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the price of mental health…

September 24, 2015

On the same day this week that Bell Canada announces that its upping its support of mental health services in Canada (to $100m), a man with a history of violence, domestic abuse, and criminal behavior killed three women in our community.

Two of the women were shot in the tiny hamlet of Wilno – pop 300 – a place whose previous claim to fame was that it was the first community created by Polish immigrants when they came to Canada in the 1800’s. There is a small historical plaque by the side of the road for those who are interested to stop and read it.

The third woman was found here in my hometown of Bancroft.

It is a big-city crime that has played itself out in small-town Ontario. Needless to say all of the small communities from here to Wilno are in a state of shock.

The National Post newspaper noted that the man – a Basil Borutski – had had an unlucky life – having been first severely injured on the job (resulting in the loss of a hand), and then later seriously injured in a car accident.

I’m not sure if this was to imply that the motive for the multiple killings was obvious – in that everyone who came into contact with Borutski would also be unlucky; or, that he could not help himself, as he was preordained to make more unlucky decisions. Or, that his actions were at the mercy of some unseen higher power.

Like I said, I’m not sure what the NP was getting at with this comment.

Of course neither the National Post nor any TV coverage I have seen has talked about the mental health issue, or the appalling lack of mental health services in this country – which are virtually non-existent in rural communities.

That a telephone company has to take the lead on mental health issues is a great metaphor for our corporate times, and of our long-cherished Canadian notion that we are world-leaders in looking out for the health of Canadians.

Sure, maybe we aren’t Zimbabwe, or some other desperately poor nation of the world, but we are miles behind Scandinavian countries when it comes to understanding and treating mental health issues (among many social issues that we now lag significantly behind in dealing with).

Three more women had to die at the hands of a man they knew. Two of the women had previous restraining orders against Borutski. And he was already divorced because of domestic abuse issues.

All the while, like three ostriches with their heads in the sand, the big political leaders campaign as if violence against women and mental health issues do not “poll well” with their constituents. So no one really talks about policy initiatives, or what they would do to combat the elephant in the room.

As an aging society still stuck in a 1960’s version of universal health care, still stuck with a post WWII notion that being “mental” (as many still call it around here), our dominant idea about mental health means that one is simply weak, lazy, or both. “Pull yourself together, get a job, stop whining about your problems.”

How and why we continue to mostly ignore this enormous social and financial cost to our society is now simply beyond me.

It is the 21st century Canada, it’s time to wake up and realize that the elephant that is mental health will not go away. Too many women die at the hands of men who need help. Too many children are abused from parents who need help. Too many people are paralyzed to deal with their day, can’t get themselves to work, find happiness, not think about suicide as a viable option.

There are too many ghosts in the machine to pretend that we are just weak, or lazy.

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