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New StatsCan reports highlight Canada’s mental health needs

September 26, 2013

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario and Addictions and Mental Health Ontario (AMHO) applaud Statistics Canada for its effort to assess and explore whether the mental health care needs of Canadians are being met.  However, both CMHA Ontario and AMHO have concerns about the data Statistics Canada released on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013.

The new data is from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health. It is the most comprehensive national survey conducted on mental health and substance use issues in Canada within the last 10 years.

In particular, Statistics Canada examined three mental health (major depressive episode, generalized anxiety, bipolar disorder) and three substance use (abuse/dependence for alcohol, cannabis, “other drugs”) issues.

Within these categories, 1 in 10 Canadians reported symptoms in the last 12 months. Furthermore, 1 in 3 Canadians reported experiencing one or more of the mental health or substance abuse issues at some point in their lifetime.

“The numbers are significant, but in reality the number of Canadians affected may be even higher,” said Camille Quenneville, CEO of CMHA Ontario. “It’s important to remember that the study excludes Aboriginal communities, people in the Canadian Forces and individuals in institutions such as long-term care, hospitals, and jails.”

“Examining six mental health and substance use issues is a welcome start, but those are only a small piece of Canadians’ mental health needs,” said David Kelly, Executive Director of Addictions and Mental Health Ontario. “More information is needed on the prevalence of other mental health conditions and barriers to accessing services.”

The reports highlighted the most commonly reported need for mental health care as counselling, which was also the least likely to be met. The majority (75 percent) of the barriers to accessing services were identified as “personal circumstances,” such as not knowing where to get help, job interference, affordability, insurance coverage and stigma. A fifth of respondents cited features of the health care system including help not being readily available or language barriers.

Complete information and analysis from the Statistics Canada survey is available on its website.

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