Awareness of mental illness a priority for Premier Robert Ghiz

Wayne Thibodeau
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Premier Robert Ghiz, left, walks into historic Province House in Charlottetown with The Guardian's Wayne Thibodeau to tape his year-end interview. A Conversation with Premier Robert Ghiz will be published Dec. 26 in The Guardian. A prime-time, one hour special will air the same day, Dec. 26 at 7:30 p.m. on Eastlink TV, channel 10 and high definition channel 610.

The veil must continue to be lifted on mental illness, Premier Robert Ghiz says.

In his annual year-end interview with The Guardian, the Prince Edward Island premier says there is no easy solutions to deal with the struggles mental illness can present.

But the first step, he said, is awareness.

“30 years ago, 20 years ago, it was something that was swept under the rug,” Ghiz said in the interview that will be published in The Guardian Dec. 26 and aired on Eastlink TV the same night at 7:30 p.m.

“Today, we’re actually discussing this on a year-end interview. It’s not something that people are ashamed of anymore, because they don’t have to be. This is an illness.”

Ghiz was reacting to the passionate plea of Dianne Young, whose son, Lennon Waterman, 29, is believed to have ended his life by leaping into the cold North River in November.

Waterman’s body has never been found.

Young said her son lived the past decade in utter turmoil, fuelled by drugs and, she believes, mental illness.

The grieving mother came forward to talk about her son’s tragic life in hopes of saving others.

More, she said, has to be done to help Islanders living with mental illness.

“I’m not going to blame addictions services or the mental health community or anything like that for my son’s death,” she told The Guardian last month.

Premier Robert Ghiz’s full year-end interview with The Guardian will be published in the Dec. 26 edition of The Guardian. A special, one-hour prime-time special A Conversation with Premier Robert Ghiz airs Dec. 26 at 7:30 p.m. on Eastlink TV, Channel 10 and HD Channel 610. The special will be rebroadcast Dec. 30 and 31 at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Jan. 1 at 9 a.m. and Jan. 2 at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

“But I want to say this – that most of the people that work in those areas have their hands tied and probably feel much like I do about how things are not working.

“Take a look, open your eyes,” she stressed. “People are dying. Something needs to be done.”

Ghiz agrees. His government added $1.2 million to deal with prescription drug addition and they appointed a specialist to come up with a long-term strategy to improve mental health and addictions services.

The Island premier knows even more needs to be done.

“If there was an easy solution, I would introduce it. There’s not,” said Ghiz.

“We need to make sure that there’s services available out there for people that have mental illness but it’s also about bringing awareness to the issue so that people can understand that this is an issue we have to deal with because this is a disease that can affect anyone at any time.”




Organizations: The Guardian

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, North River

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Recent comments

  • JimBob
    December 22, 2013 - 10:19

    Ghiz has experience with mental illness all right, he has inflicted more stress on people during his 2 terms because of his clown college policies that he has implemented. Everyone but his "buddies" that is.

  • Marie
    December 22, 2013 - 10:05

    First he has to figure out that being born/having a mental disability is not the same as having a drug abuse problem!!!

  • Downward spiral?
    December 22, 2013 - 09:20

    There is no doubt mental illness can be a horrible affliction. However, the tendency to pathologize every behavior that's out of sync with our own idea of normal can also be a problem. This problem is amplified by the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is so influential and doctors are so quick to prescribe a pill when other less invasive interventions are possible. For example, some people absolutely benefit from anti-depressants, but does anyone in their right mind really believe that the millions of people on anti-depressants all should be taking these drugs? For many (most?) a rigorous exercise regime, alternative diets, healthy relationships and living conditions would be a much better choice. Heck, even a bit of pot! However, mild depression is a multi-billion dollar business that won't be denied. Here's a list of just a few for profit anti-depressants pushed on the market - read it and weep: ariprazole, doxepin, clomipramine, bupropion, amoxapine, nortriptyline, citalopram, duloxetine, trazodone, venlafaxine, selegiline, perphenazine, amitriptyline, amitriptyline, amitriptyline, escitalopram, amitriptyline, chlordiazepoxide, isocarboxazid, phenelzine, desipramine, trazodone, nortriptyline, tranylcypromine, paroxetine (Paxil), paroxetine, fluoxetine (Prozac), desvenlafaxine, mirtazapine, quetiapine, nefazodone, doxepin, trimipramine, fluoxetine, olanzapine, imipramine, perphenazine, amitriptyline, vilazodone, protriptyline, bupropion (Wellbutrin), sertraline (Zoloft), olanzapine . . . just to name a few. God help us.

