Buying Bread or Paying for Your Medication? Public Drug Plans Must Cover Cost of Latest Depression Medications

OTTAWA, May 17, 2017 /CNW/ - Ron Campbell and Brianne Moore — on behalf of millions of other Canadians living with mental illness and depression — have a message for Minister of Health Jane Philpott following her address yesterday at The Economic Club of Canada. Their message is this: an effectively reformed system to review patented medications must include the many people who are currently shut out from getting the latest — and most effective — medications for their depression.

Ron and Brianne are referring to Canada's publicly funded drug plan system, which currently does not cover many of the latest innovative depression medications that Canadians need to treat their illness. Those medications are only available through private health plans.

Right now, Canada's most vulnerable, including veterans, seniors, single parents, Indigenous peoples, the unemployed and homeless people, are shut out. That's because publicly funded drug plans don't cover the cost of the latest innovative medicines designed to treat depression.

All these Canadians, say Ron and Brianne, are part of an untold story.

"It's a travesty," says Ron, a retired RCMP officer with both PTSD and major depressive disorder. He's one of the lucky ones because he has private drug plan coverage. After years of tweaking and crashing, more tweaking and crashing, his specialist found the right combination of medications that make it possible for him to cope — and live.

"I'm finally in the best place I've been in 13 years," says the man who twice came within a hair's breadth of ending his life, once with pistol in hand. "I don't know what I would have done if I didn't have private drug plan coverage."

Ron is concerned about all those others he sees who struggle to get through their day without the benefit of the medication that will work for them — or people like Brianne who sometimes forfeits the medication she needs when she can't afford it.

Brianne is only 19, but she has struggled with mental illness for virtually her entire life and has had to pay for her own medications for the last three years. Life's hard, but things would certainly be easier if her medication was covered under the public drug plan.

"You shouldn't have to choose between buying food or the medication you need to stay mentally healthy," she says. "Unfortunately, sometimes those are the only choices I have."

Ron and Brianne are members of the newly formed Canadians for Equitable Access to Depression Medications (CEADM). CEADM is calling on Minister Philpott to fix the system, ensuring that all Canadians living with mental illness, regardless of their income, have access to the latest medications for depression.

"Minister Philpott is correct to tackle the high price of patented medications, and we are pleased that she has also touched on the important issue of access, but her plan for reform does not go far enough," says Phil Upshall, a member of CEADM's National Leadership Team and National Executive Director of the Mood Disorders Society of Canada. "Yes, developing a common national formulary that reflects the 21st century's 'patient-centered care' philosophy is an important step in the right direction to improve affordability and accessibility. But Canada's inequitable public drug plan system, which leaves many people out in the cold, the hardest hit being the most vulnerable in society and those with no private benefit plan, must be fixed."

"We cannot afford to let an employment lottery dictate who can and who cannot access the medications that restore wellness, quality of life and full functionality that permits Canadians living with a mental illness to become productive members of Canadian society," he adds.

SOURCE Canadians for Equitable Access to Depression Medication

Singing the Holiday Blues?

Neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez Offers Tips to Help Cope 



It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  But sadly, not for everyone.  Whether it’s dealing with loss, getting over an addiction, being new in town, helping children post-divorce or caring for a senior citizen,  Dr. Hafeez has suggestions to help make the holidays a bit easier to navigate.


For the newly divorced or widowed:

Loss is a sad, life-changing event at any time of the year.  However, it tends to be harder when everyone around you is joyful and giddy with holiday cheer.  “Don’t be so hard on yourself by trying to minimize your pain,” advises Dr. Hafeez.  Allow yourself to grieve – it’s only natural.  She also suggests reaching out to family and friends and joining a grief or support group.  Surrounding yourself with loved ones or others going through the same experience will help you feel less lonely.  To find a grief group in your area:


Dr. Hafeez  is an advocate for volunteering.  Helping those less fortunate can give you a sense of love and pride, while immersing yourself in the true spirit of the holidays, in the hopes of lifting your own.  Lastly, Dr. Hafeez says to “be good to yourself.  Take a long bath, read a good book, get a massage.  Do something that you love to do and makes you feel good.  Neglecting yourself will only make you feel worse.”


For those who are new in town - A Meetup Group is a local community of people. A Meetup Group hosts Meetups, which are face to face meetings that happen in real life between members and organizers. They can range from anything from “a new in town” group to yoga groups, restaurant groups, you name it, there is a “meet up” for every hobby.  On the Find a Meetup Group page, you'll be able to see the location, description, and topics of Meetup Groups. You can also browse individual Meetups within all the groups in your area.



Seasonal Affect Disorder- A light box mimics outdoor light. Researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD. Most people use light boxes for a minimum of 30 minutes each morning.


