Six Hundred Thousand Years

A province as large as Ontario poses significant challenges to anyone trying to get a handle on the policy landscape for mental health and addictions. Nevertheless, it’s an honour to have an opportunity to contribute to Qualaxia, and over the course of my next few blogs, I hope to offer an overview of some of the key documents informing the Ontario context.

But before that, I’d like to give Qualaxia stakeholders a sense of the impact that mental health and addictions issues have on Ontarians’ health. The recently released Opening Eyes, Opening Minds – The Ontario Burden of Mental Illness Report offers a good place to start. Co-developed by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Studies and Public Health Ontario, and released in 2012, Opening Eyes, Opening Minds provides some key findings about the burden that mental health and addictions issues place on the shoulders of Ontarians. They are, needless to say, eye-opening.

Of course, some who focus on the area of mental health and addictions – like service providers, for example – might not find the findings startling. But I suspect the average person would be surprised to know that mental health and addictions issues place a burden on Ontarians that’s more than one and a half times greater than that of cancers—and seven times greater than that of infectious diseases.

The report looked at nine mental illnesses and addictions in total. Depression leads in terms of the burden it places on Ontarians. It’s followed by bipolar disorder, then alcohol use disorders, social phobia, schizophrenia, panic disorder, agoraphobia, cocaine use disorders, and prescription opioid misuse.

Perhaps most startling of all, though, is a statistic—600,000. That’s the number of years lost to mental health and addictions issues in Ontario. (These are health-adjusted life years, which total the years lost because of premature death and the years of reduced life functioning.)

There are other, more detailed findings, and you can read EENet’s summary of the report (as well as the full report) here.

In my next few blogs, I’ll aim to point readers towards some of the key, recent documents – policy and otherwise – that aim to address the health of Ontarians. In the meantime, a question for Qualaxia’s non-Ontario stakeholders: how do these findings square with your province’s experiences of the burden that mental health and addictions issues has? Please let us know in the comments section below.


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