I have struggled all my life with mental health problems, mainly anxiety and depression with a side-order of egocentric indignation.
I have been trying since last year to get mental health services in English – my native language, and one of two official languages in Canada.
Quebec has, for over 40 years, claimed that the English language posed a clear and present danger to the French language in Quebec, and for over 40 years, oppressive language laws meant to restrict the dissemination of English have whittled away at the historic English-speaking communities of Quebec.
And the institutionalized discrimination doesn’t stop there, by the way. If you’re a member of a non-Christian religion, you can’t work in a government job if you wear “religious headgear” or “overtly display” your religious beliefs. They SAY the law applies to Christians, too, but the number of times you see people with a cross around their neck, or the fact that the Quebec legislative assembly refuses to take down their “historic” crucifix which hangs over all actions of the parliament below, basically, if you’re not French-speaking and you’re not white, Quebec will never fully welcome you.
Even French-speaking People of Colour are mistreated here, underrepresented in government, civil service, and ghettoized. Not to mention the classical refrain of how non-whites are treated by law enforcement.
My experience may not be unique, but let me tell you I feel fucking horribly alone, right now, in a city I’ve lived in most of my life, in the province I was born into. The fact is, I can even trace my ancestral roots back to the first French settlers of this province.
BUT, because I was raised in English, because of my funny last name, I will never be un Quebecois.
And that therefore means that I can’t find English-language mental health services to help me treat my aforementioned anxiety, depression, and self-obsessed short fuse.
The reason I want it to be in English by someone who is fluent in English is to avoid having to stop mid-session to explain what I just said in simpler terms, or worse, say “I wish I were dead,” a common enough expression in English if a morbid one LITERALLY MISINTERPRETED as “This person is suicidal and intervention is required.”
The time I said that to a French Quebec therapist who had “conversational English” skills, I wound up being taken to the hospital forcibly and put on 72-hour hold.
…By the way, do you know how they collect people in crisis from their homes to bring them to the funny farm, in Quebec?
They – I shit you not – send SWAT to get you.
And SWAT treats you like an armed threat.
Besides dragging me out of bed with a gun to my forehead, they double-handcuffed my hands behind my back and then proceeded to toss my apartment in case I had guns, explosives, or, presumably some sort of biological or thermonuclear device. Then they drag me down to an ambulance and haul me away.
Then the 72-hour hold gets extended, because you were “unusually agitated” when brought into hospital.
If I’m being honest with myself, I’ve been severely depressed since my mother died, last year. Thankfully it was old age and not that damn COVID, but we couldn’t even be in hospital with her when she passed.
I’m divorced, and I’ve been struggling to find a proper job since before THAT happened, so I can’t even help support my kids, and my ex earns so much the Government had the audacity to tell me to get alimony from her. Like, fuck you, no.
My ex also has primary custody of our kids, and controls when I visit them. She also, sadly, weaponizes that access to punish me when it suits her.
So yeah; depressed, anxious, struggling to do more than get by…and I can’t get any help or support because of my mother tongue.
I should add that while I could go into PRIVATE therapy in English in Quebec, that would be in the For-Profit tier of health care, and I would have to PAY for the privilege of mental health. With what money?
Why not go to French therapy if you’re fluent in French? Well, that’s just it – I AM fluent, most English speaking Quebecers are, I daresay. But therapy is supposed to be as unfiltered as possible. Using a second language to express what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking is one POWERFUL filter that will, whether you want it to or not completely remove your expressiveness. You’ll still be able to communicate facts…but not what you’re feeling. Believe me, I speak from experience.
If you speak English, Quebec will never be your home.