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:
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.