FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: On World Mental Health Day, Advocates Call Upon Federal Parties to Commit To $300 Million Per Year to Address Toronto’s Mental Health and Addictions Crises

October 10, 2019, Toronto, ON - Each year, 20% of Canadians experience mental health and addiction issues. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, by age 40, at least 50% will have experienced a mental illness. 75% of mental health disorders first appear before the age of 25. Residents, including youth and University of Toronto students have been vocal in calling for the urgent need for increased mental health supports to address a growing mental health crisis. At colleges and universities, the number of students with identified mental health disorders has more than doubled over the past five years. Suicide is the leading cause of death for young people aged 18-35.

Toronto represents approximately 10% of the country’s population and we need to address the mental health and addictions crises in our streets. On World Mental Health Day, advocates, service providers and community members call upon federal parties to commit to national mental health parity and make an annual investment of $300 million per year in Toronto to immediately address Toronto’s mental health and addictions crises. 

In Canada, more than 6.7 million people are living with a mental health problem or illness today, compared to 1.4 million with heart disease and 2.2 million living with diabetes. (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2010). The inadequate funding of mental health services has the direct and indirect cost to Canada’s economy which exceeds $50 billion per year.

"We need more federal help to fund mental health and addiction services and capital investments in supportive housing. This can happen if the federal government commits to meeting the spending targets set by the Mental Health Commission of Canada in 2012. Too many are unable to access life-saving resources they need to thrive, while growing mental health and addictions crises are having massive health impacts. We cannot wait any longer." -Steve Lurie C.M., Executive Director, Canadian Mental Health Association Toronto

"Now is the time for the federal government to commit to national mental health parity. Under-served populations living with mental health and addiction needs are in crisis and compounding Toronto’s affordable housing and shelter emergencies. An annual investment of $300 million in Toronto is urgently needed if we are going to turn the tide and begin the hard work of building healthier communities. Conditions today are costing lives and delay will only cost more, still." -Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, Ward 13 Toronto Centre

"In Toronto, Gerstein Crisis Centre provides 24 hour crisis intervention to people who are living with mental health and addiction issues. Just last year alone, we spoke with over 30,000 people who called us in crisis, attended over 1,500 mobile visits in the community and our crisis beds operated at over 90% capacity. We are seeing too many people who not only have on-going issues with their health but are living under housed or homeless in poverty with little access to employment and connection to community. We need coordinated mental health and addiction strategies at all levels of government that provide the structures and supports people need to address their health and social issues and strengthen their pathways to recovery and ultimately improve the health and well-being of our communities." -Susan Davis, Executive Director, Gerstein's Crisis Centre

"The University of Toronto has lost four lives to suicide on campus in the last two years. The University of Toronto Students' Union, representing 38,000 students in Toronto is proud to stand with other advocates, service providers, and community members in calling upon the Federal Government to commit to national mental health parity and make this investment to immediately address Toronto’s mental health and addiction crisis. Increased access to evidence-based mental health services for our community, including housing, psychotherapy, and safe consumption and treatment sites, will save lives." -Joshua Bowman, President of the University of Toronto Students’ Union and Lucas Granger, Vice-President, External Affairs at the University of Toronto Students’ Union

Mental illness accounts for over 100,000 emergency room (ER) visits each year and 12,000 hospitalizations.
ER visits for intentional self harm are increasing and Toronto experienced a 290% increase in ER visits for opioid poisoning/overdoses and a 181% increase in opioid related deaths since 2013.

The $300 million annual funding investment will allow for scaled up community-based and evidence-based mental health services. This includes consumption and treatment sites, stepped care, managed opioid programs, increasing access to psychotherapy and Housing First services for homeless people experiencing mental health and addiction problems, as well as more help for the 24,000 people in TCHC who lack access to mental health and addiction services.

Interviews available upon request.

Media contact: Lisa Brody Hoffman, lisa.hoffman@toronto.ca; 416-970-3606

 

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