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The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) has released its proposed strategy for mental health care in Canada. The release coincides with Mental Health Week, which kicked off yesterday.

The MHCC says that its strategy, Changing Directions, Changing Lives: The Mental Health Strategy for Canada, is the first such strategy in Canada and will bring about real change for Canadians struggling with mental illness.

“We all have a stake. Mental health problems and illnesses affect us all—mother, father, child, friend, colleague. But the unfortunate power of stigma prevents the pain and costs of mental health problems and illnesses from receiving a level of attention and support other serious health issues do,” said Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the MHCC.

“The launch of the Mental Health Strategy for Canada marks the first time that Canada has created a shared vision and set of priorities that will guide the efforts of the public and private sectors, the service delivery sector and all Canadians to improve mental health outcomes.”

The report calls on federal and provincial governments to overhaul and then co-ordinate their mental health services by investing more than $4 billion over the next 10 years. It also urges companies to realize that mental illness costs them money and could be alleviated by serious attention to employees’ mental health.

Some provinces have actively crafted mental health strategies, but many leaders in health services, as well as opposition critics, believe Ottawa must take a bigger role to set out a common direction and provide funding.

“When one in five Canadians suffers from a mental health problem or illness, costing our economy $50 billion a year, we cannot afford to stand idly by and pass the buck,” said Liberal health critic Hedy Fry. “This Conservative government must demonstrate real leadership on this issue by properly funding and implementing the mental health strategy.”

Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq attended the report’s launch today and implied that the federal government would support the proposed strategy.

“Today, we have reached a milestone,” Aglukkaq said. “We now have a comprehensive document that is a reflection of the dedication of those who brought it to life. This strategy is a call for all of us—across different levels of government, in the corporate world and [in] the volunteer sector—to find ways that each of us can make a difference.”

The strategy sets six key strategic directions for mental health care in Canada.

  1. Promote mental health in homes, schools and workplaces, and prevent mental illness and suicide wherever possible.
  2. Foster recovery and well-being for people of all ages living with mental health problems and illnesses, and uphold their rights.
  3. Provide access to the right combination of services, treatments and supports, when and where people need them.
  4. Reduce disparities in risk factors and access to mental health services, and strengthen the response to the needs of diverse communities and northerners.
  5. Work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis to address their mental health needs, acknowledging their distinct circumstances, rights and cultures.
  6. Mobilize leadership, improve knowledge and foster collaboration at all levels.

“Mental health problems and illnesses cost Canada more than $50 billion every year. We have made some progress but more needs to be done to improve how we deal with mental illness in this country—we are still very far from where we need to be,” said David Goldbloom, chair of the MHCC.

“Everyone has a role to play, and that is why today’s call to action is intended for every government, corporation, organization, community, service provider and Canadian to rally around the goals and priorities in the strategy.”

Read the full report.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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