Sick of Work


Convivium, 4 October 2018

Father Raymond de Souza finds recent concerns about people working themselves into mental illness, on Parliament Hill and elsewhere, have an ancient, Gospel solution.

This week’s Hill Times, the parish bulletin for those who work, lobby, or lounge about Parliament Hill, includes a nine-page special report on mental health. “Canada’s Politics and Government Newspaper,” as it styles itself, is reporting that many of those who work on the Hill are not altogether mentally healthy.

I know. It’s an opening for hundred punchlines. But that is part of the point of the special report, to make mental health less of a joking matter, and to give it serious attention.

There is a column by the Minister of Health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, which opens with the acknowledgement that “at age 13, my brother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. The stigma was powerful. Now, as health minister, I’m heartened to know that today my brother’s diagnosis would be seen very differently. Progress is possible.”

Indeed, at one point a minister of the Crown would have kept that part of her family history hidden, rather than a public motivation for action. Progress is possible.

I had not been in the Parliament buildings for perhaps a year, but along with my colleagues Peter Stockland and Ray Pennings, I attended the Parliamentary Forum on Religious Freedom this week, hosted for the seventh consecutive year by the indefatigable David Anderson, MP from Saskatchewan.

Getting into the Parliament buildings is now such a security hassle that it may well be some time before I return again. It was 30 years ago that I first visited Parliament, and in those days it was a much more relaxed place. Ordinary citizens, with no more bother than asking a receptionist, could head off to visit their MP’s office. And in that more gentle age, it was quite possible that an MP might entertain an unexpected visitor. The place is not that gentle, the pace not that accommodating, anymore.

One of the Hill Times articles that caught my attention had implications far beyond Parliament Hill. It was written by Majid Jowhari, the MP for Richmond Hill. He turns out to be something of an authority, founding the Liberal Mental Health Caucus and, later, the Parliamentary Mental Health Caucus. For such initiatives he was designated as this year’s Parliamentary Mental Health Champion by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health.

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