The Economic Cost of Mental Illness

May 2nd to 8th marked the 65th annual Mental Health Week, championed by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), and supported by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and mental health organizations across the country. Organizers asked Canadians to GET LOUD and raise their voices to build community support and stop the discrimination and stigma that often accompany mental illness.

mh InfographicFocus on Seniors

This year’s campaign focused on the mental health challenges faced by Canadian seniors — the fastest growing demographic in our country. The MHCC’s Mental Health Indicators for Canada show one in four seniors live with a mental health problem or illness.

Louise Bradley, President and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, said in a statement for Mental Health Week 2016, “Too often, mental health problems or illnesses are considered an inevitable consequence of aging. Furthermore, seniors are doubly stigmatized for both being older and for having a mental health problem… In the coming months, the MHCC will release a seniors’ version of its Mental Health First Aid, aimed at improving mental health literacy and educating people to better manage potential or developing mental health problems in themselves, a family member, friend or colleague.”

The Economic Cost

Mental illness currently costs the economy at least $50 billion per year. In its report, Making the Case for Investing in Mental Health in Canada, the Mental Health Commission of Canada concludes that, if nothing changes to better apply the evidence we have, by 2041 there will be over 8.9 million people in Canada living with a mental illness. This represents a 31% increase from 2011, while the total Canadian population will only grow by 26% over the same period. At the same time, the economic cost of mental illness will grow more than sixfold over the next thirty years to $306 billion. The present value of the cumulative total cost over the next thirty years will exceed $2.5 trillion. The Report notes that

The increasing attention to mental health in Canada provides poignant examples on a daily basis of how too many people in Canada are not receiving the services and programs that we know can improve the quality of their lives, reduce the limitations imposed by their illnesses, or even help prevent certain mental health problems and illnesses from developing into larger problems. But change requires government at all levels, business, labour, civil society, health care leaders and individual citizens to work together to implement the priority areas identified in Changing Directions, Changing Lives: The Mental Health Strategy for Canada.

RecommendationsMental Health Aging Blog Pic 1

The Strategy recommendations are grouped into six key Strategic Directions. Each Strategic Direction focuses on one critical dimension and together they combine to provide a comprehensive blueprint for change. The six Strategic Directions are as follows:

  1. Promote mental health across the lifespan 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.

The Strategy recommends an increase of two percentage points in mental health service. This would move Canada closer toward of mental health funding levels provided by other developed countries. There is good evidence that additional investment will yield significant economic benefits.

Mental Health Calls: bc211

bc211 received 2,314 calls relating to issues of mental health in the 2015-2016 year, 10% more than the previous year. Mental health issues are among the top ten reasons for calls to our phone lines. These issues include suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, addiction related mental health, abuse, and eating disorders.

If you’re seeking resources for issues of mental health, dial 2-1-1 anytime. You can message us by texting the name of your community to 2-1-1 between 8 am to 11 pm. And you can always visit our directory of community resources, the Red Book Online.