Mental illnesses make up more than 15% of the disease burden in Canada, with an estimated annual economic cost of more than $50 billion in direct health care costs. A person with mental illness can expect to live up to 10 years less than the average Canadian.
Mental illness also increases a person’s risk for poverty and homelessness. An estimated 67% of Canada’s homeless population has a serious mental illness.
The CMA believes Canada should work toward a strong system of mental health services that includes:
- access to a well-funded continuum of services, from in-hospital treatment to community-based care and support
- adequate community support for people with mental health disorders that addresses income, housing and employment
- focused public awareness campaigns and other initiatives to combat stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness
Mental illness in Canada
In any given year, about one in five Canadians will develop a mental health condition — yet fewer than a third of them will seek treatment. One reason may be the social stigma attached to mental illness. People may not seek needed treatment because they don’t want friends, family or employers to know they have a “mental problem.”
However, Canadians’ awareness of mental health issues has risen considerably. Recent years have seen the emergence of social media campaigns like the annual Bell Canada “Let’s Talk” event, international conferences, special reports and targeted research ― all aimed at reducing stigma.
Setting the foundations for this shift were the 2006 report “Out of the Shadows at Last” by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, chaired by Senator Michael Kirby, that made recommendations aimed at increasing awareness, enhancing mental health services and reducing the stigma of mental illness. The federal government then established the Mental Health Commission of Canada (2007), which released Canada’s first mental health strategy in 2012.