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Twenty-One Year Old Writes Minister Philpott; Asks for Action to Save Peers

August, 2016

Dear Minister Philpott,

I know the odds of you actually reading this letter are slim but it’s worth a try. Not for me, but for the countless teenagers and families of adults across the province of Ontario. As a general practitioner, I’m quite certain you have been exposed to many youths and adults who struggle or have struggled with mental health and addictions issues. I’m one of those who have struggled.

The funding for services in Ontario are lacking substantially. The treatment centers have immense waiting lists and young people are dying. At fifteen years old I was stripped from my school and home and was sent to Utah because there were no quality facilities for me to attend in Ontario. I felt abandoned, alone and hopeless. Those feelings continued for a long time. After returning home at the age of seventeen the struggle continued. My mental health reached a low. After eating an entire prescription bottle of Seroquel and clonazepam in the hopes I wouldn’t wake up, I woke up in Sunnybrook, fortunately. Once again, alone. I left the hospital with no new ideas, supports or approaches to my addiction and depression. Needless to say, a lifestyle surrounding drugs, alcohol and crime continued to plague my life and nothing changed.

People in Ontario who are seeking help have to wait for an eternity in order to get the help they need. Getting to a point where someone is ready for help is an incredibly powerful and timely process. Unfortunately, when someone in Ontario reaches this point, they feel abandoned and their opinions on needing help often change when they’re told that they must wait for months to get help. People go to jail, people overdose, people commit suicide and a small percentage are lucky enough to seek help outside of Ontario like myself.

I have over 10 months clean off drugs and alcohol and I go to university with a 4.0 GPA (straight A’s). I’m off of all of my depression medications and have found things I love to do. We do recover when provided with the chance. That’s why this letter has been written. I’m begging for you to provide these teenagers and adults with a chance. As a citizen of Canada we pride ourselves with the notion of free healthcare. The reality is that it’s free after waiting for months. That is sad knowing how many people will lose their loved ones in this time frame without them ever having a chance at life. Knowing they were plagued by the disease of addiction which lead to their death. Narcotics Anonymous literature states “Although we are not responsible for our disease, we are responsible for our recovery”. I plead, that the government of Ontario begins to provide the necessary support and tools to allow addicts and alcoholics to become responsible for their recovery. It’s blatantly obvious that more funding is needed to provide quality care for the sick, tired and suffering individuals.

“Ontario Health Minister Tony Clement estimated that, as of June 27, 2003, SARS had cost that province’s health-care system $945 million” (CBC News, 2003). “SARS claimed 44 lives in Canada” (Branswell, 2013). “47,000 Canadian deaths are linked to substance abuse annually.” -Health Officer’s Council of British Columbia. In one year in Canada, 1068 times more people die of substance abuse than the SARS “epidemic”. I would like to see the priorities amongst healthcare spending change as the effect from drugs and alcohol on our society is almost unfathomable.

I’m only 21. Countless friends of mine have overdosed and lived, some have died. I can’t count how many have overdosed and have survived but I can count some. My friend Adam* overdosed twice at 17 and lived but he had two heart attacks. His girlfriend also 17 lived but has lasting brain damage. My other friend Jenna* overdosed at 18 and lived. Years later at 21 she jumped off a bridge and broke her spine. Those were examples of the lucky ones. My friend John* committed suicide at 17. Brandon* overdosed at 23 and died with his friend on a logging road in British Columbia. Tammy* died at 32 of an overdose on Fentanyl. Kendal* was 38 when he died of an overdose (his daughter was about 4 years old at that time). Hopefully their deaths aren’t in vain; solutions can be made with the support of our government. Whether acknowledged or not, the epidemic is evident and I urge you to spend some time to empathize with me and the countless others who have been in my shoes. As the saying goes, “By changing nothing, nothing changes.” -Tony Robbins. Please, show care and concern for our struggling friends and families.

A concerned Canadian citizen and Ontarian