On 6 May 2021, MPP Anand spoke about the “Recovery Month Act, 2021”

Madame Speaker, usually when I come here and I start my speech by saying it is a pleasure to rise in the House today—you can see actually I have much more of a glow today, and the reason for that is I actually got vaccinated today. Thank you for the claps.

I just want to say that I got vaccinated today at the International Centre because I want to overcome COVID-19 and get back to the new normal. I want to thank #ThisIsOurShotCA, and I would encourage everybody to join the #ThisIsOurShotCA challenge and tag your friends and family to get vaccinated. Let’s all get the shot and get back to doing the things we love. Help yourself, your family and the community by taking the shot. And if you want to know more, you can go to the campaign website, which is very simple: www.thisisourshot.ca. I want to give a shout-out to my good friend Paul Chana, who had connected me with Dr. Anju Anand, who is doing an incredible job for this cause. Thank you so much.

Now, over to what we’re here for: to talk about the bill which my good friend the member from Don Valley North has brought forward. As you know, Madam Speaker, any and every focus on mental health and well-being as a society is welcome, given that, as per the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, in any given year, one in five Canadians experience a mental health illness or addiction problem. And it has become a bigger issue during COVID-19. I have to tell you, Madam Speaker, I see a lot of tired people, and I am one of them. I’m usually not a complainer, but I have started seeing that, in the last few weeks, I have started complaining.

Oh, you don’t believe it, but I’ll tell you.

Mental health is our health, and that is why it is important to talk about it. I want to say thank you to my friend for bringing this awareness. I actually want to say thank you to our associate minister who is doing an incredible job. I was listening to him. We cannot be more blessed to have a champion better than you, so thank you so much, Minister.

Having said that, the statistics that I talked about do not capture how an addiction cripples someone’s life or the far-reaching and long-term impacts of an addiction on a family, on our public health system, on our society or on an economy. It also does not measure the stigma that continues to surround addiction. Many of us know someone who has been personally impacted by addiction or addiction-related illness. I hope many of us also know that for those who have been able to overcome their addiction, the journey of recovery is a highly personal one. It is a lonely one many times but, most importantly, it is a challenging but, at the end, very rewarding one.

Bill 250 seeks to proclaim September as Recovery Month to help those who are on this journey and to support them and celebrate them. Again, I want to say thank you to the member. It also helps to promote the societal benefits of prevention, treatment and recovery for mental health and substance use disorders and to laud the contributions of treatment and service providers. This is a great step in the right direction. Public awareness campaigns around mental health and addiction have proven to be a very effective way of changing minds and hearts, and a great example is Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign.

Madam Speaker, let’s be very clear: We need to remove the stigma. I always tell everybody that reaching out to the support network is not a sign of weakness; it is in fact a sign of strength. Addiction is not caused by a lack of willpower. It is not caused by moral failure. It is a complicated, long-term issue caused by factors that oftentimes are out of people’s control.

Why do people engage in substances in the first place? For some, but not all, it is to provide some temporary solace to suffering. They may be suffering from trauma or abuse, mental illness, low self-esteem, poverty, relationship problems, the loss of loved ones, stress, chronic pain or a medical condition. So for some, the initial decision is voluntary—only for some, and even then, the circumstances surrounding this voluntary decision may only make it a “voluntary” decision. And then you’re swept into a cycle of addiction and the pathways in your brain actually change.

I want to give a shout-out to the drug awareness societies from Peel and Toronto, who have been championing their Alcohol-Free April Challenge for the last decade. I have personally seen the positive impact this campaign has had on our community.

Last year, Madam Speaker, I also hosted a mental health and addictions round table with more than 15 community organizations to discuss their work and challenges in this field. I want to thank Minister Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, for joining us and supporting our community.

This commitment is clearly exemplified in our government’s Roadmap to Wellness, an investment of $3.8 billion over 10 years to expand existing programs and fill gaps in care with innovative solutions and services. One of the hallmarks of Ontario’s new mental health and addictions plan is that it will provide better access to high-quality, evidence-based services and supports across a person’s entire lifespan, from young children to adults and seniors.

