By now, most of us have offered our support to causes that have affected us in some way.
We young professionals do a great job throwing and attending charity events (and dropping a few hundred dollars at the silent auction), participating in charity runs and bike rides, and eagerly agreeing to awareness-generating initiatives like this past summer’s popular Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS.
While this is obviously great and all, there are certain causes that seem to remain favourites – both among young professionals and Canadians in general.
Here are three others we feel deserve more attention and action than they’re currently getting…
Just because we don’t stumble over them every day doesn’t mean they’re not out there.
In fact, across the entire country youth homelessness continues to be a major issue.
As we recently highlighted, there are as many as 2,000 homeless kids in Toronto on any given night. Across the country, there are an estimated 6000 homeless youths nightly and 30,000 annually. A report released earlier this year charged that Canada falls short when it comes to meeting the needs of homeless youth in their treatment of them as adults. Simply put, shelter care alone is not enough to meet the needs of these disadvantaged youth. The author, York University professor Stephen Gaetz compared the Canadian ways of handling the situation to countries like the United Kingdom and Australia.
The biggest issue is that our current system, for the most part, focuses on emergency support and rushes homeless youth to become adults prematurely, ensuring a perpetual cycle of poverty. Efforts need to be taken to prevent the problem from happening in the first place. This means more programs similar to the variety of life-enhancing services at Toronto’s Covenant House, or Youth Reconnect in Ontario’s Niagara Region, a shelter-diversion program that helps at-risk youth remain in school and in their communities.
No, it’s not over.
Yet somehow, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS awareness and dialogue has seemed to have practically disappeared in recent years. As we learned from Steven Endicott, the Chief Development Officer at Toronto’s Casey House, more people than ever in Toronto are living with HIV. People from all ages and communities are being infected. In fact, 1 in 120 adults in Toronto is HIV positive right now.
There are 71,300 people living with HIV in Canada, 25% of whom don’t know they’re infected. So yeah, it’s still a very big deal. The problem is that most of the country’s strategies for dealing with HIV/AIDS are outdated. In a recent report, the Public Health Agency of Canada highlighted the need to expand the reach and impact of HIV prevention and treatment efforts.
In addition to rejuvenated nationwide plans to provide services, we need new plans of attack and programs to educate the younger generation. The problem, as Endicott pointed out, is that the severity of the disease doesn’t hit home as hard for those who weren’t old enough to witness the devastation and trauma of the disease in the 80s and 90s. But it’s still kicking around, and it’s as real as ever.
Mental Health Issues and Specialized Mental Health Treatment
Thanks to campaigns like Bell’s Let’s Talk, mental health awareness is getting more airtime than ever before. But we still have a long way to go.
The historic and systematic lack of attention paid to mental health issues is no more obvious than in the fact that mental health affects most of us to the same degree cancer does.
We all know someone who struggles with it. The proof is in the stats: Mental illness affects one in five Canadians at some point in their lives. Half a million Canadians miss work each day due to a mental health related factor. Sometimes, it’s too much to take; suicide is the second leading cause of death among those 15-34 in Canada.
Included in the realm of mental health awareness, as was highlighted at the recent Women for Women’s event in Toronto, is a need for more of a focus on how mental health issues affect specific demographics – like women, men, and youth – instead of grouping it together as one phenomenon. Each group requires a degree of specialized considerations and treatment.
While the stigma surrounding mental health issues continues, it’s definitely on the decline. But we still have a long way to go before mental illness gets the attention it deserves.