A new comprehensive report on Canadians and mental health has revealed that caregivers looking after family members with mental health problems is taking its toll on Canadians. The study also flagged a high suicide rate as an area of concern.
The first in a series of extensive reports examining the state of Canadians’ mental health was released Jan. 22 by the Commission for Mental Health in Canada.
The report, called ‘Informing the Future: Mental Health Indicators for Canada’ gives details on the first 13 of 63 indicators that the Commission hopes will illustrate the mental health and wellness of Canadians. The full report will be released in April.
The commission states that the objective of this study is to ““to paint a more complete picture of mental health in Canada”. It consulted with various stakeholders, including international groups and representatives from Canada’s Aboriginal population.
Only one indicator, a ‘sense of belonging among immigrants to Canada’, was categorized as ‘green’, indicating good performance.
For an overview of the report’s findings, see the infographic below (click on image to zoom).
The Commission’s report is evidence that the federal and provincial governments are taking significant steps to advance and promote the mental well being of Canadians.
On Jan. 16, Ontario Premiere Kathleen Wynne announced that the province would support 14 different projects promoting access to mental health care among post-secondary students. This $257 million promise is widely seen as a response to significant criticism leveled at the province for its lack of focus on youth mental health.
Is It Enough?
While the progress demonstrated by the report is to be commended, there is some doubt about whether this study will truly be reflective of the situation for all Canadians in a country so diverse.
“Mental health is something that’s very personal,” says Lauren Hawthorne, a Master’s Candidate in McMaster University’s global health program and an outspoken advocate of mental health. She says that statistics and numbers can’t paint a full picture.
“Applying the same indicators to every cultural or ethnic group in the country just won’t be accurate,” she said, adding that many of the indicators are more complex than a simple percentage grade can illustrate.
This significant upward trend in mental health awareness in Canada is spurred, in part, by a nationwide initiative by tech giant Bell Canada. Bell’s ‘Let’s Talk’ event is an annual fundraising and awareness drive that encourages the Canadian public to text, tweet, Facebook, and share about mental health, raising money in the process.
‘Let’s Talk’ 2015 kicks off next week.
Widely publicized and accessible events like this are important to those facing mental health challenges.
“There are many people who remain silent about their struggle,” says Hawthorne. “Talking about challenges to mental wellness and how we can overcome them is a step toward stigma reduction.”
Since the event started in 2011, Bell has succeeded in raising $67 million to put toward programs and initiatives helping those with mental health struggles across the country.
The Commission’s full report can be read online here.