Impact of Mental Health Problems In Canada

1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health problem in any given year

What do you think about that?

When we ask that question, the most common responses are: that’s very low, and that’s very high. This is one of the most common statistics used to describe mental health problems in Canada

In reality both are correct. 1 in 5 is a lot. That’s 20% of the population. That could be 1 of the 5 people ahead of you in line at the checkout, 8 of the 40 people on the bus with you, or 4,000 people in a small major league sports stadium.

1 in 5 is also more likely than not an undercount, but it’s difficult to measure by how much.

The way this statistic is measured, it actually means 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health problem in a given year and seek treatment in the medical system.

This means that in order to be included in this statistic, someone must:

  • Identify that they have a mental health problem AND
  • Seek treatment for that mental health problem AND
  • That treatment must be in the medical system (through a family doctor, hospital, or government-funded community mental health service).

Those who do not do all three of these things, would not be included. Since experiences of mental health are subjective, it is common for individuals to not recognize a problem when it happens. Because of stigma and other reasons to not access treatment, individuals might not seek treatment. And if they do seek treatment, and that treatment is through a counselor, a self management strategy, or through any other private service, they are not counted.

So, 1 in 5 would be an absolute minimum of Canadians who experience a mental health problem in a given year, and that number is likely much higher.