On April 14th, 2021, CPMHC Co-Founder, Patricia Tomasi was invited to speak at MPP Bhutila Karpoche’s press conference in support of Bill176, a private member’s bill calling on the Ontario government to review maternal mental health and develop and implement an action plan. We were grateful to have been invited to speak alongside CPMHC Social Media Ambassador Candice Thomas and fellow advocate, Melisa Bayon. The press conference took place via Zoom and here is what Patricia said:
« We at the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative support Bill 176 and here’s why:
Right now, tens of thousands of Canadians are suffering from a perinatal mental illness, or postpartum depression, the term you’re probably most familiar with.
They’re suffering because of a health care system that fails to provide at the very least, universal screening and timely access to treatment.
Do you know how far behind we are in Canada when it comes to perinatal mental health care? Australia, the UK, and the US all have national guidelines. We don’t. They have national strategies. We don’t. They have mother and baby units where moms suffering from severe perinatal mental illness can go to recover instead of at a general psychiatric ward where she is separated from her baby. We don’t have even one mother and baby unit in Canada.
We did a survey recently, the first of its kind in Canada where we asked health care providers to tell us in their own words, what it’s like to treat people with perinatal mental illness. Because we know the experience of moms and dads and partners. We hear from them every day about how hard it is to navigate the health care system for help that doesn’t exist. I know this myself having gone through postpartum bipolar disorder twice. It took me 8 years to be properly assessed and diagnosed. 8 years!
Did you know that 95% of the health care providers we surveyed said perinatal mental health services in Canada are insufficient? You know what else they said? People with diverse backgrounds are encountering barriers to service, they don’t have mandated screening in their workplaces, they aren’t given specialized training in perinatal mental health and the pandemic has further complicated access to care.This is unacceptable.
We give a lot of lip service to mental health but if we don’t start talking about and taking action where it really counts, at the beginning, in conception, we’re just doomed to keep repeating the doomed to keep repeating the same cycle over and over and over again. Because perinatal mental illness doesn’t just last for a few months, untreated perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can last years and affect not only the birthing person but the baby who then grows up to be a child with behavioural problems, an adolescent with anxiety and suicidal ideation, and an adult with chronic depression, diabetes and heart disease.This cycle needs to stop right here, right now, today. Thank you MPP Karpoche for leading the way. We implore the Ontario government to pass Bill 176 and the federal government to enact a national perinatal mental health strategy. Now more than ever. Maternal mental health matters. Perinatal mental health matters. It’s time for action. »
Following the press conference, there was a lot of action on social media including many tweets and posts by MPP Karpoche such as this one:
On April 15th, 2021, Bill 176 was presented for Second Reading Debate in the Ontario Legislature. MPP Karpoche thanked Patricia, Candice, and Melisa for their advocacy and renewed the call for the Ontario Government to pass the bill: https://youtu.be/T5IDBxTlu_w
Unfortunately, following the debate, a preliminary vocal vote showed that the government wasn’t keen on passing the bill. The official vote would be on Monday April 19th, 2021 and in the days leading up the vote, the CPMHC began a flash campaign calling on its loyal followers to tweet and post all over social media, tagging Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott, and the Ontario PC Party and Caucus, urging them to #PASSBILL176.
The CPMHC also went live on Instagram with MPP Bhutila Karpoche to talk about the Bill and maternal mental health:
Unfortunately, the Bill did not pass during the official vote on Monday April 19th but in the words of MPP Bhutila Karpoche, this fight is far from over!
Thank you to everyone who showed their support for Bill 176! You are amazing and dedicated advocates and with your passion, we will get a national strategy for perinatal mental health! This video dedication is for you: