Mental Illness is NOT Contagious

by Audrey Miller on February 8, 2012

in Articles & Blogs by Audrey, Dementia, Elder Care

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Written on Feb 8, 2012, by Audrey Miller at allaboutestates.ca. Today Bell Canada is supporting mental health awareness with their “Let’s Talk Campaign”. While mental health week in Canada is May 7- 13, 2012 , Bell has opted to talk openly about mental illness with the hope of reducing stigma so that people can get the help they need. One in five Canadians will have or have had a mental illness. This illness crosses all ages and Dementia, which I blog about routinely, is also defined within the mental health umbrella and it too cuts across all racial, religious and socio-economic borders. It impacts both caregiver and care recipient alike.
Some facts from the Canadian Mental Health Association: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “mental illness is the number one leading cause of disability in the world and five of the 10 leading causes of disability are related to mental disorders. Mental illness costs the Canadian economy a staggering $51-billion a year, and each day 500,000 people will miss work due to mental health problems. Each year employers and insurers spend a whopping $8.5 billion on long-term disability claims related to mental illness. Mental illness is the number one cause of disability in Canada, accounting for nearly 30% of disability claims and 70% of total costs. Mental health disorders in the workplace cost Canadian companies nearly 14% of their net annual profits and up to $16 billion annually. The unemployment rate among people with serious mental illness is 70 – 90%. There is a 60% drop in family income when a breadwinner is diagnosed with mental illness.”

For employed caregivers, stress is a leading cause of caregiver burnout and possibly leading to depression. This is not surprizing when, on average, caregivers wait 5 years before seeing help. If you are in this category, speak to your doctor and your employer/human resource department/employee assistance provider for help.

For seniors, the numbers affected by mental illness are even higher. Depression is one of the most common mental health problems affecting seniors, yet the condition too often is unrecognized and untreated. Depression is NOT a normal part of the aging cycle and can be treated.
Men over the age of 65 are at the highest risk for dying by suicide among all age and gender groups (Health Canada, 2002). Seniors living in institutions have even higher rates of depression, with as many as 30 to 40 percent having the disorder (National Advisory Council on Aging, 1999).

Mental illness can be treated. Speak up, speak clearly and remember the motto of the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, get your “Check Up From the Neck Up”. – Audrey Miller

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