This blog is brought to you by another member of the DFTOK team, Jesse Bickerton. Jesse is the Project Manager and takes care of things behind the scenes for Different from the Other Kids, coordinating things from start to finish. Today Jesse discusses how stigma surrounding mental illness is still prevalent and the true cost of mental illness.

By: Jesse Bickerton

Mental health and mental health awareness is everywhere in the media today. Bell’s “Let’s Talk” day, perhaps one of the best-publicized campaigns, here in Canada, has raised a staggering $6.5 million this year alone! That’s more than double than what Bell raised back in 2011 when the campaign launched. For those who might be living under a rock, Bell’s Let’s Talk Day is a national event that had Bell Canada donating 5-cents to mental health initiatives for each use of their #LetsTalk hashtag across social media platforms. Bell is one of the many companies adding their voice towards the conversation which is mental health, which is useful at dispelling the stigma still surrounding many mental health challenges. However, the frustrating part is that the stigma surrounding mental illness affects many parts of people’s lives.

Changing Attitudes?

In a recent release from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (or CAMH, located near DFTOK headquarters in Toronto, Ontario), it is reported that 70% of those surveyed “believe attitudes about mental health have changed for the better compared to 5 years ago.” However, 39% indicated “that they would not tell their managers if they were experiencing a mental health problem” and 40% “agreed they have experienced feelings of anxiety or depression but never sought medical help for it.” It seems that people are still not willing to fully discuss mental health, especially in the workplace. This points to attitudes still being mixed around mental illness. We have come a long way as a society to change pre-existing notions around people with mental health challenges, but they still prevent a lot of people seeking help who might need it.

One of the recurring topics discussed by parents interviewed on the Different from the Other Kids podcast (and series of books) is the difficulty receiving adequate services, especially in times of crisis. In the same CAMH release mentioned above, it’s stated that “wait times for counselling and therapy can be long” and “wait times of six months to one year are common.” In the DFTOK podcast, we heard a similar waiting period for various professionals here in Ontario. It can be very difficult for people who need help to find it at the proper time. Local services have been forming to help fill this need, such as COAST, which provides many options to those in the midst of a mental health emergency. But this is useful only in emergency situations… What can we do before the situation becomes an emergency? Is there a way for us to prevent at least some of them?

How Much?

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) have released their study “Making the Case for Investing in Mental Health” which stresses why investing in mental health is important, not only to the individuals who receive care but also to the Canadian economy at large. The MHCC study puts the cost of mental illness to be $50 billion per year (a figure backed up by the CAMH report), which is measured in terms of not only lost revenue and funds spent on healthcare; but also accounts for lost productivity and employee turnover. The MHCC report points out that investing even a fraction of mental health initiatives would have a noticeable effect on the Canadian economy.

What does this all add up to? We need to keep working towards taking away the stigma surrounding mental health. We can’t put people down for seeking treatment either. The current prevailing attitude among Canadians seems to be changing, but that doesn’t mean that the struggle is over. People dealing with these mental health challenges need real change in terms of the types of treatment and how often they receive care.

I read an interesting post the other day, and I wish I could still find it, but it went something like this… “Don’t be afraid of making noise when adding to the conversation around mental health.” I really liked the idea. That’s what we need to keep doing… Keep talking about mental health. Sharing your story is powerful, and you never know who you might help along the way. If someone can send me a link to the original post, that would be great.

Thanks for reading! Check out Jesse’s information here or check out the DFTOK blog for more posts from the DFTOK team. Don’t forget to check out the Different from the Other Kids podcast, available on iTunes or by clicking here!


Bell Let’s Talk

CAMH: Mental Illness and Addictions: Facts and Statistics

MHCC: Making the Case for Investing in Mental Health