Mental Illness and Addictions Affect More Ontarians than Other Illnesses

November 15, 2012 | Ontario

When asked which disease has affected the most Canadians across the country, most people first think of cancer. However, a new report by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Public Health revealed that mental illness and addictions take significantly more of a toll on people's health than other diseases. Yet, many do not seek the help they need.

"The majority of people with mental illness or addiction aren't receiving treatment, even though effective interventions are available," said Paul Kurdyack, co-author of the report. "For instance, only a small fraction of people with depression or alcohol use disorders are accessing health services."

Named "Opening Eyes, Opening Minds," the report shows that the overall impact of addictions and mental illness, particularly in Ontario, is one and a half times higher than all types of cancer and seven times higher than all infectious diseases.

From natural therapies such as meditation, massage therapy and counselling to pharmaceutical treatments like antidepressants and other similar drugs, there are a number of solutions that afflicted people can turn to.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), the rates of substance abuse could be higher than statistics indicate because of the stigma associated with addiction. Workers in the mental health sector are responsible for creating a safe environment for patients to share their fears and concerns without worrying about the embarrassment or repercussions of their condition. By bringing more attention to the high number of individuals affected by mental illness and addictions, organizations aim to encourage more people to help those in need seek therapy and other treatment methods.

"This report reinforces the need for changes, such as strengthening the role of family physicians in treatment, exploring effective approaches from other jurisdictions, and reducing stigma so that people begin to ask for help," said Jurgen Rehm, the report's co-author and the director of CAMH's social and epidemiological research department.

Students interested in working with those living with mental illness and addiction issues can learn more through the healthcare courses in the Addictions and Community Services Worker program at CDI College. To request more information, fill out the form on the right.

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