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DavidSwannA health coalition representing 130 organizations, institutions and governing bodies is applauding the recommendations of the final report of the Mental Health Review chaired by Dr. David Swann, MLA for Calgary Mountain View.  The report contains several recommendations pertaining to the prevention of mental illness in Alberta including increased funding and resources for prevention and health promotion.  Wellness Alberta is urging the Notley government to invest more resources in prevention by quickly adopting all of the relevant recommendations in the Swann report.

“We applaud the recommendations of the Swann report to increase resources and funding for the prevention of mental illness” said Jim Gray, campaign chair.  “Mental illness is largely preventable but we must address root causes such as childhood adversity and trauma.  We need to invest in proven prevention strategies such as positive parenting programs that can reduce childhood trauma.  Our children deserve every opportunity to enjoy healthy and productive lives that are free of trauma and mental illness including addiction and suicide.  We urge the Notley government to swiftly implement all of recommendations relating to the prevention of mental illness among Alberta youth”.

Mental illness is a major contributor to chronic disease and the Canadian Institute for Health Information has projected that mental illness will be among the leading causes of disability by 2030.  Chronic disease currently represents 90 percent of the illness burden in Canada.

Recommendations 16, 23 and 24 of the Swann report focus on strategies to prevent mental illness including:

  • Educating the public on brain development, and risk and protective factors related to addiction and mental illness;
  • Increase provincial government funding for addiction and mental health services including… Establishing targets that shift service delivery to support increased prevention, promotion and early intervention; and
  • Measuring and evaluating shared outcomes for programs that include…prevention and social determinants of health.

One of the guiding principles of the report was “Individuals are seen in a holistic way, where prevention is a priority and early intervention leads to better treatment and recovery.”

“Sustainable investments in mental illness prevention are essential if the Mental Health Review is going to be successful” said Les Hagen, campaign manager.  “The final report acknowledged that only 0.1 percent of the health budget is dedicated to the primary prevention of mental illness.  The Notley government must find the resources required to protect Alberta children and youth from experiencing a lifetime of mental illness.  The status quo is simply not acceptable.  We must invest in prevention today if we want better results tomorrow.”

Wellness Alberta is proposing the creation of a sustainable Wellness Foundation for Alberta that could be financed through a special wellness levy on tobacco, alcohol or other harmful products.  The prevention of mental illness is one of six major risk factors for chronic disease that can be addressed by a Wellness Foundation. 

“The Swann report provides further justification for a provincial Wellness Foundation to improve health outcomes, enhance our quality of life, and to reduce demands on the healthcare system” said Jim Gray.  “Alberta can’t afford not to invest in disease prevention given the tremendous burden that chronic disease is placing on our society, our economy and our provincial government.  Mental illness is largely preventable if we take effective measures to address risk factors well in advance.  A Wellness Foundation could support the broad implementation of these measures right across the province with additional resources applied to those who are at the greatest risk such as Aboriginal youth.”

Wellness Alberta is urging all Albertans to connect with their MLAs in support of a provincial wellness foundation by visiting its Make Alberta Better website.  Thousands of Albertans have responded to the coalition’s campaign urging the Notley government to take wellness off the waiting list.

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Les Hagen at 780-919-5546

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