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David Baxter

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Michael Kirby named to head new Canadian Mental Health Commission
Mon Mar 19, 7:19 PM
By Anne-Marie Tobin

TORONTO (CP) - Finance Minister Jim Flaherty called for "respect and dignity" for people with mental illness as he announced in the budget Monday the establishment of a Canadian Mental Health Commission.

"Health care goes beyond physical well-being," he said as he addressed the House of Commons in Ottawa.

"We must reach out in practical and compassionate ways to those struggling with mental illness."

The new commission will be led by retired senator Michael Kirby, who is chairman of the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health.

Bill Wilkerson, CEO and co-founder of the roundtable, said there will be $10 million in funding now, and $17 million a year for the duration of the commission's existence - a minimum of 10 years.

The commission will have its headquarters in Calgary, he said.

"This will be the first time in Canadian history that there has been a high level, a strongly-led national body supported by government but arm's length from it to be the catalyst for the advancement of research, improvements in clinical care, prevention of (mental) illness, and in fact the prevention of disability," Wilkerson said in Toronto.

Kirby will provide leadership in the area of reducing chronic job stress as well as bring together the scientific and business communities that need to be part of the solution, said Wilkerson.

"The commission is not intended to be a large bureaucratic enterprise," he said.

"It will function as a catalyst and as a unifier to make sure that all those parties in the mental health field come together around prevention, recovery and education."

There are five priority areas as the commission revs up, including mental health in the workplace, aboriginal and children's mental health, the creation of a Knowledge Exchange Centre and stigma reduction.

The home care organization VON Canada applauded the government for recognizing the importance of individuals suffering from mental health issues.

"Treatments, supports and services vary greatly from region to region so it is vital that a Mental Health Commission be put in place to address the current disparate system and develop a national approach to mental health issues," VON Canada president and CEO Judith Shamian said in a statement.

Wilkerson said the economic costs of mental illness exceed $35 billion a year in terms of lost industrial production alone.

Thirty-seven per cent of Canadians experience a mental illness in the course of their lifetime, he added.

The most vulnerable are those in their teens and early to mid-20s.

"Depression today is the fastest growing source of disability in the Canadian labour force, representing 75 per cent of long-term disability and about 40 per cent of short-term disability," he said.

While VON Canada congratulated the government for the mental health funding, it called for more money to be allocated to home and community care support services.
 

David Baxter

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Mental health groups thrilled with budget announcement

Mental health groups thrilled with budget announcement
By Jennifer Forbes
Tue, Mar 20 2007

In May 2006, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs Science and Technology, led by Senator Michael Kirby, released the final report Out of the Shadows at Last: Transforming Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Services in Canada. One of the report?s major recommendations was to establish a Mental Health Commission.

Yesterday, Canada?s government announced funding for the creation of the commission. Mental health groups across Canada are welcoming the news with open arms.

Here is what some mental health spokespersons are saying:

?The establishment of the commission legitimizes our concerns that Canada can do a better job in providing mental health services for its citizens,? said Chris Summerville, Interim Chief Executive Officer of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada. ?It gives us the opportunity to reclaim the lives of those with mental illness who have been left in the shadows of stigma and discrimination and a fragmented mental health system.?

"We would like to congratulate Michael Kirby on being named Chair of the new Canadian Mental Health Commission. His passion and commitment - as well as that of his Senate Committee colleagues - have resulted in the creation of this new commission today, and his leadership will ensure that it makes a real difference tomorrow. We are thrilled," said Dr. Paul Garfinkel, President & CEO of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

"We applaud the government on this important decision," said Phil Upshall, National Executive Director of the Mood Disorders Society of Canada. "We look forward to working with the government, the Honourable Michael Kirby, Chair of the Commission, and our partners at Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness Mental Health to make the Commission a success."
 

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