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This article was published 14/2/2012 (1832 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WHEN it comes to getting the biggest bang for scarce mental health dollars, the school system may be the best place to invest, a national conference in Winnipeg will hear today.
Research shows 70 per cent of mental health problems begin during childhood or adolescence. A European study showed the financial payback from school programs on emotional learning and targeting anti-social behaviour was 84 to 1.
Early intervention programs that target troubled kids can cut health and social-service costs and reduce incarceration rates, said Dr. Glen Roberts, executive director of the Canadian Policy Network at the University of Western Ontario.
Roberts said his research has shown schools should play a bigger role in mental health. He suggests it may be time for "the health sector to take a step back and let the education sector lead here."
Roberts will address the issue at Mental Health Summit 2012, a conference of 300 government and mental health officials and academics from across Canada.
The conference grew out of a pitch made by Premier Greg Selinger at a first ministers meeting last summer. The premiers said in a statement at their meeting that costs associated with poor mental health in Canada amount to more than $50 billion a year.
Roberts and others believe there are huge potential returns for school-based screening of kids for depression and alcohol misuse and programs to reduce anti-social behaviour.
"If you really want the best returns on investment in the area of mental health promotion and illness prevention, it probably should be in the school system," he said Tuesday.
More than a dozen speakers at the two-day conference will address such issues as workplace mental health, preventing mental illness and developing a national mental-health strategy.
Dr. Chris Lalonde, a psychology professor at the University of Victoria, will discuss a study that shows suicide rates are lower among First Nations communities that have control over their civic lives, including health care and education, police and fire services. Lalonde is working with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs on a project similar to the B.C. study.