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National Mental Health Strategy Unveiled in Canada

by Sheela Philomena on  May 11, 2012 at 9:48 AM Mental Health News
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Canada unveils the national mental health strategy.
 National Mental Health Strategy Unveiled in Canada
National Mental Health Strategy Unveiled in Canada

The strategy, announced Tuesday by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, which was established by the Canadian government in 2007 and given a 10-year mandate, estimates that in any given year, one in five people in Canada experiences a mental health problem or illness.

The resulting cost to the Canadian economy is over 50 billion Canadian dollars ($49.9 billion) annually, reported Xinhua.

"With governments, corporations, communities, families and individuals expressing growing interest in mental health, we must not squander the best chance we've ever had to make the biggest improvements in our history," said psychiatrist David Goldbloom, the newly appointed chair of the commission. "We owe it to all Canadians to act and to act immediately."

Titled "Changing Directions, Changing Lives", the strategy is based on the experiences of more than 2,500 people and contains 109 recommendations, including the creation of "mentally healthy" workplaces.

Mental health problems and illness account for about 30 percent of disability claims and are rated among the top three drivers of such claims by over 80 percent of Canadian employers, said the commission's report.

In 2010, mental health conditions were responsible for 47 percent of all approved disability claims in Canada's federal civil service, or almost double the percentage 20 years ago.

These problems and illnesses also account for more than 6 billion Canadian dollars in lost productivity due to absenteeism and "presenteeism" (when people still go to work when they're sick). Noting that up to 70 percent of young adults living with mental health problems report that their symptoms began in childhood, the strategy calls for prevention programs targeted at children most at risk because of poverty, having a parent with a mental health or substance-use problem, or family violence.

Such "diversion" initiatives as mental-health courts and restorative justice programs are required to keep people living with mental health problems and illnesses out of prison.

Since 1997, it's estimated that rates of serious mental health problems among federal offenders in Canada had increased by 60 to 70 percent.

The strategy also called for an end to the use of seclusion and physical restraints, or restraints by medication, in hospitals, and provide at least 100,000 people with mental health issues with access to housing and other supports over the next decade.

Canadian Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq Tuesday announced that the government would commit about 800,000 Canadian dollars for research projects on homelessness and mental illness.

Source: IANS

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