In the month of August Smiths Falls hosted the fourth annual Canal Pursuit Defeat Depression and Mental Health Run. Communities across our region also hosted their own inaugural runs for mental health. Our chiropractic office had the pleasure of meeting and sponsoring Mr. Clay Williams, the master runner, and co-coordinator Bob Joynt. Clay is a very dedicated man and spoke eloquently about raising awareness of mental health concerns and raising funds via the Run. He spoke candidly about his own family struggles with depression and the unacceptable rates of suicide, depression and PTSD in our military, our police and paramedics. The Canal Pursuit Run is linked with the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, a group that connects consumers, caregivers and government organizations. Mr. Williams specifically made note that Canada’s mental health system is in its infancy. However we know that the more awareness is raised, the more acceptance will result and the more opportunity people will have to not carry their burdens alone.
A strategy to address mental health and reduce isolation was featured in interviews recently with Dr. Essen from the National Health Service in the United Kingdom on CBC’s Ottawa morning and in national newspapers. The U.K. has chosen to identify loneliness as a significant health risk factor, on par with smoking and obesity. Dr. Essen is an advocate for “Social Prescription”, a system where health care providers can tap into local community social resources and recommend specific positive social activities to mitigate isolation and loneliness from people. An 18 month pilot study is now underway linking our Community Health Care network with the U.K. The study, called “Rx Community”, links U.K. experts with 10 CHCs across Ontario, with the purpose of bringing sustainable service innovation to the front lines of primary health care through mentorship with already existing successful programs. This represents an exciting and anticipated development in community mental health.
Another concern that is directly linked to youth community mental health is the legalization of marijuana. I point to a review of literature in the Canadian Medical Association Journal dated August 2018. After analyzing 68 existing scientific reviews, the primary objective of the author’s overview was to assess a health effect or harm. The results are sobering. Evidence of harm was reported in 62 reviews for mental health disorders, brain changes as measured medically via lessened cognitive outcomes and poor long term impulse control. They in fact raise a credible and important point; that there is a persistent lack of recognition of marijuana as a possible harmful substance regards mental health. Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) shows that over the past three years the number of emergency room visits because of cannabis toxicity (not overdose, as that is physiologically an incorrect term) in Ontario has almost tripled — from 449 in 2013-14, to nearly 1,500 in 2017-18. Concerns of toxicity, particularly with edibles in youth appears as a statistical relevant event in local, already very busy, emergency rooms. Personally I am not taking a political position in my writing, but as a caregiver and part of a larger team of health providers in our region, it is critical that due diligence be paid to this issue and its governance, as regards to the mental health of our youth. Health Canada has stepped forward with an information website called “cannabisandpsychosis.ca”. Parents are encouraged to access this site for current research and the facts on informed decision making.
A final topic that consistently needs our attention is the strategic awareness and acceptance of the real mental health risks posed by social media, specifically in its role in rising anxiety among school children. Any quick survey of teachers and school administrators brings this topic up. Anxious kids cannot perform well in school, in sports or in life. Limits to the use of phones are being slowly implemented in our schools, yet they remain somewhat toothless unless some limits are placed on their use by parents at home. Mental health experts are in agreement that use after 9pm at night is harmful and detrimental to adolescent sleep quality and thus life mental health performance. Policies emphasizing no cell phone use in class or in school cafeterias and halls will most certainly reduce anxiety in our youth, who after all, are our most precious resource for future community health.
As chiropractors, we see and assist patient mental health concerns every single day. Chiropractors are an important part of the broader health team consumers can access without referral, because of the relief of body and mental stress that chiropractors provide by individualized improvement of neuro-musculo-skeletal health and physical performance.
Dr. Mark Czubak has a practiced chiropractic health in Smiths Falls for 21 years, and has a degree in Toxicology from U of T.