With one in three Canadians experiencing a mental health disorder at some point in their lives and 21% of youth between the ages of one and 15 currently having a mental health disorder, the way we deliver mental health care in Canada is heading for a social and financial crisis.
“Instead of being proactive, our current health care system is reactive when it comes to mental health.” said Aaron D. McClelland, a mental health practitioner in Penticton, British Columbia and B.C. National Director for the Canadian Profession Counsellors Association.
“Most Canadians who struggle with mental health disorders are unable to find or afford effective treatment, so when they reach a crisis they end up accessing more costly emergency services.” McClelland said.
Statistics from the World Health Organization and the Canadian Institute for Health information tell the same story; Canada spends $50 billion annually managing mental health problems. That amounts to almost 25% of the $207 billion we spend on health across Canada.
Hospital stays for a mental health crisis do not come cheap; A person admitted to hospital for depression costs on average $17,081 per day; an eating disorder averages $16,831 per day; and obsessive compulsive disorder comes in at $8,384 per day.
Treatment for these disorders costs far less and allows the patient to remain in their community and often at work.
According to 12 different studies conducted by the American Psychological Association, 83% of clients undergoing therapy for OCD were improved after an average of 15 sessions with a counsellor. At $100 per session, that comes to $1,500. Yet left untreated, our health care system shells out an average of $8,384 for each OCD hospital stay.
Plus, there are other collateral costs due to mental health issues; Recently, B.C. Deputy Justice Minister, Brent Merchant admitted that people suffering from a mental health disorder account for 56% of the Canadian prison population. Therefore, more than half of the $30+ billion spent in Canada for police, courts, and prisons is spent as a direct result of untreated mental health problems.
“Since 2006 we have been cutting budgets to ease the burden on taxpayers.” McClelland said, “To truly reduce health care costs, we have to change our current crisis management system and start treating mental health disorders before they reach a crisis.”
The Canadian Professional Counsellors Association is a competency based organization for qualified mental health practitioners across Canada.