Mental Health Strategy released - no more excuses for inaction

Federal and provincial governments are called on to dedicate nine per cent of their health spending for mental health, representing a significant increase from the current average of about seven per cent.  

Ottawa (08 May 2012) - The Mental Health Commission of Canada has released its long anticipated national mental health strategy and in doing so has increased pressure on federal and provincial governments to take action on the issue.

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) believes the strategy is a realistic, well-drafted blueprint for the future of mental health services in Canada.

According to NUPGE's National President, James Clancy, the lack of a national mental health strategy means Canadians are confronted by "a disparate mix of programs and services across the country. Whether an individual can get the supports they need, often depends on where they live."

"To make matters worse some provinces have been making deep cuts to what mental health services they have been offering. All governments need to act to bring mental health services into the mainstream of our public health care system with the resources necessary so that people living with mental illness receive the help they need and to which they are entitled."

Clancy sees many of NUPGE's suggestions to the commission reflected in the strategy. "NUPGE called on all governments in Canada to invest more resources to ensure Canada develops a comprehensive and integrated approach to combating stigma, preventing, diagnosing and treating mental illness and promoting good mental health."

The call for increased funding to mental health services is of particular importance in the report. Federal and provincial governments are called on to dedicate nine per cent of their health spending for mental health. This represents a significant increase from the current average of about seven per cent. It also recommends governments allocate an additional two percentage points from social spending for mental health services.

NUPGE is also encouraged by the commission's inclusion of some of its recommendations regarding mental health services in the justice system.

"Our members who work in provincial jails are telling us that the number of inmates with mental health or addiction problems is growing dramatically," said Clancy. "It is an inhumane way to deal with people who need treatment, not jail time."

The 152-page document recommends better organization of health care services to ensure that Canadians have access to mental health professionals, community support, and appropriate medication. There is also a push for more preventitive services and an increased emphasis on supporting those recovering from mental illness - especially young people.

Other important recommendations include calls for workplace psychological health and safety standards to protect workers and a housing first philosophy to get homeless people with mental illness off the streets.

Clancy thinks that "this strategy reflects the values and priorities of Canadians and the Commission has put the onus to improve mental health services squarely where it belongs - on the shoulders of the prime minister and the premiers. This strategy offers Canada's First Ministers an opportunity to demonstrate collective leadership, to invest the necessary resources to ensure top-quality mental health services are available to all Canadians when they need it."

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NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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