Mental illness needs to be election issue

TheStar.com – opinion/letters
Published On Mon Apr 25 2011.   

Carol Lambie, Glenna Raymond, George Weber, and Catherine Zahn

The federal election campaign has been short on policy discussions, but there’s one issue that needs national attention immediately. It’s a problem that’s having a grave impact on our society and our economy; the problem that is affecting 1 in 5 Canadians — mental illness and addiction.

Mental illness touches all of us at some point in our life. No economic action plan is complete without a focus on the illness that is now the number one cause of workplace disability in Canada. It costs our Canadian economy over $50 billion annually.

Mental health claims have overtaken cardiovascular disease as the fastest growing category of disability costs in Canada. Every day, half a million Canadians are absent from work due to a mental illness or addiction. This is a tangible productivity problem, and it doesn’t include “presenteeism,” those showing up for work, but unable to contribute to their full potential.

If it isn’t compelling enough to talk about today’s problem, think of our future workforce. Our children are being affected seriously and frequently. Depression, anxiety and substance misuse in children and teens is a regular media topic.

We hear of lost potential from lives unlived, student suicide occurring at increasing rates in universities across the country. Our academic institutions, preparing the future of Canada, are struggling to grapple with a health problem that’s been a secret for too long.

It’s time for all party leaders to put this issue on the agenda and start improving the mental health of Canadians.

Carol Lambie, President and CEO, Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene; Glenna Raymond, President and CEO, Ontario Shores; George Weber, President and CEO, Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre; and Catherine Zahn, President and CEO, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

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