A piece of health news sure to attract some attention has come from mental health experts in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. A report shows that mental illnesses and addictions take more of a toll on the population’s health than cancer or infectious diseases. But, it can be helped with better treatment.
Unfortunately, most people with mental illness or addiction don’t receive treatment. Depression leaves a vast wake of people who aren’t accessing health services. The report shows that the overall burden of mental illness and addictions in the province of Ontario is 1.5 times higher than all cancers, and seven times higher than all infectious diseases. Those kinds of results can easily be extrapolated to consider all of Canada and the U.S.
They found that depression had the highest burden of all nine conditions measured. Incredibly, the burden on people and society was greater than lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers—combined. The World Health Organization confirms that this is a global crisis, and mental issues must start being addressed more openly.
While effective remedies exist, up to 65% of people with depression don’t seek help; neither do as many as 90% of people with alcohol abuse issues. Alcohol abuse is the elephant in the room, as it accounts for the vast majority of deaths related to mental illness/addiction, and 91% of years lost due to early death.
We would all be wise to drop the stigma surrounding these disorders. People should not be afraid to seek help. The “burden” the report refers to is the impact an illness has on reducing life expectancy and quality of life. It’s based on factors like pain, day-to-day functioning, and social relations. Here, burden was calculated using a measure called a health-adjusted life year (HALY)—the amount of healthy life lost.
Overall, the nine conditions measured in the report contributed to the loss of more than 600,000 HALYs in Ontario. In addition to alcohol use disorders and depression, conditions examined were bipolar disorder, social phobia, schizophrenia, panic disorder, agoraphobia, cocaine addiction, and prescription opioid misuse.
What’s vital to know, for anyone who has mental health issues, is that hope exists. Conditions are treatable. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help, because it’s out there for the taking.