  • don
    December 22, 2013 - 08:31

    all this is like his promises. just more smoke he will have to have a study that will take at least 3 years by then election time. wake up islanders are you really that STUPID?. this is just another promises like a doctor for every islander how long have we been waiting? but if you think it does not take long to give our money to family and friends of liberals, and money like he spent on the hills in borden.

  • a voice of reason
    December 21, 2013 - 18:44

    One important factor in understanding "mental illness" has been overlooked and is the main cause of the problems we are facing today. Unfortunately, many mental health issues occur before the child is born. The majority of parents, have either no or limited parenting skills and therefore lack the ability to promote "healthy functional individuals". This is where our efforts should adequately educate parents and guide them on becoming positive role models for their children. This may mean breaking the multi-generational cycle of "repeating the familar...that's the way I was raised so....obviously it has been proven, generation after generation, this does not work. This is not specifically a PEI problem, this effects people from around the globe and from all socio-economic backgrounds.This is the responsibility of every parent, to be an expert on "their child" and not rely on politcians/government or institutions, to raise their children for them or fix them when problems arise. Child-rearing programs should be mandatory.....they should be in place for expectant parents. Parents must accept both legal and moral responsibility for the behaviour of their children to legal age. The cost and benefits of educating expectant parents, far out-weight the costs of post-institutional treatment.

    • Part of the problem
      December 22, 2013 - 18:19

      Your attitude is a big part of the problem. Nothing like painting a whole group of people with the same brush and stigmatizing them all so they won't reach out for help. Good job. Merry Christmas.

  • don
    December 21, 2013 - 17:26

    ghiz you got in power in 1997 and have failed in the health area all health and only after one person died because your health plan ideas failed. you are spending billions on the qeh why? we all know why and do not tell us it is to make it better. you added to the emergency room with more rooms that has NEVER BEEN USED. why you failed in getting a doctor for every islander but you spend millions to help a liberal. you and your gang are FAILURES. now you are trying to make like you care at xmas time. then tell me why you have FAILED to donate any food to the turkey drive in the past years nor has the liberal mla's. why you have no trouble taking our money in pay increases but you CAN NOT GIVE BACK. i'm sure your family will be proud in years to come.

    • Time to nod don?
      December 22, 2013 - 13:47

      Don, you're making the rest of us Ghiz cynics look bad.

  • Awareness
    December 21, 2013 - 13:14

    Not much help when it is island way of life for many to be judgemental , gossip and if you don't fit in contributes to job loss , social exclusion , destruction poverty etc if peoples lives in a narrow minded mind sets of many . That may not even know an individuals story or know them personally at all . I my self don't leave the safety of my home and have major depression , I'm educated had a job , good one too . But I don't fit it with the Benjamin's . Was functional like everyone else used to be some one . I guess . Sat 8 months to see someone in mental health guven pills remain in my home waiting for referrals . I think that I hope change locations where there is more acceptance in diverse population would maybe helpful . If you don't have mental illness when you come here to PEI you will sure to get it overtime from environment and societal location There will always be a stigma in small town no one want to hire you and may be not get a job at all . If you have mental health . Some are on all different levels and spectrums .

  • candrayo
    December 21, 2013 - 12:36

    I would comment a lot on this subject as I suffer from mental illness myself…but talking to Ghiz is like talking to one of my peers also suffering from mental illness. I am amazed at how many people can not see the narcissism he displays! Can we get someone who isn't suffering from mental illness to lead our government PLEASE??? Is it possible to hope there might be some selfless people left in the world who put money second and the people first, who would even be interested in trying to navigate the shark infested waters of Government? It is a tall order….but one we badly need! Orange…here is to hoping you are what we need!

