Mental Illness is More Common Than You Think

Mental Illness is More Common Than You Think

Content Warning: This article deals with sensitive subject matter around the topic of suicide.

Mental health issues are far more common than many people realize. The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that one in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem in any given year, with a full 50% of the population going through some form of mental illness by the time they hit 40.

Unfortunately, the prevalence hasn’t done much to erase the stigma. Half of those battling anxiety or depression have never sought any form of treatment, and it’s easy to see why people would be reticent. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), only half of the people in Canada would be willing to disclose that a family member had a mental illness. Comparable numbers of people questioned the ability of those with mental health problems to be adequate friends, co-workers, and romantic partners. As recently as 2008, mental illness was still viewed as an “excuse” by 46% of the population.  

Many people are prevented from seeking out the help they need as it relates to the workplace. 39% of Ontarian workers would refuse to share a mental health problem at work, and the general unwillingness to deal with (or even talk about) the problem creates an astronomical fiscal burden. Mental health issues keep 500,000 employed Canadians out of work each week, and the lost productivity – as well as the costs associated with health care and declining quality of life – costs the Canadian economy $51 billion every year.

Those who do seek treatment often find themselves at the mercy of an overburdened mental health system. Mental health care in Ontario is underfunded to the tune of $1.5 billion, and only half of those going through a major depressive episode get care that would be considered adequate. The prospects are even worse for children. The wait time for health care can be anywhere from six months to a year, with Children’s Mental Health Ontario reporting that five of six children never receive proper treatment for their condition.

That last figure is particularly concerning. A high majority (70%) of mental health issues begin during childhood or adolescence, with those between the ages of 15-24 experiencing the highest rates of mental illness. Those issues often become much worse if they go unaddressed. Recent research suggests that preventive efforts have a positive impact over time, making it vital to ensure that young adults have sufficient access to the resources they need.

Doing so will require a significant financial investment. Mental illness is the leading cause of disability in Canada, while approximately 4,000 die by suicide every year (the suicide rate for Inuit youth ranks amongst the highest in the world). The gaps in Canada’s mental health system need to be fixed in order to reduce that quantifiable human cost.

Thankfully, there are signs that Canada is improving. Most Canadians (57%) think the stigma associated with mental illness is less severe than it was in 2010, and there is growing awareness that mental illness affects people across the social spectrum.

If you are struggling with mental health, it’s worth remembering that you’re not alone. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Getting the proper care will allow you to lead the life you want to life, so don’t be afraid to ask for help finding the solution that’s right for you!


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