Mental Health Commission of Canada, March 2017
In 2013, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) answered the pressing question, “Why invest in mental health?” Forecasting ahead three decades, the MHCC projected the serious economic and social ramifications of failing to make mental health a priority. The need to invest is no longer in dispute. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Bank and the World Health Organization agree there is no lack of evidence, plans or strategies. Rather, what has been missing is the political will. Now, for the first time, the Government of Canada has identified mental health as a top priority in the new Health Accord.
Strengthening the Case for Investing in Canada’s Mental Health System: Economic Considerations, does more than reiterate the importance of directing funds to mental health. It grapples with the pressing question provinces and territories have faced for many years: “Where to invest?” We know, for example, that mental health problems often begin in childhood and adolescence. If left untreated, they can persist through to older age. This has a dual human and economic impact. Strengthening the Case demonstrates that wise mental health spending pays dividends. For example, Ontario’s comprehensive early intervention program, Better Beginnings, Better Futures, saves the system nearly 25 percent in publicly funded services per person. These savings come from fewer physician visits and lowered social welfare and education costs.
The cost effectiveness studies presented in this report highlight the benefits of investing in programs for which there is well-established evidence: quality of care, primary care, prevention and early intervention, improving access to community-based mental health services for severe mental illnesses, expanding access to counselling and psychotherapies across the age span, and community-based suicide prevention. For instance, costs that would normally be incurred by hospitals in treating young people presenting in emergency rooms with suicidal thoughts can be halved through the use of interventions by community-based, rapid response teams. As policy makers, healthcare administrators and elected officials seek to make difficult decisions about where to invest money in mental health programs and services,
Strengthening the Case can help guide their choices. It points to Canada-based studies on payoffs in making strategic investments in priority areas – echoed by Changing Directions, Changing Lives: The Mental Health Strategy for Canada, as well as the 13 provincial and territorial mental health and addictions strategies. Strengthening the Case reinforces the value of spending on community services, scaling up early intervention and measuring results – all of which should be viewed as an investment in the health of Canadians, rather than a drain on the public purse