POSITION “Every child and youth living in Canada deserve to grow up in supportive and nurturing environments, and develop the social and emotional skills they need to work with others cooperatively, resolve conflict and cope with challenges they face in life. “Every child and youth living in Canada should have access to a range of relevant mental health services, treatment and supports as soon as the need for these services arises.”i
CMHA believes that all residents of Canada have a right to mental health careii services that are universal, comprehensive, accessible, portable and publicly administered. These Canada Health Act principles should be applied fully and formally to mental health care across Canada. Mental health care must be availableiii to the public as a component of Medicare and aligned with social programs we know influence social and environmental factors related to our mental health and our physical health. Achieving equity between mental health and general health services is critical to improving the health outcomes of Canadians.
Mental Health Promotion, Prevention and Population Health
Mental health careii does not only focus on the treatment of illness, but also promotes the maintenance and improvement of mental health in a variety of settings. Care also means using population health approaches (not labels iv) to positively affect the social and environmental factors that influence our health (e.g. work, income, education, housing, and peer and family supports).v Investing in evidence-informed strategies for children and youth can help meaningfully reduce the risk of serious mental health problems and illnesses developing in adulthood.vi CMHA believes that pan-Canadian efforts to improve health outcomes and quality of life of Canadians as well as sustainability of the health care system can be achieved by finding ways to include youth in the development of policies regarding their health and their future. Governments can also further align investments they already make in support of improving mental health and preventing mental illness. This is consistent with all governments’ publicly stated goals related to health promotion, health education and strategies to prevent illnessvii. These include investments in:
- Parents (Early Childhood Education, Parental and Child Health);
- Children (Early Childhood Development);
- Schools (Social and Emotional Learning), Colleges and Universities (Supports and Counselling);
- Community organizations (Health promotion and prevention);
- Health Providers and Professionals.
Access to Mental Health CareII
In addition to prevention and promotion activities described above, mental health care includes timely access to counsellors, medications, peer support workers, physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or other specialized provider or professional. An estimated 1.5 million Canadian children and youth (aged 0-24) are affected by mental illness and are not receiving access to appropriate supports, treatment or care.
CMHA has published a more detailed, companion document entitled, Public Policy Principles for a Pan-Canadian Mental Health System, available upon request. About the Canadian Mental Health Association CMHA was founded in 1918 and is one of Canada’s oldest not-for-profit organizations. With more than 10,000 staff and volunteers in over 120 communities across Canada, CMHA provides vital services and support to well over half a million Canadians every year. As the nation-wide leader and champion for mental health, CMHA facilitates access to the resources people require to maintain and improve mental health and community integration, build resilience and support recovery from mental illness.