Just a few weeks ago, the Mental Health Commission of Canada released the federal government’s first strategy to improve mental heath care in Canada. Its first goal is to improve mental health and well-being for all people living in Canada. Its second goal is to create a mental health system that can truly meet the needs of people of all ages living with mental health problems and illnesses and their families.
According to the Commission President, “mental health problems and illnesses affect us all – mother, father, child, friend, colleague…”
Statistics support this. They indicate that in any given year, one in five people in Canada experiences a mental health problem or illness. For 2012, that translates into a figure of almost 7 million people. About one million are children and teenagers between nine and 19 years old.
The economic cost of dealing with mental health problems and illnesses in Canada is high. In 1993, the cost was over $7 billion. It has now ballooned to well over $50 billion, a figure not including costs to the criminal justice system or the child welfare system. In the workplace, mental health problems and illnesses typically account for approximately 30 per cent of short-and-long-term disability claims. They also account for more than $6 billion dollars in lost productivity due to absenteeism and people coming to work when they are not well. And, this number is expected to rise.
In the public sector, over $40 billion is being spent on treatment, care, and support for people with mental health problems. This includes services such as visits to the emergency room and hospitalization, pharmaceuticals, employment and supportive housing, workers compensation, disability pensions, and community mental health supports.
The human cost to individuals and families dealing with mental health issues and their consequences cannot be measured in terms of dollars. It is reported that of the 4,000 Canadians who die every year as a result of suicide, most were confronting a mental health problem or illness. Suicide is the most common cause of death for people aged 15 to 24. Children who have mental health problems are more likely to become adolescents and then adults with the same problems. As an aside, if just a small percentage of mental health problems in children could be prevented, the savings would be in the billions.
Seniors between the ages of 70 and 89, including but not limited to dementia, are predicted, by 2041, to comprise the largest group of adults living with mental health problems and illnesses. And, caregivers have detailed the emotional challenges as well as the financial loss of wages and major costs related to a family member living with a mental illness.
Recognizing the impact of mental health problems on society, the Canadian government has drafted a strategy to start dealing with the issues. However, the bottom line is that individual Canadians bear the primary responsibility for achieving and sustaining their own personal state of good mental health.
If you or someone you know requires mental health crisis intervention counselling, call toll-free 1-877-820-7444. Available 24 hours, seven days a week.
Submitted by Agassiz Community Health