BC Medical Association

BC Medical Association

August 13, 2009 12:00 ET

BC Medical Association: Depression-It's Time for This Illness to Step Out of the Shadows

BCMA proposes 14 recommendations to make this right

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Aug. 13, 2009) - As many as 870,000 British Columbians will experience major depression at some point in their lives. This means that more than 20% of BC's population can expect to experience long-lasting feelings of sadness, anxiety, emptiness, pessimism, guilt, hopelessness, and worthlessness, a lack of energy and enthusiasm, and thoughts of suicide. Although help is available, the many barriers to it mean that only 48% of those who suffer from depression are able to seek medical help.

In its just released paper, Stepping out of the Shadows: Collaborating to Improve Services for Patients with Depression, the BC Medical Association makes 14 recommendations that address access issues and the funding problems that affect those with depression.

"Although the mental health care we provide has come a long way in the last decade, depression is the leading cause of disability in our province," said Dr. Shelley Ross, Chair of the BCMA's Council on Health Economics and Policy that developed the paper. "We can no longer tolerate the unnecessary social, personal and economic costs that stem from maintaining the status quo."

Although there are a number of barriers to care that people with depression are faced with, they generally fall into three distinct areas: those with depression confront a health care system that is significantly under-resourced compared to non-mental health services; too few patients with depression are recognized and diagnosed; and, once diagnosed too few patients are able to access medically necessary care. Not only do people with depression face significant stigma and discrimination in nearly every avenue of society, the economic impact can also be staggering. For an average BC company with 500 employees, untreated depression costs nearly $1.4 million in lost work days and reduced productivity.

This paper proposes three key recommendations to address these major problems:

- Recognizing the serious nature of this illness, patients with depression must be treated within established wait time benchmarks as specified by the Canadian Psychiatric Association

- The provincial government should introduce tax incentives or other measures for employers that implement a workplace mental health strategy that is based on a provincial standard

- The federal government must match transfer payments for mental health funding equally with other medically necessary services as mandated under the Canada Health Act

The common theme among the 14 recommendations is that greater collaboration among stakeholders - business community, government, and providers - is key to reducing the burden of depression. The entire document and a list of recommendations can be found at: www.bcma.org.

Contact Information

  • BC Medical Association
    Sharon Shore
    Senior Manager, Communications and Media Relations
    604-638-2832 or 604-306-1866