What is mental illness?
Mental illnesses are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood or behaviour associated with significant distress and impaired functioning over an extended period of time. Symptoms vary from mild to severe, depending on the type of mental illness, the individual, the family, and the socio-economic environment.
In the course of a lifetime, every individual experiences feelings of isolation, loneliness, emotional distress or disconnection at times. These are usually normal, short-term reactions to difficult situations, rather than symptoms of mental illness. People learn to cope with difficult feelings just as they learn to cope with difficult situations. In some cases, however, the duration and intensity of painful feelings or disorienting patterns of thought may interfere seriously with everyday life. Ordinary coping skills are overwhelmed, and people may need help in regaining balance and restoring their fullest functioning.
Mental health is as important as physical health to daily living. In fact, the two are intertwined. Individuals with physical health problems often experience anxiety or depression that affects their response to the physical illness. Individuals with mental illnesses can develop physical symptoms and illnesses, such as weight loss and biochemical imbalances associated with eating disorders. Feelings, attitudes and patterns of thought strongly influence people’s experience of physical health or illness, and may affect the course of illness and the effectiveness of treatment.
Mental illnesses may occur together. An individual can experience both depression and an anxiety disorder, for example. In addition, attempts to manage symptoms through alcohol or drugs may contribute to substance abuse for some individuals. In one US study, 54% of those with a lifetime history of at least one mental illness also had at least one other mental illness or addiction to substances.
What are the costs associated with mental health?
Mental illness is estimated to cost the Canadian workforce between $33 billion and $51 billion dollars (CND) in lost productivity annually. It causes more lost work days than any other chronic condition. On average, an episode of depression can take an employee off the job for an estimated 40 days – longer than cardiac disease (Bill Wilkerson, Rountable Roadmap to Mental Disability Management).
How widespread is mental illness in Canada?
Mental health issues have reached serious levels in Canada. At some point in our lives, mental illness will impact most of us either personally or through a family member, friend or colleague. Health Canada has estimated that 20 percent of the population will experience a mental illness, which can affect people in all occupations, socio-economic status, cultures, race and at all education levels
- 20% of Canadians suffer from mental health conditions – only 20% of those with a mental health illness will receive care
- 8 % will experience a major depression
- 12% will experience disability due to an anxiety disorder
- 80% of Canadians have friends, family or colleagues with a mental illness
Is the demand for Mental Health Care being met?
In Canada, we have an acute shortage of psychiatrists. The demand of mental health care services outweighs the available supply. The average wait time for psychiatric referral is 7.5 weeks and then to see a psychiatrist is anywhere from 7 months on average to 1 year. This situation is not expected to improve in the near future. Medaca was created as a response to these needs. Medaca intervenes early to coordinate a timely diagnosis and treatment of mental health problems. We work closely with family physicians to deliver high quality, best in class care for mental illnesses.