Good afternoon, everyone.
Although this presentation is on the new Veterans Charter, we felt it was important that you have an understanding of the mental health context in which the new Veterans Charter is provided. As I understand, Mr. Chair, there will be a separate briefing on the full mental health strategy of the department within the next few weeks. Hopefully we'll get into a lot more detail there.
Slide 20 speaks about mental health generally within the Canadian context. Essentially, one out of five Canadians lives with a mental health condition during their lifetime.
The second bullet is interesting as well, because in the Canadian context of those who have need of mental health services, only one-third actually access them, so two-thirds don't. That seems to have some effect also in terms of the specific population we serve. The economic impacts are listed there as well. It's a significant cost to the Canadian economy.
In terms of the extent of need for mental health services, you would be familiar with this, I believe. The increased CF participation in military operations, the combat style of missions, and the more frequent deployment of members of the military with less time to recover and recuperate between deployments have all contributed to increased mental health conditions within the military.
The last bullet on slide 21 speaks to the results of the 2002 Canadian community health survey, on CF members in particular, which identified the four major categories of mental health condition within the military. In order of prevalence, they are depression, alcohol dependency, social phobia, and PTSD. The interesting thing there is that this is the order in which they occur. PTSD, which is obviously very much in the media these days, is actually fourth in the list of the mental health conditions that are experienced.
In terms of clients within the Department of Veterans Affairs who receive disability benefits as a result of a mental health condition, as of the end of March we had 11,888 who have received a favourable decision for disability benefits associated with a psychiatric condition. That breaks down into roughly 63% CF veterans, of whom 12% continue to serve in the military; 24% war service veterans; and 14% RCMP members, of whom 5% are still serving. It is important to note that our strategy on mental health in the department is not just for the CF veterans; it's also for the older veterans. It scans the whole spectrum of mental health conditions, from those related to service at a younger age to those dealing with dementia, Alzheimer's, and all of those related conditions. We've seen an increase in clients of about 8,000 since March 2003. That represents about 1,500 to 1,600 new clients every year with a psychiatric condition who enter our books.
Of all of these clients, 68% have PTSD. Again, I would recall the previous slide, which showed that two-thirds of all of our clients who come forward do so with PTSD. One of the implications there, and we may wish to speak to it at some point in time, is that PTSD seems to be a condition that members of the military and veterans are more open to coming forward with, as opposed to, say, depression.
The third bullet shows the connection with the new Veterans Charter rehabilitation program. We see that 60% of clients coming into rehabilitation--which is a conservative estimate at this point, and it's probably quite a bit more than that--are coming in with a mental health condition as well. That creates a dynamic and a complexity around rehabilitation that is quite significant.
Slide 23 has the breakdown of the numbers more specifically. Of the 2,591 rehabilitation clients within Veterans Affairs, about 1,600 or so have mental health conditions. So it's a significant percentage of clients with mental health conditions that we are trying to rehabilitate into society.
Slide 24 is a very brief summary of our mental health strategy, which is essentially providing access to or in some cases providing within the department a suite of mental health services and benefits that will assist veterans and their families to regain functioning. It's focused on early intervention. The earlier you are able to intervene with these individuals, the more chances of success of recovering and maintaining and retaining full functionality within one's life.
We're also trying to focus on all aspects of life that support mental health and well-being, which we think is unique within the Veterans Affairs mental health programming. It isn't only about health services through psychiatrists and psychologists and other health professionals, but it's also about providing social support, economic support, physical support in the home, and also dealing with individuals on a one-to-one basis based on the World Health Organization's whole-of-person, whole-of-life perspective. We're also building capacity, exercising leadership in the field of mental health, and doing this in partnership with many others.
I won't go into slide 25 in detail, but it's a sampling of some of the services we provide to assist veterans and their families in regaining their mental health and well-being.