During World Health Day on April 7, the WHO is calling on world leaders to take concrete steps towards universal health coverage, so that everyone, everywhere, can access quality health services without facing financial hardship. While our universal health care system is a source of pride for Canadians, the lack of access to mental health services is a longstanding frustration.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada is hopeful that last year’s federal commitment to provide the provinces and territories with $5 billion over 10 years to improve access to mental health care, signals we have turned the corner on decades of underfunding and exclusion of mental health services. For many years, funding for mental health care in Canada stood at approximately seven per cent of health spending—well below that of our counterparts such as the UK, which spends close to 13 per cent of their health budget on mental health.
In the past year, a number of provinces have committed to increasing mental health services and supports, putting programs in place to remove the financial barriers that prevent access to counselling and psychotherapies. Access to psychotherapy has historically meant long wait times in the public system, with speedier access to private providers afforded to those with workplace benefit plans or an ability to pay out-of-pocket. This has systematically disadvantaged many people living in Canada, especially those from low-income households.
We need to continue closing historical funding and service gaps if mental health care is to become part of Canada’s universal health care story.
President and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada
Mental Health Commission of Canada