Some Success in the Challenge of Mental Illness

Toronto, ON (Apr. 24, 2014) – Most of us are blessed with reasonably good mental health; many more, however, suffer from mental illness. Consider in your financial plan the impact to your family if someone is stricken. Health or disability insurance can help reduce the risk of the financial impact.

Wikipedia defines a mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, as a mental or behavioral pattern or anomaly that causes either suffering or an impaired ability to function in ordinary life (disability).

The good news is twofold. First the problem is being recognized as an illness and being brought out into the open, rather than being hidden away or simply ignored as something which will simply go away. Secondly, its nature is being increasingly understood and treatments are improving.

Mental illness is more common than many realize. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) notes that one fifth of Canadians will in their lifetime suffer from a mental illness and one in twelve will experience a major depression. Too frequently a result is suicide, one of the leading causes of death for both men and women from adolescence to middle age. The writer experienced this in his family: a first cousin about age 60 became depressed following a fall from a bicycle and could no longer cope.

This sickness carries much social stigma. The CMHA notes that the stigma and corresponding discrimination prevent people from seeking diagnosis and treatment – nearly half of those who felt they had suffered had never sought medical assistance. They also inhibit acceptance in the community, acceptance which in turn could help with recovery.

From a business perspective, Kathy McIlwham, Vice-President, Group Life and Disability, Manulife quotes from the Mental Health Commission of Canada that 500,000 Canadians will miss work every day due to mental illness, with a cost to the Canadian economy of $51B annually and that mental health claims account for an average of 30 per cent of short and long term disability claims.

To help address the problem, Manulife recently formed a national Mental Health Specialist team that will work with Disability Case Managers to guide the management of all mental health disability claims and help ensure appropriate treatment and support is in place.

If the impact on business is that large, and that impact comes from the illness striking people, and many people are not part of business, then the impact on people would be significantly larger. Thankfully Canadian provincial health plans give at least basic health services in this area. Perhaps more is required there as well as from people’s own financial and insurance management.

More is needed to help address this big issue. Thankfully many are taking up the challenge. The Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma recently published a report “Mindset: Reporting on Mental Illness”. André Picard, the health columnist for the Globe and Mail in a foreward writes “So what is the role of journalists and editors in tackling the stigma that invariably comes along with these diagnoses? Is our role to sit back, observe and report dispassionately on this sad state of affairs, or to proactively set out to bring about social change? The short answer is: a bit of both. The single most influential change that the media can (and should) make is to start treating mental illnesses the way they do physical illnesses: With curiosity, compassion and a strong dose of righteous indignation when people are mistreated or wronged.”

The influence of journalists who pay heed to this admonishment and the action of many others across all parts of our society can only help this trend towards acceptance and treatment of this insidious illness; we will all be better off as a result.

Like most aspects of our lives, being prepared should something occur is part of good life management. For the insurance considerations, call upon a knowledgeable advisor.