  • Chloe
    December 21, 2013 - 11:07

    I suffer from chronic major depression and anxiety. Despite the challenges of my disease I have been extremely fortunate to attend the McGill Centre for the past decade to see a psychiatrist and mental health nurse. I cannot tell you how thankful, grateful, I am for the people who work there . Having said that, I don't associate much of what happens there with Robert Ghiz's government even though they are a provincial structure. The Ghiz government has had years to 'shine a light' on mental health issues but are doing so now because it is politically smart not because they are motivated out of some higher calling.

  • W.Wilkins - This Is Serious, isn't it?
    December 21, 2013 - 08:25

    Good on Ghiz for making this his personal political priority; he's right, it's a complicated issue. However, let's hope he doesn't get lost in the illusion that mental health is something limited to what happens between a person's ears. That would be a politically convenient way to do very little or nothing. Clearly, what usually (not always) enables a healthy mind are healthy living conditions, healthy relationships and healthy bodies. To this end, these factors don't easily fit into our traditional understanding of "illness" and that is another layer of challenge for politicians to understand and do something about on a policy level. And there's the rub, the last thing we need to address mental illness is partisan political posturing. What we need are politicians that enable open-minded deep conversations and then develop clear comprehensive policies. Now that would be a real Christmas miracle!

  • Courtney
    December 21, 2013 - 07:56

    Children's mental health is an unknown issue on PEI. If adults can't get help imagine how hard it is for a family with a child suffering from mental illness. This is an unspoken issue.

  • don
    December 21, 2013 - 07:28

    and ghiz thank you and your mla's for again not donating to the turkey drive. i guess you all just can't afford it. but to all the liberals who voted for them and now can't afford to get oil or food. i am sure you are all proud of your vote and to think they can not even donate to the turkey drive how cheap and not carrying for islanders but i'm sure they will all be eating well on your money.

  • don
    December 21, 2013 - 07:22

    The veil must continue to be lifted on mental illness, Premier Robert Ghiz says. anyone got a shovel? the only "priority " is helping himself and the priority liberals with giving them all the money they need form the TAX PAYERS MONEY not his but time will tell. the mighty will fall hard but when they do no one shall be there to help them up.

  • ugh
    December 21, 2013 - 06:23

    As someone who has spent an entire lifetime dealing with mental health in the form of depression, this just seems to be another disgusting and empty political platitude. The mental health and addictions services here are absolutely atrocious, and the health ministers grasp of the addiction situation is poor. He's got it right politically, sure, he sounds nice for all of those who don't know any better, but he is absolutely wrong on many key issues concerning not just the specific addictions problems facing PEI, but addictions problems in general. As for mental health, exactly what are they doing? Last time I checked, someone having suicidal thoughts reaching out for the first time could expect a wait of approximately three to four months before actually seeing anyone. And once they do finally see someone, might heart bleeds for the more fragile, as where they seek help in utter despair and desperation they will unfortunately too often find quite the opposite, I suspect due to the shortage of quality mental health professionals here as well as general burn out among the lot here. But hey, everyone knows PEI has a terrible health record, period.

  • Pffffff
    December 21, 2013 - 06:21

    Time to start saving the day ghiz is it ??? Your government couldn't care less before and now you do ??? I would think its an election strategy ... Time to start looking like your doing sooo much good before next election hoping the people will forget all the harm you brought to pei filling your supporters pockets ... Come next election the people will be reminded of the harm you brought to islanders.. I know I will remember ...

    • don
      December 21, 2013 - 10:16

      everyone in canada will remember ghiz and his gang wes will be the 2nd. the gang is lucky we live in a good country if we lived in other countrys they would have been out forced out and jailed a long time ago. but ghiz the sad part is the history books will show what you and your gang has done just think your kids will read and learn how you treated the island people and forced us to pay for you and wes helping the rich. the next generation will pay for what you allowed i hope you all can live with it. no mater where you go in Canada islanders families are there. and to prove it remember the 7.5% cut how many years back was that and it is still talked about today.