What are the five key things decision-makers need to know in order to meet the needs of people with mental health issues?

October 10th is World Mental Health Day, which aims to raise awareness of mental health around the world. According to the World Health Organization, the burden of mental disorders continues to grow in all countries of the world.

We have recently undertaken a number of projects to examine the impact of, and approaches to, addressing the needs of people living with mental health issues, including a stakeholder dialogue, a citizen panel, and several rapid syntheses.

Our rapid synthesis Examining the Impact of and Approaches to Addressing the Needs of People Living with Mental Health Issues highlighted five key things that decision-makers need to know to address the needs of people with mental health issues. This list, outlined below, is derived from the documents reviewed in this rapid synthesis with a focus on three sources: 1) the findings from systematic reviews; 2) the findings from published articles presenting an overview of the field as well as those specific to British Columbia or Canada; and 3) recommendations outlined in current national and international reports.

  1. Globally, across Canada, and in the province of British Columbia, the burden of mental health problems, and their associated economic, personal, and social impacts are a pressing health issue.
  2. While mental, neurological, and substance-use disorders are increasing globally, there is a wide variety of effective drug-based, psychological and social interventions which can prevent and treat them, but access
    is affected by concerns about financial resources, the low availability of trained mental health workers in some jurisdictions, and stigma and discrimination. Moreover, coverage for mental, neurological, and substance use disorders is often limited under most insurance programs in high-income countries, and there needs to be greater financial protections put in place to ensure people get the care they need.
  3. Effective evidence-based interventions should be delivered within and across multiple settings, including: at a population level (e.g., through prevention and awareness campaigns and policies that reduce access to alcohol); for specific communities or groups (e.g., interventions targeted to groups that share a common characteristic such as age or culture, or a common setting such as schools or jails); and within the healthcare system (which includes interventions that address self-management and care, primary and community health care, and hospital care).
  4. There needs to be greater attention paid to addressing the needs of people living with multiple chronic conditions (i.e., multimorbidity), and particularly to how mental illness intersects with other conditions, such as developmental disabilities or chronic diseases, in primary and community-based care.
  5. To close the gap between mental, neurological and substance-use disorders and other health issues, systems must better integrate services across settings and improve the delivery of evidence-based interventions. This requires “an approach that puts into practice key principles of public health, adopts systems thinking, promotes whole-of-government involvement and is focused on quality improvement”. Effective translation of evidence into action will require “collaborative stepped care, strengthening human resources, and integrating mental health into general health care”. 

The other rapid synthesis focused on Identifying Effective Suicide Prevention Interventions. One additional rapid synthesis, on the topic of Addressing Long-term Stays in Hospital for People with Mental Health and Addictions Concerns, will be available on our website on October 27th.

The evidence brief, citizen brief, and summaries of the stakeholder dialogue and citizen panel on the topic of Defining the Mental Health and Addictions ‘Basket of Core Services’ to be Publicly Funded in Ontario will be available on our website shortly.

Supporting mental health is a critical consideration to the healthy aging process. Browse the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal for more information or watch the highlights from the public talk recently hosted by the Forum:
> Mental Health Matters: Depression and Anxiety in Older Adults