A frank discussion by the Honourable Mike Lake MP on mental wellness issues that need to be discussed and not ignored.
The Hon. Mike Lake MP (Edmonton-Wetaskiwin), Shadow Minister for the Conservative Party of Canada for Mental Health, Addictions, and Suicide Prevention provided an oft-times intimate presentation on Mental Health in the workplace at the 2022 CAAR Conference.
First elected as an MP in 2006, Lake was re-elected to a fifth term in 2019, receiving the highest vote total out of all candidates, from all parties, across the country. Prior to politics, Lake spent 10 years with the Edmonton Oilers as National Accounts Manager, Director of Ticket Sales, and as a Group Sales Manager.
He has two children—son Jaden, 24, and daughter Jenae, 20, and he and his family have been active supporters of autism organizations with families and individuals across the country and around the world, while sharing their story of life with Jaden, who has autism.
Lake said he has, “a real heart for people who are vulnerable” and it is something that comes across easily in his discussions about mental health et al.
Presented by event Diamond Sponsor IRM Sherritt, Lake provided a keen examination of mental health discussions within the Canadian ag community.
“One of the things I am very passionate about right now is mental health literacy,” he began. “It’s about the way we are all talking to each other.”
The dual edge sword of the oft-corrosive nature of social media with Covid-19, he said, are factors in causing significant mental health challenges.
“And, from a literacy standpoint, it’s important to differentiate between mental illness and mental health,” Lake stated. “There is a difference.”
Discussing mental health, Lake explained that people are able to do things “to improve your mental health and can do things that are detrimental to your mental health.”
He continued: “What I want to see, is that as a country—as the world, really—that we are taking good care at an individual level getting stronger mental health-wise all the time.”
One of the best resources, he opined, “and one of the most fantastic stakeholders I have connected with, is https://jack.org, a Canadian organization.”
Jack.org is a not-for-profit organization focused on youth mental health and suicide prevention. Not a site for personal disclosure or suicidal thoughts, it is the country’s only charity training young leaders to revolutionize mental health through globally-recognized programs.
He also discussed https://bethere.org, whose belief that simply talking about mental health isn’t enough, that people need the knowledge, skills and confidence to step up and be there for one another. It provides resources, and walks through what it calls the five golden rules of mental health:
- 1. Say what you see;
- 2. Show you care;
- 3. Hear them out;
- 4. Know your role;
- 5. Connect to help.
The site provides easy-to-utilize advice and stories from real people.
“As you watch those stories, you will invariably see something that connects with your life. The site also has some excellent questions (and responses) from the community,” he said. “I encourage everyone to view this site, and if you are comfortable to please share with your circles within your own company. We need to make Canadians aware that these resources exist.”
He added, “Don’t be afraid to say what you see; to start a conversation with someone who may have a mental health issue.
“There’s an awkwardness—sometimes you feel like you are intruding—but it’s better to be awkward than to say nothing at all.”
It’s certainly excellent advice.
Lake said that when talking with someone to not be judgemental, to be nurturing and caring, but most importantly to listen. “The inclination is to offer advice, to share and share and share, but really a person needs to be listened to.”
And, per bethere.org, it’s always nice after listening to someone to be able to direct them to a resource that they can use to get help from an expert’s standpoint.
“Interestingly, we haven’t seen the suicide rates go up over Covid,” he noted. “But, we have seen numbers that reflect deteriorating mental health. We have definitely seen the opioid crisis worsen significantly during Covid, almost doubling the number of opioid-related deaths.
During a recent four-hour debate, members of parliament were encouraged to share stories about the opioid situation and discuss areas for improvement and ask questions. Lake said it was a very productive conversation.
“Erin (O’Toole, the former leader of the Conservative Party of Canada who asked Lake to join the shadow cabinet) didn’t know this about me, but I had the chance to share my own story,” acknowledged Lake. “My own father tragically, in 2003, passed away at 59-years-of-age from a lethal dose of OxyContin (the prescriptive narcotic oxycodone).”
Lake said plans were in the works to share his story about what they saw when he went off the narcotic, what his pain was when he tried to go off it, “because we didn’t understand withdrawal. And then he went back on at his regular dose—and he ended up dying soon after.
“Even though that was 2003, it gives you some context about the challenges facing us in 2022.”
Although his dad was prescribed the medication and the opioid crisis deals with the illegal dissemination of the drug, Lake feels that there are still parallels that can be drawn. “The cycle is very similar, and the challenges of dealing with them are complex.
“We need parliament and Canadians to be weighing in because nearly everybody is affected,” he said adding that if you don’t know someone who is affected by the opioid crisis, you are affected in relation to mental health.
“These are questions we need to ask, and it is incredibly encouraging that every party in the last election had this as one of their major pillars in their platform.”
He noted that mental wellness issues are not just a big-city problem that it is also a big issue in rural areas—a chief reason why CAAR asked Lake to participate in its conference.
Lake said that he hopes Canada follows the US’s lead in establishing the 9-8-8 suicide prevention hotline, but as of this writing, it was being held up as the CRTC tries to determine the advantages and challenges associated with the deployment of this type of number. A decision should be made soon.
In the meantime, Lake provided the 1-833-456-4566 phone number as resource for suicide prevention. He said that the three digit 9-8-8- number would be easier for people across the country to remember as being more ideal for all at-need Canadians.
“This is one of those things that’s going to happen,” he intoned, “but this is one of those things that unfortunately gets caught up in the bureaucracy.
“We’re losing 11 Canadians to suicide every single day.”
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