Spend more money on mental health, Olympic champ says

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Makes that call during visit to Olds

A six-time Canadian Olympic medallist is calling on governments to spend more money on mental health.

In 2014, Clara Hughes, who has struggled with mental health issues like depression and addiction, completed a 110-day bike ride across Canada to spur conversation about mental illness. At one point, she passed through Olds. A documentary was produced, called Clara’s Big Ride.

Hughes spoke to about 500 people at the Ralph Klein Centre on March 9.

She said in 2014 she discovered that the health-care system just wasn’t working for those who needed it.

Two years later, Hughes lists treatment facilities specifically for mental illness, an increase in addictions therapy and a mental health crisis response centre opening in her hometown of Winnipeg as signs of improvement. However, she says more needs to be done.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, a body created by the federal government in 2007, Canada spends about seven cents out of every public health-care dollar on mental health.

She’s in favour of raising that proportion of health-care money to 11 per cent. That’s how much is spent in countries like New Zealand and the United Kingdom, according to the commission.

“People deserve better and are starting to demand more. I think as the demand increases and people voice these frustrations more and more, I hope the government starts listening,” Hughes said.

“There have been good things that have happened in a lot of places and a lot of great work, but the underfunding is still there. The funding reality is still the same and there are still so many people, specifically youth,” she said. “There just aren’t enough beds available, there aren’t enough programs available and the waiting lists are just far too long.”

In any given year, one in five Canadians will experience a mental health or addiction problem.

“I can only hope and expect as a Canadian citizen that funding has shifted and has increased,” Hughes said.

jho@olds.greatwest.ca

“There have been good things that have happened in a lot of places and a lot of great work, but the underfunding is still there. The funding reality is still the same and there are still so many people, specifically youth.”CLARA HUGHES OLYMPIC MEDALLIST

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