Increasing the profile of mental health

The third annual Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Mental Health Symposium was held at Seneca College on May 3.

The one-day event, hosted by RBC, brought together community and social agencies, mental health practitioners, researchers, scholars and students.

In his keynote address, the Hon. Michael Wilson, Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) Board Chair, praised attendees for their contribution to improved mental health, and made a strong case for increased investment, research and advocacy.

“It needs to become safe for everyone living with a mental health problem or illness to talk openly and freely about their challenges,” said Mr. Wilson, who lost his son to suicide in 1995.

In his address, Mr. Wilson spoke of his compelling personal experience as a parent and former parliamentarian, while offering concrete solutions to improve Canada’s mental health system.

He called first and foremost for an increase in mental health spending, noting the cost of mental illness in Canada exceeds $50 billion annually, while the investment remains disproportionately small.

Given that Canada allocates an estimated mere seven per cent of the total health budget to mental health, it’s nearly impossible to provide appropriate support to those in need,” said Mr. Wilson, who went on to explain that despite the significant financial burden, psychiatric disorders have received little in the way of research funds.

“Without an infusion of dollars, both innovation and quality of care will stagnate,” explained Mr. Wilson, who suggested that this dearth of investment is largely the damaging result of stigma.

Stigma, noted Wilson, can limit opportunities for employment, housing and education. And the stigmatization of mental illness remains widespread: in hospitals, workplaces and schools, and in rural and urban communities across the country.

“Call on your circles of influence to increase the profile of mental health,” Mr. Wilson concluded. “Demand action from health authorities, persuade industry and governments to invest more in research, and take steps to overcome stigma by speaking up within the community.”

Learn about the Opening Minds Interim Report and progress on reducing the stigma of mental illness.