Canada is about to get its first-ever national mental health strategy — a massive report that may persuade Prime Minister Stephen Harper that his government must return Ottawa to a lead role on health care.
On Tuesday, after five years of research, consultations with thousands of people, modelling, forecasting and much agonizing, the Mental Health Commission of Canada will finally deliver the blueprint the Harper government requested.
The Canadian Press has learned that the strategy will launch a call to action targeted not just at the federal government, but also at provincial governments, health-care professionals, businesses, philanthropists and volunteers.
With more than 100 recommendations, the strategy will demand that they, and Canadians in general, set aside their preconceived notions of mental illness and face the fact that almost every family will be touched by mental health problems at some point.
Specifically, the blueprint wants federal and provincial governments to earmark nine per cent of their health spending for mental health — up from about seven per cent now. Governments should also draw two percentage points more from their social spending envelope for mental health needs.
It will call for a reconfiguration of health care services so that patients have better access to mental health professionals, community support, better funding, and appropriate medication.
It will emphasize recovery from mental illness, and urge for more prevention, especially when dealing with young people.
It will also stress the high cost of inaction. Mental health problems cost the Canadian economy at least $50 billion a year.
The report stops short of putting a dollar figure on what the federal and provincial governments should spend overall, since the fiscal squeeze at both levels of government has made any specific requests too sensitive, Ottawa insiders say.
As first appeared on Metronews.ca, 6 May 2012