CMHA BC Applauds Canada's First-Ever National Mental Health Strategy

Timing Coincides with CMHA's Annual Mental Health Week Focusing on Mental Health for Everyone

VANCOUVER, May 8, 2012 /CNW/ - Today's historic release of a national mental health strategy by the Mental Health Commission of Canada is a giant step forward in taking mental illness "out of the shadows". The strategy will provide a blueprint for governments, policy makers and service providers to improve access to mental health and mental illness support and services, says Bev Gutray, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division.

CMHA BC applauds the 152-page strategy, officially released today, for aiming to foster a change in the way society looks at mental health, bringing it out of the shadows and into the mainstream of health care.

"Until today, Canada was the only advanced industrial country without a national strategy on mental health, says Ms. Gutray. "The CMHA has been calling for a mental health strategy for over a decade, and it will serve to encourage us to all work together to ensure real progress."

At least one in five Canadians each year will be affected by a mental illness, which costs the national economy $51 billion a year. The commission argues that increasing the overall share of funding for mental health from a national average of seven to nine per cent of the health care dollar will not only improve services and access, but will save money.

Ms. Gutray points out that BC is already one of Canada's leaders when it comes to mental health. The province spends above the national average on mental health at eight per cent and British Columbia has had its own mental health strategy - a strategy that includes addictions, not covered in the Commission's report.

According to Ms. Gutray, the CMHA and the BC division are already moving to follow the strategic guidelines outlined in the report. For example, by backing the Ride Don't Hide bicycle trek around the world launched by Vancouver school teacher Michael Schratter, the CMHA is working to defeat the stigma against mental illness, one of the strategic cornerstones of the report.

CMHA BC also applauds the commission's decision to release its mental health strategy during the CMHA's 61st annual Mental Health Week, particularly because this year's theme is "Mental Health for All."

CMHA BC is launching its own initiative during Mental Health Week: The "Living Life to the Full" program, a 12-hour eight-week course that helps people improve their moods, feeling and behaviours by offering practical advice and suggestions for making life more livable - emphasizing the message that everyone can be empowered to improve their mental health.

"This program is the kind of thing that will contribute to the great shift in attitude that the Commission's strategy hopes to promote," says Ms. Gutray. "Here in BC's 19 CMHA branches, and in 120 communities across Canada, we look forward to being a lead partner in implementing the strategy."

Ms. Gutray says that a key next step will be the development of a detailed implementation strategy for the commission's report. The commission estimates that it will take another five years for that work to be done, which will take it to the end of its mandate from Ottawa. Ms. Gutray hopes that with the implementation plan will come a transition plan to ensure that its partners are working together to undertake the sweeping improvements envisioned by the commission.

About the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division:

The Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division is a charity that promotes mental health for all in British Columbia and supports the resilience and recovery of people experiencing mental illness through public education, community-based research, influencing public policy, and direct services and supports. Last year, through the BC division and 19 BC branches, CMHA helped over 82,000 British Columbians. Nationally, it is one of the oldest mental health charitable voluntary organizations in Canada. To get involved or donate, visit www.cmha.bc.ca or call 1-800-555-8222.

SOURCE Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division

For further information:

To interview Bev Gutray or a regional CMHA representative, please contact Jennifer Quan, CMHA, at 604-688-3234, Paul Sullivan or Martin Livingston, BreakThrough Communications, at 604-685-4742.

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Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division

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