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Statistics Canada releases mental health survey results

Statistics Canada just released the results of the Canadian Community Health Survey: Mental Health 2012. The Survey falls in line with a recommendation in the Commission’s Mental Health Strategy for Canada released just over a year ago, which outlined the need to “improve mental health data collection, research, and knowledge exchange across Canada.” It is clear from the survey results that mental health care needs continue to go unmet for Canadians.  

However, it would appear that the survey results are also not telling the full story. People living on-reserve and on other Aboriginal settlements, full-time members of the Canadian Forces and the institutionalized population were excluded from the survey. These populations would greatly increase the statistics for people with mental illnesses if they had been included. Stats Canada has indicated that these populations are reviewed under a different study and process. But it is notable that this does skew the results of the study, as not all Canadians were included.

It is not surprising that the identified barriers to accessing support include "worrying what others might think" as the biggest reason for not reaching out for help. Stigma continues to be a barrier to help.  

Here are a few of the results and what information seems to not be included:
The points in bullet format were originally released on Statistics Canada.

·         Approximately 2.8 million people, or 10.1% of Canadians aged 15 and older, reported symptoms consistent with at least one of six mental or substance use disorders in the past 12 months. The six disorders measured by the survey were major depressive episode, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and abuse of or dependence on alcohol, cannabis or other drugs.

Note that this does not include all mental illnesses. For example the inclusion of eating disorders, psychosis / schizophrenia, other anxiety disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. would actually make the number of people living with a mental illness much higher. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness throughout their lifetime.

·         Symptoms consistent with a mood disorder were cited by 5.4% of Canadians aged 15 and older, while 1.5% met the criteria for bipolar disorder in the past 12 months.

·         2.6% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported symptoms consistent with generalized anxiety disorder, an anxiety disorder characterized by a pattern of frequent, persistent worry and excessive anxiety about several events or activities.

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada, “the 12 month prevalence for any anxiety disorder is over 12% and one in four Canadians (25%) will have at least one anxiety disorder in their lifetime”. Again, important to note that the 2.6% mentioned above pertain to generalized anxiety disorder only. There are 7 other anxiety disorders that are not part of this statistic.  In fact, anxiety is the most common mental illness in Canada.

·         More youth (aged 15 to 24) met the criteria for mood disorders and substance use disorders than any other age group.

This confirms that youth need the tools and resources to help them manage their mental health issues and that stigma reduction needs to continue being a priority in Canada.

Take a look and explore the rest of the results for yourself and tell us what you think the Canadian health care system can do better below.