Newspaper article The Canadian Press

More Support Needed for Caregivers, Mental Health Commission Says in New Report

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

More Support Needed for Caregivers, Mental Health Commission Says in New Report

Article excerpt

Caregivers need care: mental health group

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OTTAWA - Caregivers could become collateral casualties of mental illness without a major change in the way they are supported, says a new report.

Family-support networks provided an estimated $3.9 billion worth of care in 2006 alone, but without support those networks are at risk of falling apart, the Mental Health Commission of Canada says.

"What is happening today is that we have people looking after people with mental illness and it is impacting their ability to go to work on a daily basis and at the end of the day it impacts their own mental health," said Louise Bradley, the president of the commission.

"It has a humanistic and economic fallout."

The commission is releasing guidelines on how to provide better back-up for those caring for relatives with mental illness.

Along with an analysis of the existing system, there are 41 suggestions for improvements being presented at a mental health care conference in Montreal.

Mental illness needs to be considered in the same vein as other health problems, Bradley said.

"If I'm at home caring for my mother that has cancer, that is more acceptable and people understand it in a way that is far different from saying I'm home because my mother is unable to get out of bed because she had an acute episode of major depression," Bradley said.

"The stigma associated with that minimizes the impact to the person with mental illness and the caregiver as well. What we're trying to do is say look, this is no different."

The guidelines are a follow up to the commission's release last year of its national mental health strategy, meant to serve as a blueprint for how to recognize and treat mental illness more effectively.

Recognizing that caregivers are an integral part of that is an essential first step, said Clem Martini, a University of Calgary professor who was involved in creating the caregiver guidelines.

"They are important to acknowledge how much care goes on at the family level. …

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