Mental health gets a lot of play in the media these days and the vast majority of the commentary comes from young people.
That doesn’t mean mental health issues didn’t exist for previous generations, but it does signal that people under 40 are seeing significant struggles today.
Calls often go to the government to solve the problem. Although governments have some powers, solving problems tends not to be one of their strong suits, especially nebulous and widely integrated ones like mental health.
More mental health nurses and resources offer value, but those are simply medications, when we need to cure the root.
Why does mental health weigh on so many young people today?
For my money, mental health is about hope, and that is influenced directly by the state of the economy.
Home ownership is nearly out of reach for anyone under 30 who doesn’t have high earning potential. Maybe you can find a home in New Brunswick, but even those are being gobbled up quickly, as all affordable options disappear.
The housing situation is even worse in Nunavut, as is well publicized. Home ownership is not even a distant dream here – it almost doesn’t exist.
According to Statistics Canada data, about 68 per cent of the country owned their own homes in 2016. In Nunavut, that was only 20 per cent. The next lowest was the Northwest Territories, at 53.7 per cent.
There is nothing wrong with using public housing, but it is inherently a warning sign for the territory’s economy and will never meet demand.
Of course, Nunavut voted overwhelmingly against allowing municipalities to sell land in 2016. Because of that, short of massive and sustained government investment, it’s hard to see where a solution could be.
Along with housing, everything in the country continually costs more, especially after Covid-19 and the runaway spending Canada and other Western nations embarked on to fight the crisis. Wages and salaries obviously don’t keep up.
Now more than ever, at least in my 33-year-old life, I find there’s not much to look forward to in Canada. Taxes can only go up to pay for what we’ve spent; the viability of small businesses seems lower than ever; and authoritarian top-down control of society, from movement to transactions to social lives, has been normalized during the pandemic.
Canada is not quite terrible in its current state, but it’s difficult to see how it could get better. It looks like a deep hole has been dug, and the way out is either years of struggle or collapsing the whole foundation.
Though the numbers are bad, sentiment is what drives society. If people feel optimistic about their outlook, they are happier in their daily lives, and our minds have a magical way of determining our experiences.
We can’t mulligan the wasted government spending and failure to address the housing crisis, but we can change directions and foster hope in the wider population. Pendulums swing, and this moment’s darkness won’t last forever.
It’s going to take significant change to create an environment of hope again. But whatever work that requires has got to be better than the slow snuffing of light currently draining our country.