$THE COST OF MENTAL ILLNESS In 2015, the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System found common mental illnesses uch as depression and anxiety, and other problems such as stress, are the country’s main cause of short- and long-term disability. Direct healthcare and lost productivity costs are stimated at $51 billion a year. Every week, 500,000 Canadians miss work due to mental illness.
Yet funding for mental health in Canada is significantly less than for physical health.
Signs and symptoms of poor mental health and
mental illness are varied and can include:
• Loss of motivation and energy
• Changes to your sleep (you may start sleeping
more or you may start sleeping less)
• Extreme mood swings
• Disturbances in thoughts or perceptions
• Overwhelming obsessions or fears.
Mental illness interferes with your relationships
and ability to function day-to-day. It can also lead
to social isolation.
Dr. Laura Calhoun, the provincial medical
director for Alberta Health Services’ Addiction and
Mental Health, knows the signs both professionally
From the age of 17, she was plagued by bouts of
depression that confined the normally active Grade
11 student to the couch.
No name was attached to her mood change and
her depression eventually lifted on its own.
A few years later, Calhoun—then a medical
student —fell into another deep depression after
the death of her brother.
Her medical studies helped her make sense of
what was going on with herself and her family.
She sought help and was diagnosed with a major
depression episode. She became a family
physician and, seven years later, a psychiatrist.
Calhoun says the stigma around mental illness
has lessened since she was 17, but mental illness
won’t stop being invisible until it is talked about
with the same openness as cancer, diabetes or
The mental and the physical
Our mental health is connected to our overall
Poor mental health increases your risk of chronic
physical illness and the risk is higher if you have
serious mental disorders. And vice versa: those with
chronic physical conditions are at higher risk of
Two pillars of good health are healthy eating and
active living: your brain needs them as much as
When you’re active, your brain releases
chemicals such as dopamine that reduce anxiety,
stabilize emotions and help maintain a healthy
Studies show 16 weeks of regular (three to
five times a week) activity is as effective as anti-depressant medication; 30 minutes of walking
for 10 days may be enough to reduce symptoms
Signs of poor mental
health and illness