Kudos to Camille Quenneville, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association, for pointing out governments looking to contain costs and provide better service should address mental health issues within their own workforce. Writing in the Ottawa Citizen last week, Quenneville points out that every day 500,000 Canadians are absent from the workplace because of mental health problems. Someone suffering a mental illness will be absent from work on average twice as long as someone with any other disability. Mental health illness account for about 30 per cent of short and long-term disability claims. Clearly this is not just an issue with government, but with all employers. The CMHA CEO does acknowledge that many municipalities are already beginning to address the issue through wellness programs and education programs that particularly address stigma. Earlier this summer Partners for Mental Health launched their own workplace program “Not Myself Today.”
The Canadian Medical Association Journal reported over the summer on what could be a groundbreaking piece of research being conducted by Dr. Evelyn Forget at the University of Manitoba. From 1974 to 1978 Dauphin Manitoba took part in a unique “labour market experiment” in which locals were given a guaranteed annual income supplement to keep them out of poverty. The CMAJ says the experiment folded as a result of high interest rates and declining political interest in the concept. However for the last three years Dr. Forget has been wading through 2,000 boxes of data from the experiment. The data she is uncovering provides strong evidence that lifting people out of poverty has a remarkable effect on population health, especially with regards to mental health. Surprisingly, taking people out of poverty also reduced accidents and injuries. She also found that families kept their kids in school longer under the guaranteed income program. Given the revival of political interest in the social determinants of health, Dr. Forget’s ongoing research around a 35-year old experiment may pay some social dividends.
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Tagged Alex Hukowich, Austerity, Camille Quenneville, Canadian Mental Health Association, CMHA, corner stores beer and wine sales, Daughin Manitoba experiment, Dr. Evelyn Forget, Hamilton Health Sciences, HHS executive expenses, Long term care inspectors, Nick Fillmore
There is no question that stigma is an obstacle to those seeking help for mental illness.
The question is, once mental illness is accepted in the same way as any other medical malady, will there be sufficient resources in place to deal with those who do come forward?
Alan Stevenson of the Canadian Mental Health Association recently told the Sarnia Observer that his agency is seeing yearly jumps in the number of people coming forward with anxiety and depression largely due to the success of anti-stigma campaigns.
The question is, what funding resources is he using to deal with these surges in demand?
The spring budget was again oddly silent about mental health. Ontario is in the final year of its three-year plan to improve funding for mental health addressing children and youth. That’s $93 million in new funding this year – the last of a $257 million investment over three years.
You may recall that two years ago we were surprised to learn that the 10-year general mental health strategy had turned into a three-year plan for children and youth.
Children’s Mental Health Ontario, despite receiving the only real increases in mental health funding, noted in this year’s pre-budget submission that the gap between demand for child and youth mental health services and the capacity to meet needs is as large as ever.
While they are treating more children, demand is continuing to outstrip supply.
Employers in the public sector may need to think a lot more about the state of mental health as it impacts the workplace.
A new round of restraint is likely to create heightened anxiety among those at risk of losing their jobs, and among those left behind, the threat of work overload and an upset work/life balance.
This is on top of a media environment where public service is being rapidly devalued; raising issues of esteem among those whose career choice is to serve their community.
Mental illness is already the number one cause for disability claims in the workplace.