There are so many beautiful aspects and benefits to living in the great city of Toronto however it is far from perfect. It is a beautifully diverse place overflowing with so many different opportunities but below the surface, things are definitely more intricate than they may seem. There are often more publicized and government-focused issues such as public transit, housing prices and homelessness but one issue that is often ignored which carries a huge stigma is mental health.
A man named Marty Verlaan who lives in the GTA has been recognized as he roams the streets of Toronto a little differently than the rest of us. The Canadian filmmaker Stephen Hosier created the short film “The Man Who Walks Backwards” telling Marty’s story and his difficulties of living with schizophrenia and how it affects his mental health. A recent article written by Bruce DeMara and published by The Toronto Star features this story and explains all their efforts to support ending the stigma and struggle around mental health, which you can read at the link below.
He started walking Toronto's streets backwards 11 years ago. This new short film shares his story
If you've ever happened across Marty Verlaan on a Toronto street over the past decade or so, you'll notice something…
As Canadians, we are known for and pride ourselves on our unconditional and automatic politeness which goes such a long way as we notice the mental health rates rising within the GTA. This issue is extremely pressing because according to another Toronto Star article published less than a month ago, before covid 80 percent of Canadians relied on doctors to support their mental health needs. I can only imagine how much those are struggling now with limited access to support services, especially ones which they have already built a foundation with and are comfortable with. Getting support often seems much easier said than done as there appears to be many different options, however, in reality, there are limited options and those options are unreliable at best. In the article previously mentioned, it also explains the issue with mental health support systems offered such as the major expense that many can’t afford, as well as the short term services that are available. In addition to this, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) reported in 2018 that only about 7 percent of Canada’s health budget is dedicated to mental health. I believe this is extremely disheartening as we pride ourselves on our health care system but a major component within it is severely overlooked.
I think everyone has a struggle with their personal mental health at some point in their life and the lack of support simply makes attempting to overcome it overwhelming, prolonging and strenuous. As a young Canadian myself, I have observed several people in my life being suppressed by their struggle with mental health and has abled me to understand first-hand how frustrating it is to be willing to reach out with no appropriate support to grab. According to CMHA statistics, about 4,000 Canadians per year die by suicide, an average of almost 11 suicides a day. This issue should be prioritized as it affects people of all ages and backgrounds and by simply discussing and implementing possible solutions, we could save countless lives. I look forward to continuing spreading awareness and the importance of this issue until we have found resolutions with results to support it as the lives of Canadians are at stake. For those reading this, please remember your kindness goes a long way and something as simple as a smile to a passing stranger can change a life, let’s all support one another to find an answer.
DeMara, Bruce. “He Started Walking Toronto’s Streets Backwards 11 Years Ago. This New Short Film Shares His Story.” Thestar.com, 28 Jan. 2021, www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/01/28/he-started-walking-torontos-streets-backwards-11-years-ago-this-new-short-film-shares-his-story.html.
Latif, Ruby. “Access to Mental Health Services Must Be More Equitable.” Thestar.com, 24 Jan. 2021, www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/01/24/access-to-mental-health-services-must-be-more-equitable.html.
“Mental Illness and Addiction: Facts and Statistics.” CAMH, www.camh.ca/en/driving-change/the-crisis-is-real/mental-health-statistics.