Mary Walsh gets candid about mental health and illness

Incomparable Canadian comedian, writer and activist Mary Walsh took the convention stage on Monday afternoon and had delegates and guests in stitches. Walsh touched on topics like the state of feminism and Donald Trump with the charisma and hilarity for which she is so well known.

But she shifted to a more sober tone to discuss mental health and mental illness, and the importance of access to proper care and adequate resources.

“Despite all the talk, and lowering the stigma, access to mental health care in Canada hasn’t improved,” said Walsh. “We spend the lowest amount of money of any G8 country on mental health research. This has to change.”

Walsh recounted the story of a friend’s son who by all outward appearances was happy, successful, and athletic — the image of perfect health.

“But he was in limitless, suffering pain. Many of us know someone who is living with mental illness. And so many people who suffer from mental illness and addiction issues are actually the best kind of people. Even when he was suffering the most, Louis still reached out to those who he thought were suffering more,” she said.

“It is up to us to seek their wisdom and to find out how to make them part of our world and not push them away,” she added.

Walsh talked about a mental health care system that served the system and not the people it was designed to serve. The unfortunate result, she said, was that people who should be receiving treatment for mental health issues often end up in the prison system. Prisons hold the single largest population of mentally ill people in the world.

CLC Executive Vice-President Marie Clarke Walker announced that along with several other affiliates, the CLC had developed a mental health resource centre, to help guide members, union representatives and the general public in navigating the effects of mental health and mental illness on the workplace.

“This issue hits close to home for many of us. Let’s do everything to make sure everyone who has a mental illness feels supported and loved,” said Clarke Walker.

“Canada’s unions can help change the system,” said Walsh, “We have a voice and we must be out loud and we must wear green and do everything we can to make a difference.”

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