Dr. David Goldbloom: improving mental health for everyone
To mark the 70th annual Mental Health Week in Canada, which runs from May 3 to 9, 2021, we connected with Dr. David Goldbloom to talk about mental health and his new book, We Can Do Better. Dr. Goldbloom is a leading psychiatrist and the Senior Medical Advisor at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto. An Officer of the Order of Canada, he is also a long-time Bell Let’s Talk subject matter expert.
As part of our 4 key pillars, Bell Let’s Talk continues to invest in proven practices to help increase access to mental health care, like rTMS treatment around the country and a $10M partnership with the Graham Boeckh Foundation to accelerate Integrated Youth Services. In his new book We Can Do Better: Urgent Innovations to Improve Mental Health Access and Care, Dr. Goldbloom examines important issues in mental health care today and highlights innovations, like Integrated Youth Services and rTMS, that can help revolutionize and improve mental health for everyone. Read the interview to learn more about Dr. Goldbloom’s motivation for writing the book and his thoughts on mental health in Canada.
What inspired you to build a career in the field of mental health care and what changes have you seen in Canadian mental health over time?
When I went to medical school in the last century, it wasn’t with the idea of being a psychiatrist. I wanted to be a doctor, without a clear sense of an area of focus. However, I found myself drawn to the complexity of the problems in psychiatry, the experience of both suffering and relief, the variety of interesting and likeable people I met, and the sense that these were important problems that needed to be addressed.
No one talked much about mental health – at the policy level, the political level, and especially the personal level – when I entered the profession. People were secretive about seeking care or sharing their experiences of illness and recovery. Now it is part of a very public and national conversation. Even as we struggle with the devastation at so many levels of the pandemic, we are talking about the mental health implications much more than we did with SARS almost 20 years ago.
What motivated you to write We Can Do Better?
I wanted people to learn about innovations, some of them Canadian, and to feel hopeful. I wanted people to know we are not stuck with the status quo, which is unacceptable anyway. And I wanted people to have a sense that some of these innovations are not about a distant future but rather something that can be implemented in the next few years. Finally, I wanted to situate these innovations in a context of patients with real illnesses and challenges and show the reader what those look like.
One of the key innovations you talk about in the book is the importance of Integrated Youth Services (IYS) to improve early intervention and care. How have you seen IYS make a difference and what impact do you believe it can have in transforming youth mental health care?
I think IYS is likely the biggest transformation in the mental health landscape in Canada in terms of how we organize services and improve access to care. A waiting list for that important first contact which is measured in hours is very different than one that is estimated in months to years to never. And it’s an entirely different model of care, with meaningful input into the design and governance by young people and families. It is spreading across the country extremely rapidly and reflects an unprecedented partnership of governments, research, and philanthropy.
What are some innovative ways you have seen organizations address access to mental health care amid COVID-19?
The biggest change is the embrace of televideo mental healthcare – and a reminder of the importance of access to broadband and devices to make that care truly universal. No area of healthcare is better suited to televideo than mental health. It is the technological revival of the old-fashioned house call, bringing services to our patient rather than bringing our patient to services. The availability of apps for mental health problems and illnesses as well as the use of internet-delivered platforms of evidence-based psychotherapies is another big way of expanding the reach of mental health services.
What are a few things we can do better in our everyday lives during this difficult time to improve our own mental health or the mental health of those around us?
The solutions are primarily low-tech, but we are fortunate to also have technology that allows us to overcome some barriers of isolation. For people working from home, developing and sticking to a schedule that includes regular breaks, exercise and fresh air is important, as the borders between work and home have been erased. That includes those late-night work emails! Moderating alcohol intake is important given evidence that it has increased during the pandemic. Remembering that when people say social distance, they actually mean physical distance – we need very much to connect with others while maintaining our safety. Technology allows us to do that. Feeling useful by helping others is another way to bolster ourselves in these uncertain times. The pandemic feels like an ultra-marathon (not that I have ever run in one and never could!) with a finish line that is not yet visible.
On Monday, May 3rd, Dr. Goldbloom will join his colleague, CAMH psychiatrist Dr. Araba Chintoh for a free RamsayTalk, to discuss how these innovations can improve how mental illnesses are diagnosed and treated. To learn more or register, click here. (English only)
To learn more about Dr. Goldbloom, read his bio on our website.