You can buy a light box over the counter, or your doctor may recommend a specific light box.  Light boxes, available from stores and Internet retailers, come in different shapes and sizes and have varied features. They also produce different types and intensities of light. Light boxes are designed to be safe and effective, but they aren't approved or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it's important to understand your options.




Depression?  There’s an App for that. More people commit suicide during the holidays than at any other time of the year. Unfortunately for people who are under the care of a psychologist, it is very likely their treatment will be interrupted over the holidays due to vacationing doctors. Thankfully, there are many excellent apps for Android and Smart Phones.  Some top apps are: Health Through Breath, Secret of Happiness, Depression CBT Self Help Guide,  NIH Depression Info, and Fitness Builder.


For the caretaker of a senior citizen:


Don’t forget that elderly people tire easily and can be vulnerable to over-stimulation.  “Limit the number of activities for these people and schedule time for a nap if you are traveling or take them home when they become exhausted,” says Dr. Hafeez.  Offer to cook for them at your home or help to cook at theirs.  While older people may no longer be self-sufficient in the kitchen, there is no reason why they can’t help.  Dr. Hafeez says “including them in the meal preparation is a great way for them to feel involved in the holidays, without putting them in any danger.”  And if you are gathering in a place that is unfamiliar, make sure to remove slippery throw rugs and other items that could present a problem to one who has balance problems or difficulty walking.


For the parent dealing with post-divorce children:


Dr. Hafeez suggests that, “one parent may just have to be the ‘bigger’ one and give in for the sake of the kids,” when there is a dispute taking place.  Whether it’s over the holiday schedule or bedtime after a party, the kids feel the stress.  Also, Dr. Hafeez advises to try to collaborate with your former spouse over presents, so there is no competition over who gives the best gifts.  “And never undermine the other parent.  If he or she says they aren’t allowed to have something, don’t buy it! Be an adult,” says Dr. Hafeez.



For the recovering alcoholic:


Recovering from addiction is hard.  Period.  But it’s harder when holiday festivities are filled with friends and family drinking everything from eggnog to champagne.  Be prepared for what you may face, before going to a party,” advises Dr. Hafeez.  She suggests an answer like “I’m choosing not to drink today,” or “I’ve decided to be the designated driver,” should get people off your back.


Dr. Hafeez, also offers this advice if you are traveling over the holidays.  “Traveling often takes you to places where drinking can be encouraged, such as airports, planes and hotel bars.” Prepare yourself ahead of time by reminding yourself over and over that these settings may make you uncomfortable, but you don’t have a drink to make yourself feel more comfortable.  If you have to, make yourself a note in your phone and read it to yourself if you’re starting to feel vulnerable.


While this year may not be the happiest and easiest of holidays, remind yourself that next year will be better.  “Looking forward, not back, is the best way to embrace the future on a positive note,” says Dr. Hafeez.


Sanam Hafeez Psy.D

New York State Licensed Neuropsychologist and School Psychologist


Dr. Sanam Hafeez is a New York City based Neuro-psychologist and School Psychologist.  She is also the founder and director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C.  She is currently a teaching faculty member at Columbia University. Click here to see Dr. Hafeez on Dr.Oz:



Dr. Hafeez graduated from Queens College, CUNY with a BA in psychology.  She then went on to earn her Master of Science in Psychology at Hofstra University.  Following that she stayed at Hofstra to receive her Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) She later completed her post-doctoral training in Neuropsychology and Developmental Pediatrics at Coney Island Hospital.


Dr. Hafeez’s provides neuropsychological educational and developmental evaluations in her practice.  She also works with children and adults who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, autism, attention and memory problems, trauma and brain injury, abuse, childhood development and psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc…) In addition, Dr. Hafeez serves as a medical expert and expert witness by providing full evaluations and witness testimony to law firms and courts.


Dr. Hafeez immigrated to the United States from Pakistan when she was twelve years old.  She is fluent in English, Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi (Pakistani and Indian languages.) She resides in Queens, New York with her husband and twin boys.


Honors and Publications:

April 2013                              Main Speaker at Learning Disabilities Awareness Conference, New York City at Baruch College, CUNY

“Evaluating and Accommodating Students with



June 2008         Appointment to the New York City 18-B panel Assigned Counsel Plan

                                                Appointed as a preferred and approved Neuropsychologist and Clinical Psychologist in the New York City Court System for low cost or pro bono criminal, civil and family law cases



January 2008                      CUNY Proficiency Exam Waiver Position Paper

Hafeez, S. (2008)

Commissioned by CUNY to advocate for the Learning Disabled population and the bias of the CUNY Assessment.

