Mental health is costing the Canadian economy billions of dollars, according to a report by the Conference Board of Canada.
The board found that depression cost $32.3 billion in lost gross domestic product. Anxiety cost $17.3 billion a year.
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The research concluded that almost one-quarter of Canadians are unable to work due to their symptoms. And, in some cases, depression and anxiety prevents people from entering the workforce altogether.
“A large proportion of working Canadians have unmet mental health care needs that prevent them from performing to their utmost and our report shows this has serious consequences for the Canadian economy,” said Louis Thériault, vice-president of public policy for the Conference Board, in a release.
“Improving treatment of mental illness among working Canadians would offer significant benefits for individuals, businesses, society and the economy.”
What’s needed is better mental health care and support from employers. If those suffering from depression or anxiety had access to better treatment, the board estimates that up to 352,000 Canadians could be fully functional each year until 2035.
The study was done using data from a survey of mental health clinicians, insurance claims and the Canadian Community Health Survey conducted by Statistics Canada in 2012.
While there are treatments available for depression and anxiety, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people are seeking treatment,” Greg Sutherland, principle economist with the board told Global News. And that could be a result of the stigma that is still associated with these disorders.
“There are studies that say 50 per cent of depression and anxiety patients don’t even seek help,” Sutherland said.
“It is partially that people may not know how to access the supports…and people may not even want to admit that they need the support.”
Sutherland said that workplaces are improving the support they offer their employees.
“Workplaces are only just beginning to offer mental health in the employment assistance programs…so it’s becoming more and more recognized as something that has to be addressed.”
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About 2.5 million people working in the service industry feel the need for more mental health care. Employees within the administrative support, accommodation and food services as well as professional and scientific services account for those with the highest proportion of employees with unmet mental health care, the study concludes.
Companies offering benefits, programs and support services would greatly improve depression and anxiety disorders among their employees, the board suggests.
Though the prevalence of depression and anxiety is higher in women, that doesn’t mean they are depressed more; it’s that they seek help more often than men. Suicide rates are higher in males than in females, which could also correlate to men not seeking help as often as women, Sutherland said.
Signs of depression include, but are not limited to: sadness almost every day, the loss of enjoyment in things you used to enjoy; feelings of worthlessness, thoughts about death or suicide; sleeping too much or too little; and difficulty making decisions.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911. 911 can send immediate help. The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone all offer ways for getting help if you, or someone you know, is suffering from mental health issues.
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