Key Findings Infographic
Key Findings Report
2015 Pan-Canadian Survey Raises Warning Signs on Mental Health Services
The Canadian healthcare system continues to critically under perform for individuals with mental illness, according to Mood Disorders Society of Canada’s (MDSC) June 2015 pan-Canadian survey of the country’s mental health community.
The survey, conducted between June 16th and June 27th, received a remarkable 2,245 responses.
Results of this national survey clearly illustrate that Canadians are calling for immediate action and change on systemic issues identified in Canada’s mental healthcare system. The issues highlighted in this report are considered to be critical areas for government focus, with particular emphasis on increasing access to mental healthcare professionals across Canada.
Of the top two priorities suggested for government action, a total of 91% of respondents indicated that increasing access to mental healthcare professionals, (e.g. psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, etc.) was their top priority, while 88% reported the need to focus on increasing community mental health services.
When asked directly, 38% of respondents indicated that the time between initial help seeking and diagnosis exceeded a period of 12 months. Retrospectively, following a similar 2011 MDSC national mental health survey, it was reported that a total of 35% of the respondents indicated having to wait more than 12 months for a diagnosis. These comparative results show that our performance on diagnosis has not improved. Comments received indicated a shortage of professionals available to diagnose and treat individuals with mental health issues.
The majority of individuals had been dealing with mental illness for more than ten years, either first-hand or through provision of care for someone experiencing mental illness.
Canada’s mental healthcare system is perceived to need substantial improvements. The provision of adequate, appropriate, and timely services to support individuals with mental illness as well as their family members, caregivers, and even healthcare professionals is generally considered to be lacking and ineffective, therefore critical areas for government attention.
Of great concern is the finding that one third of those with an undiagnosed mental illness ignore their condition, or self-medicate.
While the majority of those surveyed have both provincial and private health coverage, more than half believe their coverage is inadequate, including a greater proportion of those with an undiagnosed mental illness. Additionally, those with provincial health coverage alone were more likely than their counterparts to face cost barriers to treatment. Across survey results, several key factors are found to influence perceptions and experience of care, including health coverage, cost barriers, receipt of a diagnosis and age.
Coping strategies for those dealing with an undiagnosed mental illness varied across ages. Specifically, younger individuals were more likely to ignore/deny evidence and existence of their mental illness, while middle-aged individuals were more likely to self-medicate, and older individuals were more likely to rely on friends and family for support. These findings suggest a need for greater access to support services, particularly for youth who are more likely to engage in maladaptive behaviours to manage their undiagnosed mental illness.
Perceptions were largely positive regarding the availability of community mental health organizations and the overall treatment of mental illness provided by family doctors and healthcare professionals. However, the availability of healthcare professionals, as well as the care provided through walk-in clinics and hospital emergency rooms warranted attention. Moving forward, efforts to improve the overall treatment of patients with mental illness in all healthcare forums should be focused around the degree of respect and empathy demonstrated by staff, addressing the perceived lack of prioritization of mental health patients, reducing wait times, and reducing the appearance of being rushed among healthcare providers during patient consultations.
Mood Disorders Society of Canada thanks all who participated in the Mental Health Care System Survey!