To commemorate World Mental Health Day on Wednesday and raise awareness about the high toll of mental illness and addictions in Ontario, scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) published the most thorough report to date.
According to the report, one in five Canadians is affected by a mental illness or an addiction problem every year, which is more than those affected by cancer or other infectious diseases combined.
If such a low percentage of people with diabetes were receiving treatment, there would be a public outcry.
— Report author Dr. Paul Kurdyak
Dr. Paul Kurdyak, one of the authors of the report and Chief of General and Health Systems Psychiatry at CAMH, said the majority of people with mental illness or addictions aren’t receiving any treatment.
“Approximately 60 to 65 percent of people with depression, and as many as 90 percent of those with alcohol use disorder, remain untreated. … Yet there are effective therapies available for people suffering from these disorders,” Dr. Kurdyak said in a CAMH press release.
“If such a low percentage of people with diabetes were receiving treatment, there would be a public outcry,” he said.
Burden of Mental Illness, Addictions
The report, titled “Opening Minds, Opening Eyes: The Ontario Burden of Mental Illness and Addictions,” examined nine different mental illnesses including depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol use disorders, social phobia, schizophrenia, panic disorder, agoraphobia, cocaine use disorders, and prescription opioid misuse.
The burden of the disorders was measured in the number of health-adjusted life years (HALYs), including the number of years lived in suboptimal states of health or years lost to premature death.
In Ontario, the burden of these disorders accounted for 600,000 HALYs.
Ontarians with depression lost some 200,000 HALYs, the highest of all illnesses. This is more years lost than the combined number of years for lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers.
For this year’s World Mental Health Day, the World Health Organization made depression its theme, labelling it as a “global crisis.”
Dr. Kurdyak attributes the burden of these illnesses and addictions to their early development, and they can last a lifetime, he says.
Dr. Jürgen Rehm, another report author and the director of Social and Epidemiological Research Department at CAMH, said the large number of people with alcohol use disorders not seeking treatment is due to the stigma around the disorder.
“This report reinforces the need for changes, such as strengthening the role of family physicians in treatment, exploring effective approaches from other jurisdictions, and reducing stigma so that people begin to ask for help,” Dr. Rehm said in the release.
Dr. Kurdyak, however, noted there is hope.
“If we increase the likelihood that people seek and get timely access to treatments, the burden for individuals and the entire population will be reduced,” he said.
The report was a collaborative effort of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Public Health Ontario (ICES) and Public Health Ontario (PHO).
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