Federal leadership needed to create national mental health system

    OTTAWA, Sept. 24 /CNW/ - The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
issues a strong reminder to politicians that Canada remains the only G-8
country without a mental health strategy, spending only 5% of its health
budget on mental health services.
    "Mental health affects us all," says Dr. Taylor Alexander, CEO, CMHA,
National Office in Ottawa. "Canada loses some $51 billion dollars a year on
lost productivity due to mental health problems. And, studies continue to
reveal that one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness sometime
during their lifetime."
    During this federal election, CMHA seeks the support and commitment from
all political parties to create a national mental health system which is
comprehensive, universal and integrated. Such a system is especially important
in times of major economic challenges and workplace stressors. An effective
national system should promote and support resilience for individuals and
    "Politicians need to recognize that the main responsibility for creating
and maintaining a national mental health system lies with the federal
government in partnership with the provinces and territories," says Dr.
Alexander. "Canadians need a mental health system that ensures high quality
services and other key social supports, regardless of income or where they
    CMHA strongly supports the continued work of the Mental Health Commission
of Canada, especially, its goal of contributing to a national mental health
strategy. CMHA's vision of a pan-Canadian mental health system would include
-- accessibility, consumer involvement, adequate housing and income, supports
for veterans, a recognized role for voluntary sector services, public
education and service integration -- based on a firm belief in personal
resilience and recovery.
    An August 2008 survey conducted by Ipsos Reid for the Canadian Medical
Association (CMA) revealed that almost three quarters of respondents (72%)
agreed that funding to treat mental illness should be equal to funding for
physical illnesses such as cancer.
    "We cannot afford to trivialize the mental health needs of Canadians any
longer. Canadians urgently deserve a national, comprehensive system that is
accessible to all," says Dr. Alexander.

    About CMHA, National

    The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), founded in 1918, is one of
the oldest voluntary organizations in Canada. Each year, it provides direct
service to more than 100,000 Canadians through the combined efforts of more
than 10,000 volunteers and staff across Canada in over 135 communities. As a
nation-wide voluntary organization, the Canadian Mental Health Association
promotes the mental health of all Canadians and supports the resilience and
recovery of people experiencing mental illness. CMHA accomplishes this mission
through advocacy, education, research, and service delivery. For further
information, please visit www.cmha.ca.

                             CMHA BACKGROUNDER:


    -   Comprehensive - covering all key mental health services, from
        promotion through treatment, through support and recovery
    -   Universal - covering the whole population of Canada
    -   Integrated - coherent programs and policies at all levels and across
        program sectors, linking care, support services, income, housing, and
        consumer involvement

    CMHA's Vision of a pan-Canadian mental health system includes:

    -   Accessibility - to all relevant services, for Canada's diverse
        population, and across Canada's diverse geography
    -   Service Integration - federal initiatives with provinces and
        territories to integrate coordinated and collaborative mental health
        services in primary care
    -   Consumer Involvement - formally supported consumer and family
        involvement in service evaluation, planning and direction
    -   Framework for Support - formal recognition of the social determinants
        of health and recognition of formal and informal supports
    -   Income - federal leadership with provinces and territories in raising
        income support standards and integrating with mental health policies
    -   Housing - federal leadership and work with provinces and territories
        in enhancing affordable housing provision and integrating where
        relevant with mental health support programs.
    -   Role of the voluntary sector - formal recognition at the system level
        of the voluntary sector as an equitable partner in service planning
        and delivery
    -   Recovery - supports guided by this principle, built into policies and
    -   Promotion - of mental health for all Canadians and reduction of
        stigma against persons with mental health problems
    -   Development of comprehensive, accessible mental health supports for
        Canadian veterans returning from active service to help ensure their
        recovery and reintegration into Canadian society

    Mental Health Funding:

    Canada is the only G8 country without a mental health strategy. Canada
spends 5% of its health budget on mental health services, less than most OECD
countries, when the WHO estimates disease burden as 15%. Ontario spends less
per capita than most other provinces. Despite adding $220 million to its
mental health spending over the last four years, mental health spending has
declined to 3% of Health spending according to the 2007 budget papers. Other
countries have found political will. New Zealand increased its mental health
share of spending to 10% over the last 10 years. The UK has invested 1.9 pnds
stlg billion since 2001 and Australia has committed to add $3.8 billion over
the next four years. Provincial governments need to commit to spending 8-10%
of their Health budgets on mental health care. (Steve Lurie, Executive
Director, CMHA, Toronto, Top 10 Strategies to Improve Mental Health Care in

For further information:

For further information: Kismet Baun, Senior Communications Advisor,
CMHA, Ontario, Toronto, (416) 977-5580 Ext. 4141, kbaun@ontario.cmha.ca

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Canadian Mental Health Association

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