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By Sydney Brouillard-Coyle

April 7 of each year marks the celebration of World Health Day.

From its inception at the First Health Assembly in 1948, and since taking effect in 1950, the celebration has aimed to create awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organization. The celebration is marked by activities which extend beyond the day itself and serves as an opportunity to focus worldwide attention on these important aspects of global health.

It is important to consider not just physical health, but also mental health. The reality is that the COVID-19 pandemic has severely exacerbated the mental health crisis in Canada. In any given year, one in five Canadians experiences a mental illness. About 4,000 Canadians per year die by suicide—an average of almost 11 suicides a day. In particular, Indigenous youth die by suicide at 5 to 11 times the rate of non-Indigenous youth, while one in three trans youth have attempted suicide in the past year.

Since the pandemic, 74% of Ontarians are experiencing mental health and addiction challenges. There has also been a 35-40% increase in overdose rates and opioid-related deaths. In a single week in 2021, there were 4,500 mental health and substance misuse-related ED visits in Ontario. On average, wait lists for mental health care are 6 months to 1 year, but in some areas of the province, this can be as long as 2.5 years.

Mental health matters. As a society, we need to call for an interdisciplinary approach to World Health Day and healthcare. Things that are vital to a person’s health – therapy, dentist appointments, psychiatrists, optometrist appointments, ALL medication that improves one’s quality of living, gender-affirming care – these should all be covered underneath a universal healthcare system in Canada.

Caring for mental health and other, less-discussed aspects of physical health are just as important as caring for a broken bone. We deserve better. It is our responsibility as Christians to stand up and to call on our governments and insurance companies to ensure that their policies and plans are equitable, reaching those who are living below the poverty line, who are unemployed, on disability, and in need of support.

Particularly as we approach a provincial election, we must all make a stand to ensure that our healthcare system recognizes the rapidly changing atmosphere in regards to physical and mental health, and provides equitable opportunities for all Canadians to live full, well lives.

On this World Health Day, let us pray:

We pray for all those who are struggling with their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health - that they might feel Your comforting presence during this difficult time. We pray for the healthcare workers (including doctors, nurses, peer mentors, sponsors, social workers, psychiatrists, therapists, and all those who minister to health needs) that they might find strength and energy in You. We pray that all people will have equitable access to healthcare and the services that they need so that they can live in wellness. All this we ask in Your Name, Lord. Amen.

Sydney Brouillard-Coyle (Ney/Nem/Nir) is co-chair of Proud Anglicans of Huron and music director at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Essex. Ney also serve as the Education Coordinator and Non-Binary Transition Guide at Trans Wellness Ontario.