Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we feel, act, and think, and can also determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Therefore, supporting mental health is so important.
The number of people diagnosed with psychiatric disorders in North America has remained stable over the past few years, but the number of those self-reporting mental health issues has increased, according to a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
“These findings may indicate that because of increased awareness and reduced stigma around mental health issues, more people experiencing distress are seeking help,” says co-author, Dr. Maria Chiu, a scientist with the Mental Health and Addictions Research Program.
For the study, data was analyzed for more than 260,000 Ontario residents who participated in Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey between 2002 and 2014. Researchers found that self-reporting of fair or poor mental health status increased from 4.9% in 2003–2005 to 6.5% in 2011–2014, with a corresponding increase in the use of mental health services from 7.2% to 12.8%.
“Self-reporting of physician-diagnosed mood disorders in the 2011–2014 period was more than one-and-a-half times higher than the measured prevalence of major depression in 2012, which suggests that more people are saying they are depressed than are clinically measured,” says Dr. Chiu
“While in the past people may have been suffering in silence, there are now more conversations about mental illness and people are seeking care,” says Dr. Chiu. “Help-seeking is catching up with need.”
A Strain on Health Care
The authors of the study do caution that this increased use of mental health services could strain the health care system. This enforces the need for improved access to mental health care, especially for lower-income and other marginalized people.
As a Canadian-based study, it has sparked a commentary suggesting that Canada needs to look at international models and alternative approaches to meet the increased need for psychotherapies and mental health services. But this isn’t just a Canadian problem. Worldwide, those with psychiatric disorders often don’t have the resources available to be able to turn to when needed.
“Patients with mental health concerns across the country know all too well that it is challenging to receive needed care, and they desire better access to care,” writes Dr. David Gratzer, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the University of Toronto.
He adds, “There is no single solution to address the care gap that people with mental distress face in Canada. But by looking to international examples, exploring innovative approaches and making better use of existing resources, barriers to access are more likely to be successfully overcome.”
While Canada looks elsewhere to find examples of mental health resources, those who are suffering are left to wait. If you or someone you know is suffering, be sure to reach out to a mental health specialist. Although changes are needed across the globe, there are still many options for those who are looking for help.