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World Mental Health Day: New Report Says Mental Illness Impact On Society Bigger Than Cancer
October 10, 2012
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If you've ever suffered from serious depression or anxiety, you know it's not something you can just "snap out of."

It's not the kind of thing where you just get off the couch, or go for a walk, or rent a funny movie, and you feel better.

It's an illness, which if left untreated, can destroy your life and can lead to serious consequences including suicide.

Today is World Mental Health Day - a day to raise public awareness about mental health and encourage everyone to talk openly about it.

It's also an opportunity toreinforce the importance of mental and emotional wellness on a daily basis, because too often people keep their struggles a secret or try to push through until they reach a breaking point.

This year, the theme for the day is "Depression: A Global Crisis".

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 350 million people around the world suffer with depression. And that's people of all ages, in all communities.

Not only that, but in many countries people can't get the kind of treatment they need. And in some countries, fewer than 10% of people dealing with mental illness actually get treatment.

In this country, the Canadian Mental Health Agency says mental illness is the No. 1 cause of disability in Canada. It's estimated that 20 per cent of Canadians will experience a mental disorder at some point in their lives.

As well, a new report out today says the burden of mental illness and addictions is more than one-and-a-half times that of all cancers.

The report is called 'Opening Eyes, Opening Minds'.

It says mental illness and addictions are often misunderstood, misdiagnosed and ignored, including in the health care system.

And it says mental illness has a bigger impact on the quality of life and on early deaths than other illnesses such as cancer.

That's partly because many mental illnesses show up in young people, between 18 and 24, and are often related to life changing events such as graduating high school, going to college and university, entering the workforce or getting married.

As a result, the report says people who suffer from mental illness often deal with it for a long time, which takes a huge toll on people and society as a whole.

The report says people suffering from mental illness can die young and have trouble socializing, or functioning in school or at work.

To help create awareness, here's a series of PSA's around mental health that really drive home the point.

The Canadian Mental Health Association

Billy Bob Thornton PSA

Writer and illustrator Matthew Johnstone in collaboration with the WHO

Change A Mind About Mental Illness

The five conditions with the highest burden are (in order) depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol use disorders, social phobia and schizophrenia.

In general, the burden decreased with age.

The authors say the most important thing is to identify signs of depression and mental illness early on, so a person can be treated.

A few seasons ago, Howie Mandel spoke with George about dealing with OCD, starting around 3:30 mark.

And singer/songwriter Matthew Good spoke with George about his struggles with mental illness, starting at 1:40.

And Clara Hughes was on the show last season, talking about it. You can watch that interview here.

The study also points out that even though effective treatments exist, only a small proportion of people affected actually get them.

The study was done by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and Public Heath Ontario. The findings are based around Ontario, but the authors say they represent the national picture.

CBC Radio's 'The Current' with Anna Maria Tremonti did a remarkable special on mental health, with guest host Steven Page (who's had his own battles with depression and manic episodes).

You can check it out here.

There's also a great piece here by Tina Moore - the founder of Jog4Joy. That's an event to raise money for programs and research for young people dealing with depression.

And another one here by freelance journalist Tamsin Crimmens, who battled depression for six years.

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