January 25, 2019 11:58 pm

Projected increase in depression and anxiety in B.C. caused by weakening mental health stigma: experts

The report seeks to highlight what it calls the unique role and value of family physicians, amid the province's ongoing doctor shortage.

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They say January is the loneliest month and a new health report released Friday didn’t sway from that theory.

The report by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry projects the amount of people struggling with mental health problems in B.C. is going up.

READ MORE: B.C. sees drops in mortality rate due to preventable causes such as smoking during pregnancy

Assistant Prof. Joseph Puyat with UBC’s School of Population and Public Health suggests that increase could be linked to the stigma of depression and anxiety decreasing.

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“There is certainly a trend towards people being more accepting of the fact that they are experiencing symptoms of mental illness,” Puyat said. “People are becoming more open to themselves experiencing these issues and to other people experiencing those issues.”

He added while that’s a positive, the lack of support services in the province is cause for concern.

READ MORE: Negative effect social media has on mental health

“I don’t think that’s good for our society to be encouraging people to be open to their symptoms and at the same time not providing adequate services,” said Puyat.

In addition, Puyat said campaigns and celebrities have helped reduce the mental health stigma, but he says there’s still a long road ahead.

Global News has reached out to the province for comment.

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“We are actually falling behind much of Canada and the world, although we have one of the highest life expectancies in the world, some of our mental health and our emotional health has gone down,” said Dr. Henry.

She said people over the age of 45 are more likely to suffer.

Henry was speaking at BC Children’s Hospital Friday morning during her yearly report on the health of British Columbians.

— With files from Robyn Crawford

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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