Re: Real issue for campaign, Editorial Sept. 18
Your editorial on the need to find a catchy focus with which to frame the sorry state of mental health services for the provincial election campaign left me wondering why the Ontario Mental Health and Addictions Alliance don’t use the very obvious budget numbers that should shame our province into action.
Hit them with the numbers.
A study of mental health expenditures by Canadian provinces in 2003/2004, by the Alberta Mental Health Board and the University of Alberta, provides ample ammunition:
Ontario’s per capita mental health expenditure is the third lowest of all the provinces. British Columbia and New Brunswick for example, spent $230 and
$204 per person respectively, compared to Ontario’s $152; the Canadian average was $174.
This same study highlighted the shameful state of Canada’s national expenditure on mental health in terms of its share of the total health budget: 5 per
cent — a rate below most comparable countries. In comparison, the proportion spent on mental health in Australia was 6.7 per cent, 7.5 per cent in U.S.,
and 10 per cent in Germany.
David S. Heath, FRCPC, Waterloo
The OMA applauds your editorial calling on all parties to stop treating mental health as the distant and poorer cousin of the rest of our health-care system. We agree this is an issue that should not fade after the Oct. 6 election and we all need to hold the next government to account.
Despite the impressive research undertaken regarding mental health and numerous reports that have been produced, it remains a significant area of concern.
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, utilization of health-care services is highest among those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness.
People with mental illness use our health-care system with greater frequency, and tend to have more complex health issues. Yet our health-care system overall is ill-equipped to help them in the ways they need, which increases their stress and the stress on their family and friends.
The problem was well illustrated by Dr. Promnitz’s letter the same day in which he outlined the challenge physicians face in trying to get appropriate treatment for children and adolescents with mental health problems.
Ontario’s doctors have been very active in the lead up to the election by promoting a number of key issues in their platform, “Better care. Healthier patients. A stronger Ontario.” Among the recommendations, is a call for the implementation of a comprehensive mental health strategy for patients and families dealing with mental illness and addiction.
We owe it to them to once and for all make their care and treatment a priority.
Dr. Doug Weir, Toronto Psychiatrist, President-Elect of the Ontario Medical Association, Toronto