VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As we mark the start of its 68th annual Mental Health Week, the Canadian Mental Health Association is calling for a national awareness strategy.
This comes amid rising rates of mental illness worldwide, and is one of six recommendations outlined by a new national CMHA policy paper titled Cohesive, Collaborative, Collective: Advancing Mental Health Promotion in Canada.
The association is calling for more of a collective effort and, of course, more money behind it, saying all-too-often our patchwork efforts to promote mental health fall short.
It points to the effectiveness of things like suicide-prevention programs and community-based skills training for managing anger, reducing stress and addressing risky behaviour.
“Most efforts to support mental health in Canada focus on treating addiction or illness, or managing symptoms, and not on fostering mental health—and even those treatment services are not adequate to address the growing need,” CMHA national CEO Dr. Patrick Smith said. “All signs point to not being able to treat our way out of this crisis. We have to get ahead of it.”
The paper’s authors also point out the majority of mental health problems begin early in life, so new efforts to promote awareness should start ideally in a school setting where they would be most effective.
The CMHA believes efforts to promote mental health in these settings, including at work and in communities, has fallen short.
“We all understand we have to brush our teeth to avoid cavities. We teach our kids about fire safety to stave off house fires. But our society still doesn’t get that it’s the same with mental health,” Dr. Smith added. “Waiting until the house is on fire is way too late to start teaching kids not to play with matches.”
According to the association, about 70 per cent of mental health problems start in childhood or adolescence.
It highlights the importance of a properly coordinated, well-funded strategy for it to be successful, and adds the plan must be sustained and monitored. An increase in social spending — by two per cent — is recommended by the association, “to promote social inclusion, freedom from violence and discrimination and access to economic opportunity, with a special focus on older adults facing loneliness, youth facing stressors of the social media age and the un- and underemployed in today’s gig economy.”