How can you care for yourself if you’re too depressed to get out of bed?

 In English, Healthcare Navigation

Feeling anxious or depressed is one of the biggest reasons 6.7 million Canadians can’t work efficiently or even at all. 

Mental illnesses like this cost our country over $50 billion each year in annual productivity, not to mention the untold cost in stunted potential, family cohesion and personal happiness.

Last year, one in three workplace disability claims in Canada involved a mental illness.  And yet, they accounted for 70% of employers and insurer’s total disability costs. So yes, the costs associated with mental illness are high.

This year, because of COVID, these costs will skyrocket.

If you break your leg, you go to emergency to get your cast, and follow the after-care instructions and get better. But with many mental illnesses, the condition itself makes self-care much harder and often impossible. In other words, you’re pretty much on your own.

Yes, your family doctor can help. But they’re set up to be occasional navigators, not long-term overseers. These days too, they’re busy and they may not be as well trained to treat mental maladies as physical ones.  Too many offer a prescription and say “try to get some rest.”  They are able to provide some check-ins, but often don’t have the resources to provide the oversight on the treatment that’s needed for improvement, to help you ‘get better’.

If you are working, your condition may worsen to the point where you need to cease work and apply for disability benefits.   If you are suffering from severe, acute illness such as suicide, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, hospitalization is often involved and you are triaged for immediate care.  However, for the majority of individuals who experience depression and anxiety, they are left to wait for care that often doesn’t come.

Many disability benefit providers are implementing early intervention programs focused on clinical assessment, pharmaceuticals and limited therapy sessions to help support recovery and return to work, but frankly, it’s not enough for sustained recovery from mental illness.

Self-care and coordination of all elements of care needed are the pieces that are overlooked that help lay the foundation for successful clinical treatment outcomes.  If you are finding it a struggle to get out of bed in the morning, the idea that you will be able to successfully adhere to a structured treatment program is illogical.

Today in Canada, every cancer patient is given a navigator to help them through the cancer-care system. These patient navigators are trained to be there for their patients and coordinate all the elements of care needed in an often confusing system, so patients get the best of care as soon as possible.

But there is no patient navigation system for Canadians with mental illness, no one person who knows your condition, the support related to self-care and treatment you need and who’s with you from day one.

Given that mental illness affects 6.5 million more families than cancer does  and that its financial consequences to employers and healthcare systems are more than 560% higher, my question is: “Why not?”

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