Date Published: 24 November 2005

Government of Canada will establish a Canadian Mental Health Commission

Health News from Canada
Health News from Canada.

Canadian health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh has announced that the government of Canada will establish a Canadian Mental Health Commission, in consultation with the provinces and territories and stakeholders.

The Canadian Mental Health Commission will enable greater collaboration among governments and stakeholders in order to better address mental health and mental illness in Canada.

" The Government of Canada recognizes that mental health and mental illness are complex issues that have a profound impact on Canadians,"
said Minister Dosanjh.

" I am pleased to announce the establishment of a Commission. It will assist federal, provincial and territorial governments and non-governmental organizations to explore opportunities for collaboration on promotion of mental health and the prevention of mental illness. The Commission is an important step in the Government of Canada response to the issue of mental health."

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has undertaken a review of mental health, mental illness and addictions in Canada. However, together with mental health stakeholders, the Senate Committee is calling for the establishment of a national commission to address mental health issues in Canada. The Commission will be a focal point within Canada for collaboration on mental health and mental illness to help inform the development of sound mental health policies. The Commission will contribute to information and knowledge exchange, help to increase public awareness to address the stigma attached with mental illness and addictions, and would be an important source of information for Canadians.

" This commission is an important first step in addressing these critical issues and to successfully reduce the negative perceptions surrounding people with mental illness," said Senator Michael Kirby.
" When researching mental health in Canada, the Committee members and I have noted the level of fragmentation in the system, the need for improved information sharing, and the impact of stigma and discrimination on people living with a mental illness."

" I applaud Minister Dosanjh for this outstanding example of leadership in a field, mental health, where leadership is urgently called for," said the Honourable Michael Wilson, Special Ministerial Advisor on Mental Health.
" This is a significant advance in all our efforts to improve the lives of those living with mental illness and will contribute to a real national effort to prevent the disabling effects of mental illness through education, early detection and research."

" We are pleased to see that the federal government is answering our call for leadership and action," said Phil Upshall, National Executive Director of the Canadian Alliance for Mental Illness and Mental Health.
" This is a major move forward that will ensure that mental health and mental illness are addressed on an urgent basis and given the level of attention that is commensurate with their impact on Canadians."

The plan to create a Commission will be developed in consultation with the provinces and territories, mental health stakeholders and Aboriginal leaders. The Commission will be an independent organization which will operate at arms length from governments.

Once established it is anticipated that it will:

  • Provide leadership to make mental health a long-term high priority for governments;
  • Facilitate the exchange of research findings and best practices between governments and stakeholders;
  • Work to reduce the fragmentation of mental health and mental illness policies and programs in Canada; and
  • Develop strategies to help increase Canadians understanding of mental health and mental illness and reduce stigma.

Board membership will be comprised of representatives of federal/provincial/territorial governments and mental health stakeholders, including a non-governmental board chair. The selection process of board membership remains to be determined but it is anticipated that the members of the Board will be announced by the summer of 2006.

Mental health, mental illness, ailments and addictions have a profound impact on Canadians. It is estimated that one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness in his or her lifetime, while almost one million Canadians currently live with a severe or persistent mental illness.

Individual mental health is influenced by a wide range of social, biological and environmental factors, many of which lie beyond the scope of the health sector. When diagnosed, mental illness is responsible for one-third of the total number of days Canadians spend in hospital each year, and the estimated cost of mental illness and addictions to the Canadian economy is about $18 billion per year.

Source(s): Health Canada, http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

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