Mental-health strategy calls for overhaul of current system
Published Monday, May 7, 2012 10:35PM EDT
Canada's first-ever national mental-health strategy calls for an overhaul of the country's current mental-health system, saying too many Canadians don't have the access to care for their psychiatric and psychological health that they already enjoy for their physical health.
The strategy is contained in a report from the Mental Health Commission of Canada, which will officially deliver the 152-page report in Ottawa Tuesday.
Numerous media outlets have already begun releasing details of the report, entitled "Changing Direction, Changing Lives."
The report, which was five years in the making, contains more than 100 recommendations on how to improve mental health care for Canadians, calling on both the federal and provincial governments to help bring them about.
The strategy emphasizes focusing not just on helping patients recover from mental illness, but also stresses the need for prevention and early diagnosis, especially among youth, given that mental health issues affect one in five Canadians in any given year.
Specifically, the report calls for federal and provincial governments to earmark nine per cent of health spending for mental health services -- up from the current 7 per cent. That would see funding rise to $18 billion a year from $14 billion over 10 years.
Shana Calixte, a mental health advocate who has suffered from depression, said that keeping mental health in the dark is costing Canadians in more ways than one.
"The consequences are that we will have more lost time at work, more people dying as a result of mental illness," she said.
Such an investment would benefit society as whole, advocates say, with the report noting that mental health problems cost the Canadian economy at least $50 billion a year in health care costs as well as in lost productivity.
The report would also like to see the proportion of social spending that's devoted to mental health to rise by two percentage points from current levels.
The report emphasizes social supports needed for recovery from mental illness, as well as more strategies aimed at preventing mental illness from developing in the first place, especially among young people.
The report's recommendations are grouped into six key "Strategic Directions":
Promoting mental health and preventing mental illness
Fostering recovery and upholding rights of those with mental health problems
Providing access to the right services, treatments and supports
Reducing disparity in access to services and responding to needs of those in the North
Working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis, to address their distinct circumstances
Improving knowledge and fostering collaboration
A number of government departments have roles to play in bringing the strategy to fruition, the report notes, including education, justice, corrections, social services departments.
But workplaces, too, have a role to play in promoting good mental health, while non-government organizations and the media have roles to play in reducing stigma and increasing awareness, the report states.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq is expected to attend the official launch of the report on Tuesday in Ottawa.
Steve Lurie, from the Mental Health Commission of Canada, said that the report offers a blueprint for how "the provinces, governments, territories, schools, workplaces, can begin to implement the strategy."
Studies suggest that about 75 per cent of people who need treatment never get it.
Author Jan Wong, who has written about her own battles with mental illness, said that she too held prejudices about depression and feelings of weakness.
"If people knew a little bit more about it, I think there would be less ignorance, less fear, less prejudice, less stigma," Wong told CTVNews.ca's Andrea Janus.
"So I hope that by writing a book about it and getting people to pay attention, however briefly, to this topic, it will start a dialogue and people won't feel as humiliated or embarrassed."