Mental illness does not discriminate against age or sex. In fact, one in every five Canadians will have a mental illness at some point in their lives, says The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) (http://www.cmha.ca/bins/content_page.asp?cid=3&lang=1).
According to a Carmen Chai's article in today's Ottawa Citizen, mental illness costs the Canadian economy $51 billion in lost productivity per year (http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Mental+health+absences+cost+economy+study/3497746/story.html).
A study conducted by Carolyn Dewa, a researcher at The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), found alarming differences between physical disability and mental health disability leaves. The average short-term physical disability leave is 33 days, the main reasons being respiratory, muscular-skeletal, digestive or injury-related. Each case costs an average of $9,000.
Depression, anxiety and and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), on the other hand, are the mental illnesses that appear the most in the Canadian workplace. Leading to an average leave of 65 days, each case foots a $18,000 bill.
Despite this fact, Canada remains the only G8 country without a national mental health strategy to combat the problem. This is a shame and failure on our part to meet the needs of our own people.
The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that by 2020, depression will reach 2nd place on the ranking of disability adjusted life years (DALYs) calculated for men and women of all ages. Today, the illness is already the 2nd cause of DALYs for those aged between 15-44 years of age (http://www.who.int/mental_health/management/depression/definition/en/).
The tragedy is that about 850,000 people take their own lives each year.
Suicide accounts for 24 per cent of deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 16-44 year olds in Canada (http://www.ontario.cmha.ca/fact_sheets.asp?cID=3965).
Still, the suicide rate among Aboriginal youth is higher: 2 to 3 times higher than that of their non-Aboriginal counterparts in Canada. Aboriginals aged 15-25 who live on a reserve are six times more likely to commit suicide than youth who do not (http://www.nandecade.ca/article/aboriginal-suicide-statistics-71.asp).
The wait time to receive professional mental health services (not to mention access to sexual abuse specialists) in Northern Canada is downright disturbing.
The bottom line is that the stigma against mental illness has lasted long enough! More needs to be be done to help Canadians who are living with mental illness as well as those who are helping them. Our politicians need to wake up and listen. Statistics can no longer be ignored!
Tomorrow, the CMHA is teaming up with Friends of Emmet (a band from Dublin, Ireland) for a benefit concert for suicide prevention in recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day at the Bronson Centre in Ottawa.
However, there are many ways you too can do your part. You can write to your elected representatives or make a donation to the CMHA (http://www.cmha.ca/).
You can also visit the Mental Health Commission of Canada
(http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/Pages/Annualreportviewingrequirements.aspx) to learn about its ongoing initiatives and efforts to establish a national mental health strategy.
Launched in June 2008, the Canada Post Foundation for Mental Health raises money to support mental health research throughout the country. The Foundation raised over $1.5 billion in 2009 and is always accepting donations at www.canadapost.ca/foundation. Its mental health stamp is
available at post offices nationwide.
Furthermore, regular citizens must join with the voices of more prominent ones such as Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson (his sister is battling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD), former figure skater Elizabeth Manley (she struggled with depression in her late teens) and Margaret Trudeau (she has bipolar disorder), to fight and, ultimately, defeat the stigma attached to mental illness as well as get our government to listen and take appropriate action!