With provincial government spending focused on emergency response, community service providers are left to fill the voids in a fractured system. (Black Press Media file photo)

Mental Health: A look at a fractured system

In this special series, Black Press Media reporters share stories from across Greater Victoria

It’s costing taxpayers and affecting everyone, yet it’s still not a topic that’s readily discussed.

Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time whether it is a family member, friend or colleague. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians will personally experience a mental health problem or illness in any given year.

With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world and forcing people into isolation, increasing anxiety and pushing many households into uncertain financial positions, it is now more important than ever to talk about mental health.

Mental illness does not discriminate and affects people of all ages, education, income levels and cultures. And it is not uncommon. By the age of 40, almost half of the population will have or have had a mental illness.

But nearly one half (49 per cent) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor. Stigma, discrimination and affordability present serious barriers to not only getting a diagnosis but also treatment. This means too many British Columbians aren’t receiving treatment until their condition is severe and requires more extensive treatment. And it’s costing taxpayers.

READ MORE: Mental Health in Great Victoria

The estimated impact on B.C.’s economy is $6.6 billion annually, according to a report prepared by B.C.’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions in 2019. That report found, across an array of ministries, the provincial government spends approximately $2.5 billion a year on mental health and substance use services but 95 per cent of those funds are spent on specialized, hospital-based or downstream services.

Despite increasing evidence of the benefits of providing help early, this funding is heavily weighted towards crisis intervention, with little spent on prevention, early intervention, and long-term recovery initiatives.

This fractured system is forcing individuals and different service providers in our communities to try and fill the gaps. We share some of those stories in this special report.

You can find the series online along with a special Mental Health Resource Guide produced by Black Press Media. You can find the guide online at vicnews.com under e-editions or printed copies will be available later in all of our offices, as well as at our community partners.

Please, do not struggle alone, help is out there.


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