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Written By IOCDF Advocate Justine DeJaegher. Learn more about our advocate program and resources. 

What do we as an OCD community demand?

I’ve been thinking about this as we approach the Capital Pride festival in Ottawa, Canada where
I live.

It takes place at the end of August every year to commemorate the “We Demand” rally of 1971:
a watershed moment for Canada’s LGBTQ+ community where activists fought back against law
enforcement efforts to “purge” gays and lesbians from serving in government and the military.
Organizers’ list of demands ranged from rights surrounding child custody, to immigration, to the
right to serve in all levels of government and the military, among others.

As a lesbian living with OCD, I can’t help but be inspired by these acitivists’ efforts. They
understood that to truly transform the lives of all LGBTQ+ people – not just those who were out
with relative power and privilege – they needed to take the fight to the political arena. As an
OCD community we are getting better at educating others about the disorder and telling our
stories, but we also need to do what those seeking change have always done: demand better
from those with the power to enact legislative change.

So, what do we as an OCD community demand? While there’s no concerted effort to purge our
workplaces of people living with OCD, we know it can be a debilitating disorder that, without
appropriate treatment, can lead to unemployment, poverty, and suicidality. With no universal
public healthcare options for mental healthcare in either Canada or the United States, this is the
reality facing far too many members of our community. We have plenty to demand.

Helpfully, the IOCDF has outlined some key demands as part of its public policy advocacy work.
The IOCDF is pushing for conditions where:

  • Treatment for OCD and related disorders is affordable
  • Treatment for OCD and related disorders is widely available
  • Treatment for OCD and related disorders is effective
  • People with OCD and related disorders are supported in their communities

These aims are achievable. Just as Canadian LGBTQ+ activists demanded bold changes (at
the time undoubtedly deemed “unrealistic”), so too, can we as an OCD community. Fifty-one
years after the “We Demand Rally” organizers would surely be pleased to see so many of their
demands realized: from workplace non-discrimination measures, to marriage equality, to a
recent federal ban on the practice of so-called “conversion therapy” (a practice denounced by
both the Canadian and American Psychological Associations).

Where might OCD treatment be in fifty-one years? What demands might we have realized?

The reality is we could have a society where OCD is better understood, and where evidence-
based treatments like ERP and ACT are widely used and accessible to all who need them.
Where leaders in frontline service organizations are better able to recognize OCD and know
where to refer without concern that the person will be unable to pay. We could have a system
where clinicians are well remunerated for their work, with access to quality benefits. A system
where, rather than having to navigate labyrinthine bureaucracies of insurers and boutique social
programs ultimately designed to exempt rather than include, clinicians can focus on client care,
on continuing education, on research, and on their own mental health care in an already
emotionally taxing profession. It requires public investment and a belief in collective care for
one another. We will need to fight for it.

From LGBTQ+ inclusion to support for people living with mental illness, a more compassionate
society is possible. It will require coalition-building, it will require difficult conversations with
colleagues, neighbours, family members, and friends, and it will require bold legislative action in
response to demonstrated and widespread public support for our demands. This work will not
be easy. But if there’s one thing I know about the OCD community, it’s that we can do hard
things.


Learn about how you can tell Congress to support expanded mental healthcare access here.

For Canadians, send a letter to your Member of Parliament urging them to support mental
healthcare access here.

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