Canada’s first national mental health strategy, entitled “Changing Directions, Changing Lives: The Mental Health Strategy for Canada”, was released on May 8 by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). The strategy, launched during Mental Health Week, seeks to improve mental health and well-being for all Canadians and to build a mental health system that meets the needs of all individuals living with mental health conditions, and their families.
The document centres on six strategic directions:
- Promote mental health across the lifespan in homes, schools and workplaces, and prevent mental illness and suicide wherever possible
- Foster recovery and well-being for people of all ages living with mental health problems and illnesses, and uphold their rights
- Provide access to the right combination of services, treatments and supports, when and where people need them
- Reduce disparities in risk factors and access to mental health services, and strengthen the response to the needs of diverse communities and Northerners
- Work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis to address their mental health needs, acknowledging their distinct circumstances, rights and cultures
- Mobilize leadership, improve knowledge and foster collaboration at all levels
Action on these six directions is needed across and beyond the health system; it is acknowledged that policies and practices of a range of government departments impact on mental health, including education, justice, corrections, social services and finance.
In addition to government, the strategy identifies an action role for workplaces, non-governmental organizations, media, and others.
Key recommendations include ensuring that:
- People living with mental health problems or illnesses and families are engaged in planning, organization, delivery and evaluation of mental health services, treatments and supports
- Mental health service providers work with planners, funders and service users to identify and examine the changes needed to develop a system integrated around needs and recovery
- Governments take a comprehensive approach to address mental health needs, focus spending on improving outcomes, and address the underfunding of mental health
- Senior executives in the public and private sectors build workplaces that are mentally healthy, and that
- All Canadians promote mental health in everyday settings and work together to reduce stigma.
The strategy proposes that funding inequities be addressed by:
- Increasing the proportion of health spending allocated to mental health from seven to nine per cent over 10 years
- Increase the proportion of social spending for mental health by two percentage points
- Identify whether current mental health spending needs to be reallocated to improve efficiency and outcomes, and
- Engage the private and philanthropic sectors to contribute resources to mental health.
To read or learn more about “Changing Directions, Changing Lives: The Metnal Health Strategy for Canada”, please visit the MHCC strategy website at www.strategy.mentalhealthcommission.ca