Susan Hartley - Critic for Health & Wellness

Dr. Susan Hartley has a lifetime of experience as a Clinical Psychologist in both the private and public sectors, serving in community mental health centres, outpatient and inpatient departments of hospital facilities, and in her private practise. She has advocated for children in care, and, as a psychologist in Winnipeg, worked with adolescents struggling with abuse, homelessness and addiction, human trafficking, and family violence. Dr. Hartley has served as an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychology at St. Francis Xavier University teaching upper level undergraduate students in Abnormal Child Psychology. Dr. Hartley is a registered Psychologist in PEI, a member of the Psychologists Association of PEI (PAPEI), and the 2014 recipient of PAPEI’s Humanitarian Award for her work with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan.  She is a Fellow of the Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia (APNS) and a past-president of that organization. As a breast cancer survivor, Susan has first-hand experience with and insights into the Canadian medical system. Susan believes in the power of physical activity to help heal and prevent illness, and has been an amateur athlete and community leader in team sports for many years.

"I believe there is incredible possibility and opportunity for Prince Edward Island to be a leader in the promotion of physical and mental well-being, as well as in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of health concerns and challenges. I envision a life-long wellness strategy that focuses on the social determinants of health, is grounded in equity and caring for our most vulnerable citizens, provides timely care to those struggling with ill health, and gives our children the best chance to live healthy and resilient lives."

Latest blogs


When a system is failing there are stopgap measures one can put in place to keep it running - albeit much less efficiently than if it had a complete overhaul.  We have all kicked various motors or rebooted our computers or pleaded to inanimate objects. Sometimes effective in the short term, but eventually the things that these objects or machines can’t do increase and accumulate and the system fails.




An early interest in Autism led me to study psychology several decades ago and, eventually, to become a Psychologist.  Therefore, it was with much interest that I read Peter Rukavina’s opinion piece “An Integrated Network” and listened to MLA Sidney McEwen introduce a private member’s bill to establish an Autism Secretariat.  Integrating services will not only help families navigate the system, but will allow decision makers to identify gaps and create the best flow possible through the system for these Islanders.




I read with interest Paul MacNeill’s editorial in the Graphic on August 29th and agree with his assertion that the time has come to rebuild trust throughout the Three Rivers region.  

Amalgamation in Three Rivers has been described by some as “the threat of Amalgamation” and by others as “the promise of Amalgamation”.    The conflict and divisive discourse is no secret. Conflict that, left unaddressed, could easily colour the nature of the regional relationships moving forward.  




The PEI government has asked for public input into the proposed amendments to the province’s Employment Standards Act, including amendments that will provide survivors of domestic, intimate partner and sexual violence with 3 days paid and 7 days unpaid leave from their places of employment. Introduced by the Progressive Conservatives and supported by all parties, this addition to the Act recognizes the hardships that victims of domestic violence face when attempting to leave an abusive situation and the financial stress it puts on them, without the additional worry of possible job loss.   




I would like to thank Sidney MacEwen for responding to my recent opinion piece "Wisdom in the room going unnoticed" (The Guardian; July 13, 2018).   It seems that there is more that we agree about than we disagree about and this instils hope for collaborative efforts moving forward. We agree that Eastern PEI is facing huge challenges with the failure to provide consistent access to acute and primary health care at KCMH.   We agree about the high level of interest in the room the night of the community forum in Montague. And although Mr. MacEwen suggests otherwise, I agree with him that the people in the room that night voiced many concerns and solutions worthy of consideration. It was hearing this, in fact, which motivated me to write my opinion piece.  Excuse me for repeating it, but I think the observations I made are important enough not to be dismissed: “Community members spoke of collaborative models and going beyond the same old, same old solutions for the challenges in acute care.  They offered solutions, identified problems with professional territoriality, pointed out when the statistics being offered were inaccurate or misleading, and concerningly, spoke of the lack of consultation with frontline health workers and community members.”




Caring for our Health Care system is a complex, multi-faceted task, just as caring for our own health is.  While having a consistent relationship with a family doctor is essential, there are many resources, beyond family doctors, that we might access to support our health and our family’s health. In the same way, a healthy Health Care system is best achieved when decision makers think more broadly, more holistically, and, above all, more sustainably; when they look beyond the usual short term or singular remedies.




I have learned over a lifetime of personal and professional relationships that suicide and the thought of ending one’s own life is a complex and heartrending experience.   I don’t know how many people have shared with me their belief that suicide was a real choice for them - possibly hundreds. A belief that arose from despair and hopelessness.

Responding to suicidal ideation or behaviour in the moment, through initiatives such as Help Lines or peer support, is different than helping people to no longer consider suicide as an option at difficult times in their lives.  And this is different again than preventing, or at least reducing the incidence of, suicide in our society as a whole. Or as the final statement in the recently released Suicide Prevention Strategy The Building Blocks of Hope describes it: “make Prince Edward Island safer from suicide”.  




RE: “Island teachers trained to detect mental health disorders in the classroom”.

Hoping for something does not make it so - a lesson most of us learn early in life when the magical thinking of childhood is lost. Training teachers to deliver curriculum designed to increase knowledge of mental health issues does one specific thing - increases knowledge of mental health issues. A worthy goal in itself, but what does the evidence actually tell us about this program’s ability to support student mental health and wellbeing?




Screen_Shot_2018-01-12_at_10.31.38_AM.jpegCynthia Enloe, a prominent scholar in the area of gender, challenges us to ask “Where are the women?”   When we ask this question, Enloe argues, we become aware of the attitudes and behaviours that sustain inequality, aggression, poverty, gender based violence, and much more.   We begin to see that sustainable solutions that benefit all peoples economically and socially come from elevating the status of women in all spheres of decision making.  

Last month as I sat in the gallery at the PEI Legislature, Enloe’s question surfaced for me once again.  I was disheartened to see that Minister Biggar’s identification plate on her Legislative seat read “Transportation, Infrastructure, and Energy”.   Where is the Status of Women?




legislative-chamber-in-the-coles-building.jpgThis  past week the Speaker of the House ruled against MLAs speaking to the gallery outside of the rails. The rails became a focus again later in the week when courageous MLAs chose to speak of their personal experiences with trauma in the House - and the government listened and responded - yet information obtained directly from Islanders about their experience with mental health, including trauma, was devalued and discounted.  Perhaps MLAs need to do less speaking to people outside of the rail and more listening.