Bonnie Bricker speaks out at mental health forum in Winnipeg

Mental health advocate Bonnie Bricker wants Manitobans to look for "doers" when they head to the polls on April 19.

Patients, advocates and political candidates take part in community mental health forum Thursday

Bonnie Bricker, mother Missing man Reid Bricker, speaks about a lack of mental health services in Manitoba at a political forum Thursday night featuring, PC candidate Myrna Driedger, Liberal candidate Dr. Jon Gerrard and the NDP's Sharon Blady. (CBC)

Mental health advocate Bonnie Bricker wants Manitobans to look for "doers" when they head to the polls on April 19.

Bricker is the mother of 33-year-old Reid Bricker, a man who has been missing since Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre discharged him at 3:20 a.m. following a suicide attempt in October.

Thursday's community mental health political forum took place at the Berney Theatre. It was attended by Liberal candidate and physician Jon Gerrard, NDP candidate and Health Minister Sharon Blady and Progressive Conservative candidate and opposition health critic, Myrna Driedger.

Manitoba has a long way to go to providing adequate care for people with mental health issues, said Bricker. 

She described it as "a road that we've barely put one foot on" and said it was important to hear where the three candidates stood on the issue because no matter what government is elected, it's likely either Blady, Gerrard, or Driedger would become Manitoba's next health minister.

From left to right, Progressive Conservative candidate and health critic, Myrna Driedger, Liberal candidate and physician Dr. Jon Gerrard and NDP candidate and Health Minister Sharon Blady. (CBC)

If voters want to see progress on mental health they should look for candidates who offer more than "lofty words," she said.

"They should be looking for somebody who has got an accountable past, somebody who has a proven track record of advocating for a particular issue and having success," advised Bricker.

Candidates debate mental health

During Thursday's forum, the NDP's Sharon Blady said mental health is both a political and personal issue for her. The health minister said her lived experience informs her policy decisions.

"One in four, I am one of those people. I live daily with a mood disorder. I know what suicide ideation is and does," said Blady.

"I realized if I was going to fight stigma I'd have to come forward and talked about my own lived experience, because if I don't how can I expect anyone else to," she said.

Elizabeth Rosenberg, the sister of Ronald Wilderman, a 57-year-old autistic man who died in the care of a company hired by Winnipeg's health authority challenged Blady and asked why she should vote for the NDP.

Blady apologized for Wilderman's care and Rosenberg's family's experiences following. "That is unacceptable. We need to do more," said Blady.

Liberal candidate Jon Gerrard said the NDP does not understand what needs to be done to improve brain health in general. 

"It begins with leadership who understand some of the basics of brain health and of mental health. I believe that understanding how important nutrition and exercise and sunlight and these factors are is a really important starting point," said Gerrard, adding that his party is excited to bring psychological services under Medicare.

Myrna Driedger said under a Progressive Conservative government front-line workers would be better utilized to assist mental health patients coming into hospitals and clinics.

"They would certainly like to see more support from government," she said.

The PC candidate added government is not the only problem solver when it comes to this issue. Many non-profits, she said, in Manitoba are doing "amazing" work in the field of mental health.

Driedger said before increasing funds, her party would have to first deal with the management of funds by the previous government. 

with files from Erin Brohman


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