategy and clear guidelines across the board that prioritizes equitable mental health care for parents in all Canadian Jurisdictions. They are also asking for targeted perinatal mental health care funding allocated to each province and territory to administer perinatal mental health programs.

With the recent discovery of 215 children buried at the Indian Kamloops Residential School, acknowledgement and active incorporation of the specific and related Calls to Action as specified in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), with emphasis on core principles 18 to 24, named in the TRC health section are more important now than ever. Implementing these calls to action would support Indigenous mothers and Indigenous women who are pregnant who are need of mental health supports. Increased funding for perinatal mental health research in Canada and funding for increased perinatal mental health awareness in Canada would also be beneficial to this cause. The creation of a collaborative Perinatal Mental Health Strategy Team would ensure these recommendations become a reality.

I support all these asks from CPMHC and think we can set aside funding from Budget 2021 that supports Perinatal Mental Health. For example, Budget 2021 proposes to provide $20 million over five years, starting in 2021-22, to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to support a new National Institute for Women’s Health Research. I would recommend a certain amount of funding be set aside within that $20 million to research Perinatal Mental Health.

Budget 2021 proposes to provide $45 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to Health Canada to fund community-based organizations that help make sexual and reproductive health care information and services more accessible for vulnerable populations. A portion of these funds could also be set aside to bring awareness perinatal mental health, and to support organizations that are helping people in need of perinatal mental health resources.

And finally, Budget 2021 proposes to invest $1.4 billion over five years, beginning in 2021-22, and $40.6 million ongoing, to maintain essential health care services for First Nations and Inuit, continue work to transform First Nations health systems. I would recommend funding be set aside for a holistic approach to perinatal mental health which recognizes a systematic and community approach to healing and wellness, based on Indigenous principles. This may include investment in peer-to-peer supports and mentors from the community trained in culturally appropriate prevention and treatment methods. Indigenous women need significant health supports which includes perinatal mental health. Indigenous women already face stigma within the healthcare systems, while pregnant these risks and their vulnerabilities only increase. Investments in perinatal mental health for Indigenous women is essential to their wellbeing.

Perinatal Mental Health is a health care issue that needs more recognition and investments from our government. I am proud of the work CPMHC has done thus far to bring awareness to the subject, but I believe we should not only bring awareness to this mental health issue but invest in resources, supports, research and more to help pregnant women, mothers and parents when they need it most. Thank you for considering my recommendations. Please let me know if you have any questions, I would be happy to discuss this further with you.

Sincerely,

Pam Damoff, MP Oakville North-Burlington

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