How to increase mental health and wellness in society

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

B.C.'s health care system needs to provide more of a focus on preventative health care.

A good start would be to include counselling services as a benefit, along with optical, dental, chiro, massage and physio. A comprehensive health and wellness medical services plan would save millions of dollars in health care, social service and police, court, and prison-related costs.

For instance, if low income families or citizens who have little or no private insurance coverage receive counselling services through the provincial MSP program, then it might reduce crisis situations such as suicidal ideation and domestic violence. It might have a direct impact on family breakdown, child protection and abusive situations such as teenage bullying, racism and other forms of discrimination.

Most importantly, the private counsellors -- such as registered social workers and registered psychologists -- would take the burden off the mental health teams and public health authorities and non-profits. Citizens would be more likely to receive help when they need it, instead of being put on a lengthy wait list or be left to fight the system to be taken on as a client.

Family doctors and psychiatrists have little or no time for counselling, and they are not really trained to provide therapy to patients.

Premier Christy Clark wants to help children and families. Providing counseling services within the reach of low income families would be a good start. A good counselor can help break the cycle of suffering and empower a client. Self-esteem and self-confidence can improve, and help can be given clarifying roles, responsibilities, routine, structure and future goals. What a brilliant way to help the most marginalized amongst us reach their potential and make the most of their life.

If MSP provides counseling benefits, it will create a mixed market. Currently, the taxpayer usually pays 100 per cent of the costs of the public health authority and non-profit counseling services, including drug and alcohol and victim assistance. If MSP starts to pay for counseling, then the system will generate revenue through MSP premiums and a user-pay system depending on the client's ability to pay, similar to Fair Pharmacare.

So why is this a better system? It increases accessibility and affordability and helps the people who need assistance the most when they need it. Waiting lists and the burden on the public system is reduced. Clients can most likely find a counselor in their local community.

During this era of an economic downtown, it is important to invest in social infrastructure. Social programs are the glue that keep the population content and able to cope with one crisis after another.

Many companies cannot afford to provide generous private insurance coverage. An enhanced MSP insurance coverage plan for employers will provide B.C. companies with a competitive advantage over other parts of Canada and the USA.

It’s time for the BC health care system to focus on prevention.

Health and wellness are not luxuries. Without healthy, functioning employees, productivity will fall dramatically. Many corporate wellness plans exist to ensure that employees are both healthy and efficient.Stress related sick days cost millions to B.C. economy. Time to think of the long term benefits of counselling as well as an overall comprehensive package of health care benefits for all the citizens of the province.


Alex Sangha and Mark Stephens are the co-founders of Mindset: Mental Health Education, Awareness, and Support which you can connect with on Facebook.

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