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Toronto business leaders consider cost of mental illness

On April 11, members of the Economic Club of Canada and their guests learned that mental illness is not only a personal or social issue, but also a workforce productivity issue with a growing impact on the nation’s economy.

Louise Bradley, President and CEO of the MHCC, spoke to more than 100 business people in downtown Toronto about the urgent need to invest in mental health: each year 6.7 million Canadians experience mental problems or illness, and most are not getting the help they need.

Bradley’s emphasis on the economic issues speaks to a growing awareness that productivity losses and the social service costs associated with mental illness are reaching critical levels. The magnitude of the problem is forcing leaders in business, finance and policy to change their thinking, she said – even the language associated with mental illness is changing.

“We’re familiar with the language of medicine, therapy and treatment,” she said. “But when we’re talking about mental health now, we’re hearing the words ‘risk,’ ‘liability’ and ‘return on investment’ creeping into the conversations. It’s the language of commerce.”

The reason, she said, is simple: “Mental illness is a serious problem in Canada and a very expensive one. There are social, emotional and economic costs.”

Bradley referred to the MHCC-sponsored research that resulted in a document called Making the Case for Investing in Mental Health in Canada, citing facts like the $50 billion per year that mental health problems and illnesses draw from the Canadian economy. She said that if current patterns continue, in the next 30 years the current 6.7 million people with mental health problems will become 8.9 million, and the related costs of this increase are expected to add up to more than $2.5 trillion.

She used the opportunity to urge leaders in finance and business to use their influence to advance mental health in Canada, and to apply the recommendations and tools found in the Mental Health Strategy for Canada and the National Standard of Canada for psychological health and safety in the workplace.

Watch the video - MHCC President and CEO Louise Bradley spoke on The Economics of Mental Health during an Economic Club of Canada event in Toronto, Ontario on April 11.

Click here for the MHCC Newsletter - June 2013