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Press Release

New Mental Health Strategy a Key Step in Transforming Health System

Canada NewsWire

OTTAWA, May 8, 2012 /CNW/ - The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) applauds the release of a new mental health strategy for Canada and urges all governments to unite and commit to real action to help Canadians requiring mental health support and services.

"Mental health services are a microcosm of our entire health care system and too often it is the patient that suffers because of jurisdictional battles between governments," said CMA President Dr. John Haggie. "Canada's doctors see the result of this every day and we welcome this new strategy, which seeks to put patients ahead of petty politics."

Last year, during the CMA's National Dialogue on Health Care Transformation (, many Canadians spoke about the desperate need for better access to mental health services. One participant in the dialogue likened the gaps in mental health services to "the canary in the coal mine" for gauging the overall effectiveness of our health care system.

"It's unacceptable that patients and their families have been left to fend for themselves when it comes to accessing needed mental health services and supports," said Dr. Haggie. "That is outdated thinking and we must move now to rebuild our lagging system so that it truly serves patients."

The CMA calls on governments to study the strategy and develop a coordinated action plan based on its recommendations. It says that particular attention should be paid to the mental health needs of children and of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis populations.

The CMA was pleased to see the strategy call for the federal government to better address the mental health needs of our veterans. As Sen. Roméo Dallaire, a retired lieutenant general, said in a recent interview, "injuries between the ears" are just as harmful and require the same urgency as physical injuries.

This report sets high-level objectives. Federal, provincial and territorial governments will need to work together to develop a coordinated plan if these recommendations are to be translated into action. Canada's physicians are willing to partner with governments to ensure this happens.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, CMA's mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care. The CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing over 77,000 of Canada's physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 51 national medical organizations.