GUELPH/WELLINGTON – When compared to other municipalities in the Waterloo-Wellington region, respondents to a Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo-Wellington (CMHAWW) survey rated Wellington County as the least “mentally healthy.”
Rated out of 10, Wellington County was a five according to the CMHAWW’s first ever survey on mentally healthy communities.
Comparatively the City of Waterloo was at the top of the list with a 6.8 followed closely behind by the City of Guelph with a 6.7.
CMHAWW CEO Helen Fishburn said none of the ratings are ideal with the top ranking cities being just okay but a rating of five for Wellington County is a “big red flag.”
“We know that there have always historically been differences between supporting someone’s wellness in an urban setting versus a rural setting, it is more challenging in the rural areas,” Fishburn said.
“We know there are fewer services, there are barriers to transportation to get to services that are in the urban areas, there isn’t always a great understanding about some of the unique challenges that rural residents face.”
Respondents’ top five factors when it came to community contributions to mental health were: access to sufficient/healthy/affordable food, access to affordable housing, public order and personal safety, availability of parks and green spaces for the public and access to mental health services.
Fishburn said these factors are arguably more accessible in a city environment but noted four out of five can fall under local municipal responsibility. With 92 per cent of respondents believing it is important for the local government to prioritize support for mental health and well-being of residents, Fishburn said it’s a sign that there needs to be more collaboration between levels of government and whole new way of “doing our business.”
“Mental health needs to be part of every single planning conversation,” Fishburn said, whether that be food insecurity, poverty or safety issues in the community. “We really need to try to lower the walls between funding for municipalities, funding from the province and funding from the feds. The old historical rigid funding lines are no longer working.”
Fishburn will presenting these results to municipal councils through delegations, starting with the Region of Waterloo council Wednesday evening with plans to go before Guelph city council and County of Wellington council in the near future.