It is important to supplement such a historic investment with a public awareness campaign that promotes the message that recovery in all its form is possible, and that’s exactly what Bill 250 does. It is important for people of all ages to know that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover.

Madam Speaker, I want to take some time to recognize some of the organizations in Peel region that are providing excellent service in the field of mental health and addictions support. Many of these organizations actually joined me in a mental health round table in July 2020.

Catholic Family Services Peel-Dufferin: I want to say thank you to the CEO, Sharon Devine, who said, “Declaring Recovery Month in September is a brilliant idea. People think of alcohol and other substances, but they also forget about other addictive behaviours during COVID-19, such as Netflix binging, or going on social media too often. To be able to break the shame around addictive behaviours, to bring it out of the shadows, is very important. In declaring Recovery Month, it allows us to take that first step to provide a compassionate response.”

Madam Speaker, I want to say thank you to the wonderful people at EveryMind. They are the lead agency for child and youth mental health for the Peel service area. They have served over 5,500 children and youth with mental health services, 60% of whom are female. They do exceptional work, and I’m proud to highlight them when debating this bill.

I talked about Hope 24/7. I want to give a shout-out to Laura Zilney, the CEO, who said, “Survivors of sexual violence often experience post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, substance misuse, suicidality, sleeping disturbances, and eating disorders, to name a few. These issues do not resolve without professional support. Hope 24/7 is proud to support efforts that bring attention to the issue of sexual violence and mental health.”

The Peel Addiction Assessment and Referral Centre: The organization provides a community treatment experience that includes group and individual counselling, and I’m proud to say that they have served over 2,900 members in the last year alone with over 20 excellent programs.

I want to bring a quote from Superintendent Hiltz of the community safety and well-being services of Peel Regional Police. Superintendent Hiltz was quoted: “Peel Regional Police is committed to continually reviewing and improving how we respond to mental health and addiction-related needs of community members and our employees. A comprehensive mental health and addiction strategy is currently being developed in collaboration with several internal and external partners to help achieve this.

“An example of our commitment is our partnership with CHMA’s Peel-Dufferin Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team … focusing on de-escalation, decriminalization with the goal of zero harm in supporting those experiencing a mental health crisis.”

Of course, Madam Speaker, this is not an exhaustive list. There are many more organizations who are doing wonderful work in this area, for example, the East Mississauga Community Health Centre, Services and Housing in the Province, or SHIP, the community safety and well-being services division of Peel Regional Police, the Mississauga Halton LHIN, WellFort and the Bramalea Community Health Centre, Peel CAS, Nexus Youth Services and CAMH medical withdrawal management services. All of these organizations and many more would surely appreciate how this private member’s bill is making a concrete, concentrated effort to focus on mental health and addictions awareness, so I want to say thank you to the member again.

Recovery Month is already being celebrated by various organizations. As for Addictions and Mental Health Ontario, their first annual Recovery Month campaign was hosted in the province by the members of AMHO in 2006. Since then, the movement has spread and gained momentum, so you can see the benefit of awareness. The Canadian Mental Health Association also recognizes September as Recovery Month. There is also a motion in the House of Commons to designate the month of September as National Recovery Awareness Month. Both the US and the UK recognize September as Recovery Month, in addition to many other countries across the world.

Madam Speaker, many times when we look at these things, a lot of work goes into it, so I want to give a shout-out to all the staff members of the member for putting this together. One of them, Christina, is somebody who I know is very hard-working, so I want to give a shout-out to all the staff members again.

Finally, Madam Speaker, I strongly support this bill. This is a non-partisan, good-news bill. I’m looking forward to all members supporting this bill. Let’s bring awareness.

In conclusion, to quote my wonderful colleague the MPP from Don Valley North, “Shame and stigma are impediments to mental health,” and “Everyone and anyone can be affected by mental health.” So let’s declare September as Recovery Month to bring this issue out from the shadows and bring it to the forefront.

I also want to state very clearly that reaching out to your friends and family is not a sign of weakness. It is real strength. Let’s support awareness.