Mental Health–Chronic Illness Link – HealthPartners is making the connections

OTTAWA: To mark Mental Health Week, HealthPartners, an organization representing 16 of Canada’s leading national health charities working together to raise funds through workplace giving, is highlighting the critical link between chronic diseases and mental health. And in doing so, it is also showcasing the important mental health services that these health charities provide to Canadians affected by chronic disease.

Think about this: Between 25 and 50 per cent of people who have a chronic illness also suffer from depression. The consequences of this double-whammy can be severe, ranging from worsening physical symptoms to a lack of motivation when it comes to taking care of themselves. The research bears this out. For people living with diabetes, depression increases the risk of mortality by 30 per cent. People who survive heart attacks but suffer from major depression have a three-to-four-times higher risk of dying within six months than heart attack survivors who are not depressed. According to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, the elevated levels of stress hormones that can come with depression have direct physical effects that put the heart at risk. This includes an increased risk of blood clotting and the development of hardening of the arteries.

“Canadians suffering from chronic disease or major illness are more prone to mental health issues,” says Eileen Dooley, HealthPartners CEO. “Our 16 national health charities all recognize this intimate mind–body connection in their work to combat the chronic and major illnesses that may affect 87 per cent of Canadians during their lifetimes. That’s why every one of our partners provides mental health support programs along with programs and services to help people cope with the physical symptoms of their disease.”

As well as practical educational resources, and links to local support groups and networks, these programs and services include one-on-one peer support, by phone or online. People can talk with trained volunteers who have lived with their disease and developed methods for dealing with anxiety, stress and depression. Several of HealthPartners’ 16 member charities also feature online video stories — where people describe their own mental health challenges as they battle their physical illness.

“Out of the 87 per cent of Canadians who will be affected by a major disease or chronic illness in their lifetime, a million will experience depression as a result.” adds Eileen Dooley. “With numbers as high as these, it’s highly likely that you, a family member, a friend, a caregiver, or a colleague in your workplace will be affected in this way. Support for HealthPartners, through workplace giving, is support for the critical research, programs and services our partners provide that make such an enormous difference in both the physical and mental health of people nationwide. And to underline that critical link, in June we will be releasing a report that clearly demonstrates the need for the important mental health services that our partners provide.”

- 30 -

For more information:
Siobhan Williams, HealthPartners’ Director, Marketing and Communications 
(613) 562-1469 ext. 228, swilliams@healthpartners.ca