# Tuesday, September 11, 2007
                 

Canadian Mental Health Commission

Federal Health Minister Tony Clement has announced that Calgary will be the new home of Canada's Mental Health Commission. This newly formed commission is aimed at erasing the stigma associated with mental illness as well as sharing information about mental health issues nationwide. The 2007 Federal Budget has allocated $55 million dollars over the next 5 years towards this goal.

It is estimated that 20% of Canadians will experience some type of mental illness during their lifetime. Although most mental illness begins during the adolescent stage of life, it can strike at any time, and exhibit a myriad of symptoms. The cause of mental illness can be complex. Factors such as genetics, biology, personality and life events can all play a significant role in a person's mental health status.

Most people go through difficult times, and experience depression, sadness and/or a feeling of being isolated. These feelings are usually short-term and are emotional reactions to a specific incident (i.e. a death of a loved one, a break-up, etc.) These feelings are a normal part of life, and people learn to cope with the difficulties that come their way.

Mental illness however, is quite different. It can negatively impact a person's ability to function and/or cope with the most basic tasks of everyday life. Mental illness can be responsible for seriously disturbed thinking, moods, and/or behavior.  A person suffering from mental illness can show symptoms of significant distress and the ability to function "normally" over an extended period of time. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe, depending on the type of illness, the individual, and/or their environment.

Mental illness can assume many forms, including:

• Schizophrenia, which affects how the person perceives the world
• Mood disorders (depression, bipolar, etc.) which affects how the person feels
• Anxiety disorders, which affects how the person perceives events or situations to be
• Personality disorders, which affects how a person perceives themselves in relation to others
• Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia) which affects how a person feels about their body image and food

Mental health plays a large role in physical health, and vice versa. It is common for people with physical health problems to experience anxiety and/or depression over their condition. These mental health issues can sometimes affect their recovery. Mental health issues can also increase the risk of physical problems, such as:

• Blood biochemical imbalances
• Weight gain/loss
• Gastrointestinal problems
• Heart disease
• Diabetes

Most mental illness can be successfully treated, with medication, psychotherapy, counseling, community support systems and/or education. However, many do not seek treatment due to the stigma of mental illness. The earlier treatment is sought, the quicker the effected person can begin to regain control over their life.

Another factor for people not seeking treatment may be due to finances. The Sun Life Basic, and Standard and Enhanced Plans offer compensation for psychologist visits and prescriptions. If you have group insurance through your employer, check to see if you are covered for psychology or psychiatric treatment.

It is important to take care of yourself physically, emotionally and mentally. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, please seek help immediately.

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