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Canadian Nurses Association applauds new direction of latest national mental health strategy

Ottawa, Tuesday, May 8, 2012 — The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) is encouraged by the work of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) in its strategy outlined in its new report, Changing Directions, Changing Lives, released today. With this strategy, CNA believes Canada now has a comprehensive vision and common direction for promoting mental health and improving the lives of Canadians and their families who are living with mental illness.

“The MHCC’s strategy underscores the need to improve this country’s mental health services, improve access equity across regions and population groups, and emphasize a broader approach to what affects mental health,” said Judith Shamian, CNA president. “With this strategy in hand we can address the barriers that prevent people with mental illness — especially the most vulnerable and marginalized people of our society — from accessing care and support. It provides us with a common direction that will unite all sectors of society where both mental illness and mental health live, such as at school or work, in a hospital or a community health centre. This strategy gives us a much-needed comprehensive national plan that will bring together health-care providers and governments to ensure the proper investments and policies are in place to support the important work of the mental health field.”

Active in the MHCC’s consultations for the report, CNA is a firm believer that a pan-Canadian mental health strategy must be incorporated into the country’s overall health-care transformation plans. Whether the issue is wait times or drug costs for treatment of diabetes or a mental illness, Canada’s system is a fragmented one. Millions of Canadians also lack access to a primary care provider, rendering it difficult for many to receive timely and consistent care. Again, just as with diabetes, if a mental illness is identified early on, management and treatment of the problem can be easier and take less of a toll on a person’s life.

“One of the most promising aspects of this strategy is that it emphasizes fostering good mental health for all Canadians, not just treating problems and illnesses when they arise,” said Rachel Bard, CNA’s CEO and an RN who has worked in mental health settings for more than 25 years. “MHCC has presented a solid strategy that will enable us to address mental health across the spectrum, identify ways to address it in different stages of life and diverse populations, and unite health-care professionals across the sectors and regions to work collaboratively.”

As the largest group of health-care professionals, nurses have direct interaction with Canadians at every stage of life, across the continuum of care and in a multitude of practice settings. They play a pivotal role in facilitating timely and equitable access to the right care, at the right time and in the right place, whether it is for management of a chronic disease or mental health problem. CNA is committed to working with other health-care professionals and organizations to implement MHCC’s strategy in a practical and concrete way that will ensure nursing practice best meets the mental health needs of Canadians.

Download Changing Directions, Changing Lives: The mental health strategy for Canada.

CNA is the national professional voice of registered nurses in Canada. A federation of 11 provincial and territorial nursing associations and colleges representing 146,788 registered nurses, CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Kate Headley, External Communications Coordinator
Canadian Nurses Association
Telephone: 613-237-2159, ext. 561
Cell: 613-697-7507
E-mail: kheadley@cna-aiic.ca