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Mental health issues in Canada - Statistics & Facts

Mental health plays an essential role in how people think, feel, and act as it influences how an individual perceives and functions in the world around them. Good mental health allows people to enjoy life, cope with problems, and have hope, whereas poor mental health can lead to a variety of impairments, illnesses, and health conditions. The fluctuating and dynamic nature of mental health can be experienced individually as well as observed in population health trends: between 2003 and 2019, the percentage of Canadians who perceived their mental health as fair or poor almost doubled. As pathways to recovery are complex, the various treatment forms for the rising burden of mental disorders come at an ever-increasing cost to the health system in Canada.

Common and concurrent disorders

Just as in medicine, psychiatric diagnoses provide clarity, guide treatment, and can evolve over time to fit the experiences and needs of the individual being treated. In Canada, around nine percent of the population has a mood disorder diagnosis such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Other common diagnoses include schizophrenia and other psychoses, personality disorders, trauma-related disorders, and neurodevelopmental disorders. Unfortunately, people who struggle with their mental health also may experience suicidal ideation; in Canada, the suicide rate is highest among adults in their 50’s. Another complicating factor in mental health is substance use, as it is known to co-occur with other mental health disorders as well as increase the risk of suicide.

Treatment costs

Treatment for mental health and related disorders can take place in a variety of settings in Canada, including emergency and crisis centers, inpatient units, outpatient treatment, and various types of community and outreach programs. Hospital stays range in cost depending on the disorder being treated, as severe and persistent mental health disorders such as schizophrenia often require more intensive treatment because those affected are often vulnerable to relapse with high rates of disabilities, social instability, and concurrent physical health conditions. On the other hand, substance-related disorders were the most costly mental health and addiction disorders treated in emergency departments in Canada in 2018. As for community programs and residential care, Canada’s public health expenditure has doubled for these care settings in the past decade.

Disparities and gaps in treatment

Gaps in healthcare and treatment are often caused by insufficient resources or a lack of access. Across many provinces and territories in Canada, individuals with perceived mental healthcare needs are having their needs not met or only partially met. As with physical health, education and wealth disparities in mental health also vary for certain demographic groups in Canada – this is especially prevalent among the indigenous people in Canada. The indigenous people of Canada are doubly burdened with more health and social disparities as well as a lack of access to treatment and other services, especially in rural areas. Other common barriers to receiving treatment for mental health issues among the general population can include stigma associated with having a mental health disorder as well as trouble accessing and using the appropriate services for both assessment and treatment.


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