Written by Matt Jalink, MSc Candidate in Community Health and Epidemiology, Dalhousie University.
Burden of Mental Health in Canada
Often when we discuss illness and health, we focus solely on physical wellbeing, new infectious disease outbreaks like Ebola, the management and treatment of chronic diseases or injury. Considerably less attention is paid to the invisible, hidden illnesses that are the leading cause of disability in Canada1, 2,3, a burden that is 1.5 times higher than all cancers, and 7 times greater than all infectious disease combined in Ontario4. We are talking about mental illnesses.
The burden of mental health in Canada is considerable. Childhood and adolescence is a time of increased risk for developing mental illness as almost 70% of mental health problems begin at this time. By the time Canadians reach 40 years of age, one in every 2 have or have had a mental illness5. Discrepancies between income groups are evident as Canadians in the lowest income bracket are 3 to 4 times more likely than those in the highest income group to report poor to fair mental health status6. The burden of mental illness extends from the individual to a societal level. Approximately 20% of working population is currently suffering from mental health and as a result 500,000 Canadians will miss work any given week due to mental health issues or illness7, 8.
The burden mental illness places on the individual and society has economic consequences. In Canada, mental illness costs a summed estimated $ 51 billion per year in healthcare costs, lost productivity, and reductions in quality of life5, 9. However, up to 25% of disability costs associated with mental health problems could be avoided by taking action.
Social barriers, primarily social stigma, hinder individuals and companies from taking action. Only 1/3 of individuals facing mental health challenges choose to access help because of the fear of being stigmatized10. An example comes from Ontario where 39% of workers would not tell their managers if they were experiencing a mental breakdown11. Stigmatism extends beyond the individual suffering from mental health to colleagues and coworkers who, in a study on Ontario workers, 64% would be concerned about how work would be altered if a colleague had mental illness11. Stigmatism towards mental health has been decreasing12, but effective interventions and programs are needed to alleviate both the stigma and burden imposed by mental health especially in the workplace where 82% of senior executives have stated that their company promotes a mentally healthy work environment, while only 30% of employees believe this to be true.
Not Myself Today –Canadian Intervention for workhouse
One such program is Not Myself Today, an evidence-informed, practical solution to help employers transform mental health at work. Working in conjunction with Partners for Mental Health, Not Myself Today is focused on helping companies build greater awareness, reduce stigma, and foster safe and supportive work environments.
An easy 4-step process allows businesses to partake in the Not Myself Today program.
The program is based on the insight that everyone has days that we don’t feel like ourselves, and most of us have learned or been told to suppress these feelings and respond to questions like, “How are you doing today?” with “Good” or “Fine” when we could be feeling a wide range of emotions. Not Myself Today leverages these insights to familiarize people to the concept of mental health and build empathy and understanding towards those living with mental illness.
Participating companies and organizations receive a toolkit (physical and digital) containing hands-on activities, tools and resources, as well as ongoing support to engage and educate their workforce about mental health throughout the year.
All funds generated by Not Myself Today directly support the work of Partners for Mental Health (PMH) and the development, execution, evaluation of the initiative. PMH is a national charitable organization accredited by Imagine Canada that is catalyzing a social movement to change the way people think about, act towards, and support mental health and those living with mental illness.
Why Companies Should Join
Registering with Not Myself Today benefits both those battling mental illness and companies as whole. Poor mental health status and mental illness is costly for individuals, employers and the economy. Taking concrete actions to promote and protect employee mental health has benefits. The average positive return on investment is 2.3 for employers investing in a mentally healthy workplace13. To date, more than 320 companies and organizations both small and large from a wide range of sectors have brought Not Myself Today to their workplace with great success.
1 Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2015). Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study, 2013. Data retrieved from http://www.healthdata.org/data-visualization/gbd-compare
2 Mental Health Commission of Canada (2014). Why investing in mental health will contribute to Canada’s economic prosperity and to the sustainability of our health care system. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/node/742
3 Lim et al. (2008). A new population-based measure of the burden of mental illness in Canada.Chronic Diseases in Canada, 28: 92-8.
4 Ratnasingham et al. (2012). Opening eyes, opening minds: The Ontario burden of mental illness and addictions. An Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences / Public Health Ontario report. Toronto: ICES.
5 Smetanin et al. (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041. Prepared for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Toronto: RiskAnalytica.
6 Mawani and Gilmour (2010). Validation of self-rated mental health. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003-X.
7 Dewa, Chau, and Dermer (2010). Examining the comparative incidence and costs of physical and mental health-related disabilities in an employed population. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 52: 758-62. Number of disability cases calculated using Statistics Canada employment data, retrieved from http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/labor21a-eng.htm
8 Institute of Health Economics (2007). Mental health economics statistics in your pocket. Edmonton: IHE. Number of absent workers calculated using Statistics Canada work absence rates, retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/71-211-x/71-211-x2011000-eng.pdf
9 Lim et al. (2008). A new population-based measure of the burden of mental illness in Canada.Chronic Diseases in Canada, 28: 92-8.
10Statistics Canada (2003). Canadian Community Health Survey: Mental Health + Wellbeing.
11 Dewa (2014). Worker attitudes towards mental health problems and disclosure. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 5: 175-86.
12 Bell Canada (2015). Bell Let’s Talk: The first 5 years (2010-2015). Retrieved from http://letstalk.bell.ca/letstalkprogressreport
13Creating a mentally healthy workplace: Return on investment analysis report, beyondblue and the Australian Mental Health Commission, March 2014.