Manulife invests $500,000 in Nova Scotia mental health projects

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HALIFAX, Dec. 12 – Nova Scotians living with a mental illness will benefit from a $500,000 donation announced recently by Manulife Financial to support early-intervention programs and community-focused living residences.

“The cost for mental illness is in the billions of dollars for the Canadian economy each year; therefore businesses have a part to play in recognizing and investing in good mental health,” says Paul Rooney, President and CEO, Manulife Canada.

“It’s also important that we continue to improve the way mental illness is perceived in our society so that those experiencing mental illness and their families receive the same high level of care, support and hope as those dealing with other illnesses.”

“Manulife’s investment will play a part in helping us achieve our vision of making sure the people of Nova Scotia are healthy, especially our youngest Nova Scotians,” says Premier Rodney MacDonald. “This is so much more than treating illness. It’s about making healthy lifestyles a lifelong commitment for people, providing support for those who need it, and changing the circumstances that cause so much harm.”

Manulife Financial has committed $250,000 of the money to the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Nova Scotia Division for a prevention program for children and a peer support program for youth.

“Mental Health affects us all one way or another. Between 15 and 25 per cent of our children and youth suffer at least one mental health problem or illness. Fear, embarrassment, peer pressure and stigma are all barriers to children and youth talking about mental health or asking for help,” says Charles Bruce, CMHA Nova Scotia’s chair. “Manulife’s investment will go a long way towards teaching children and youth about mental illness and how to talk about it with their friends, siblings and families in a way that reduces stigma.”

Manulife also announced that the other $250,000 contribution will go to the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia for the construction of residences for patients at the Nova Scotia Hospital who are making a transition back into the community.

“When you consider the cost of supporting someone with serious mental illness in the hospital is $170,000 a year, compared to the $35,000 it costs to support that same person in the community, Manulife’s investment in the residences makes good financial sense,” says Robert Hunt, the Foundation’s chair. “Manulife’s investment is an excellent start towards our Foundation’s $2-million fundraising goal in order to make these residences a reality for Nova Scotians recovering from a mental illness.”

Mental illness is the leading cause of employee disability in the workplace, affecting both absenteeism and productivity. More than 30 per cent of Manulife Financial’s long-term disability claims administered on behalf of clients are related to mental illness. Industry studies estimate that mental illness costs the Canadian economy more than $51 billion a year in lost productivity, direct medical costs and reductions in health-related quality of life.

About Manulife Financial

Manulife Financial is a leading Canadian-based financial services group serving millions of customers in 19 countries and territories worldwide. Operating as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia, and primarily through John Hancock in the United States, the Company offers clients a diverse range of financial protection products and wealth management services through its extensive network of employees, agents and distribution partners. Funds under management by Manulife Financial and its subsidiaries were Cdn$385.3 billion (US$363.5 billion) as at September 30, 2008.

Manulife Financial Corporation trades as ‘MFC’ on the TSX, NYSE and PSE, and under ‘0945’ on the SEHK. Manulife Financial can be found on the Internet at www.manulife.com.