Research based paper presented to the Board of CUNY Student Disabilities to waive requirement.


1998-2000                                                      Doctoral Fellowship, Hofstra University

*Awarded a stipend in exchange for a research assistant position with core faculty member


Clinical Experience:

Director and Founder February 2003-Present

Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services                                


  • Provide quality monolingual and bilingual psychological, educational, neuropsychological and speech and language evaluations
  • Early Intervention, Pre-School and School Age Special Education Services
  • Awarded a competitive contract through bidding with the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE)
  • Awarded an assessment and interpreting contract with Putnam-Westchester BOCES
  • Provide evaluations and services to college level students with educational disabilities
  • Also provide occupational and physical therapy evaluations as well as therapeutic services in all areas.
  • Contract with school district and various agencies to provide evaluations and related services
  • Provide neuropsychological, psychological and forensic evaluations for legal purposes to individuals, law firms, agencies and courts


Teaching Experience:

Faculty Appointment September 2011-Present

Columbia University, Teacher’s College, New York, NY

PhD program in Psychology

  • Instruction of neuropsychological and cognitive testing measures (SB-5, WJ-III, WISC-IV, etc)
  • Supervision and training of graduate students f

We talk openly about asthma & allergies. Giving same transparency to mental health issues will lift the crippling silence, says award-winning columnist, author, OCD & anxiety survivor


Last week, Harry Potter series star Devon Murray bravely opened up about his decade-long struggle with depression.  But why did it take him so long?

Maggie Lamond Simone, author of Body Punishment  -- who has struggled her entire life with OCD, anxiety and depression -- knows all too well that shame, the fear of stigma and a general lack of awareness about the signs and symptoms of mental illness keep a significant number of people from speaking up about their condition.

The silence, Maggie says, can cause utter devastation by perpetuating a culture of secrecy,  causing shame to deepen, destroying self-esteem and alienating those affected.  It can also prevent people from seeking the treatment and support they need.

The only way forward toward ending what NPR has called a silent epidemic, Maggie says, is to lift the taboo around calling mental illnesses by their name.  Here’s how:

Identify the illness.

Mental illnesses come in all shapes and sizes, from depression and anxiety to OCD, eating disorders and addiction.  Be intentional about identifying the specific condition you, a friend or a loved one is suffering from. This will help make the condition and its manifestations seem less mysterious and confusing, lifting a layer of stigma.

Get in the habit of calling each illness by its name.

When consistently referred to by its proper name, a mental health condition becomes merely an aspect of the individual suffering from it rather than a defining characteristic -- as with asthma or allergies.  After all, just as nobody chooses to have asthma or is identified by it, nobody chooses to have -- or should be identified by -- OCD.

Be intentional in talking openly about mental illness.

Whether you struggle personally with a mental health condition or know somebody who does, be intentional in speaking about it openly.  Again, think of how you’d speak of asthma.  The condition itself won’t go away, but with a name and no shame it becomes just another aspect of whoever has it. It can be managed.

Finally, remember: speaking up will lead to a domino effect that will go a long way toward alleviating suffering and devastation.

Maggie would be happy to talk about this in more detail, and / or I’d be glad to send you a copy of her book.  Let me know if you’re interested!


About Maggie Lamond Simone

Maggie Lamond Simone is an award-winning columnist and author. With two titles already to her name, her third book, Body Punishment: OCD, Addiction and Finding the Courage to Heal (Central Recovery Press) was released in April 2015. It traces Simone’s journey struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression. Her writing has been featured in multiple publications and collections, including Cosmopolitan MagazineThe Zen of Midlife Mothering (2013), Not Your Mother’s Book on Do-It-Yourselfers (2013), P.S. What I Didn’t Say (2009), and Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution (2008).  Simone has been a guest on NPR and is a regular blog columnist for the Huffington Post. An an adjunct professor in the department of communications at SUNY Oswego and Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, she lives in Central New York with her husband and two children.

About Body Punishment

For as long as she can recall, Maggie Lamond Simone has been plagued by self-loathing and urges to harm herself physically while emotionally sabotaging her life. In Body Punishment:  OCD, Addiction and Finding the Courage to Heal (Central Recovery Press, April 2015), she reveals it all. The obsessive thoughts that drove her to cut, starve, pick, drink, pluck, purge, and otherwise hurt herself. The profound shame, the utter despair and the confusion over her own inner workings that prevented her from establishing stable, long-term goals and healthy relationships.  Through this poignant story of her painful, eye-opening journey she explores the issues of substance abuse, anxiety, and depression that commonly occur with OCD, all in an effort to further the dialogue around mental illness and eliminate the shame and help others find a way forward toward healing.