It was a little later than he expected, but a Guelph teenager received a personal phone call from the Prime Minister of Canada.
Noah Irvine, the Guelph teenager who is trying to elevate the discussion around suicide prevention and mental health, says he is encouraged after taking the phone call this week from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Irvine suggested Trudeau should have a mental health secretariat established within the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
“The Prime Minister did not make a commitment to a secretariat but he did say it was an interesting idea which he would consider. We’ll have to wait to see the result in the next federal budget,” said Irvine.
A mental health secretariat would provide a spotlight focusing on mental health at the highest levels of government, said Irvine.
“It would be a place where all of Canada could come together to talk about mental health and only mental health. It would a place to discuss new ways to fund and provide mental health services. The old ways don’t work. They continue to fail Canadians," he said.
In addition, Irvine would like to see mental health ministries created within provincial governments.
In Ontario, Irvine noted, approximately 10 ministries and 1,000 separate agencies are responsible for different or overlapping aspects of mental health and addictions.
“No wonder the mental health system is complex and difficult to figure out. There’s no coherent system. That has to end,” said Irvine.
Irvine, 17, became involved in challenging politicians to do more about mental health and addictions after losing both of his parents by the time he was 14.
In 2015, Irvine was faced with the untimely death of his 40-year-old father to mental illness after losing his 24-year-old mother to suicide when he was just five years old.
Encouraged by Trudeau, Irvine is in the process of writing every provincial and territorial ministers of Health asking them to consider creating ministries dealing specifically with mental health and addictions.
“The Prime Minister said he respected my efforts and wants me to keep working at it. So, I’m going to talk with the provinces and territories,” said Irvine.
The teen received the phone call from Trudeau Wednesday after it was twice postponed by the PMO.
Last week, Irvine went to Ottawa to meet with Petitpas Taylor, federal minister of Health, during which they spoke about the creation of a mental health secretariat.
Last month, GuelphToday published an interview with Irvine in which he expressed his displeasure that writing to 338 MPs across Canada about creating a national suicide prevention plan resulted in only 40 replies.