Making History

Originally written in French.

In a book that has just been published, two reformers of the American justice system make the case for “gradualism”, an approach to public policy that supports more modest policies deployed in stages to bring about significant changes in society.

Can we afford the gradualist approach to mental health that we’ve seen in recent years? Of course not. Not only is the ship sinking, but the system has never been able to keep its head above water.

Without adequate care, the condition of some seriously ill people is deteriorating. Hundreds of people take their own lives in silence and anonymity every year, leaving thousands of loved ones devastated.

I was hospitalized in my late twenties and now help young people who are hospitalized in my role as a peer helper. As a patient-partner, I’ve experienced the shortcomings of the system, and as a caregiver, I see that they still exist.

Many observers say that what matters most to politicians is the mark they leave on history. And history, in turn, is written in moments of crisis. What better way to leave one’s mark than with a pandemic that has made whole swathes of society vulnerable?

There are countless articles in the opinion pages about mental health that sound the alarm. Unable to reverse the trend substantially with indignation alone, should we adopt a different tone? Something like envisioning the immense feat that would be a truly life-saving reform? What an accomplishment it would be to finally bring mental health care in Quebec into the modern age! The new reform would save lives. It would be taught at university. It would be the envy of the world.

Let’s dream for a moment… why not aim for a suicide-free society? Hospitals that give people in serious distress the comfort and resourcing they need? An eradication of waiting lists? All these ideas deserve our serious attention, and urge us to act.

By Charles-Albert Morin