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Mental Health in Canada: A Snapshot for Counselling Students

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According to recent figures, an impressive 85% of Canadians consider mental health to be just as important as physical health (Chai, 2017c). However, while this figure does demonstrate an important step forward, there is still much work to be done with regards to mental health in Canada.

Statistics show that 1 in 3 Canadians will experience a mental illness during their lifetime (Government of Canada, 2017). In fact, in 2016 the amount of people living with a mental illness in Canada amounted to 7.5 million—more than the population of all 13 capital cities in the country combined (MHCC, 2017a).

Counselling can play a major role in assisting individuals to get the help they need. To find out more about the state of mental health in Canada and the important role that counsellors can occupy in addressing current challenges, keep reading.

Canadians Are Most Affected by Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Mental health problems can come in a myriad of forms including, but not limited to, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse. In Canada, the most common types of mental health problems are anxiety and mood disorders such as depression (Government of Canada, 2015; MHCC, 2017b). In fact, mood and anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health conditions to impact the workplace (Chai, 2017a).) According to recent findings, “[i]n any given week, 500,000 Canadians may miss work because of mental illness,” and 35% of those affected may stop working altogether (Noakes, 2015) (Government of Canada, 2015).

Mood disorders like depression are one of the most common mental health problems in Canada

Mood disorders like depression are one of the most common mental health problems in Canada

Mood and anxiety disorders can have a tremendous impact on individuals. A survey conducted by Statistics Canada in 2013 revealed that 27% of individuals suffering from mood or anxiety disorders found their lives to be quite or extremely affected by their mental health (Government of Canada, 2015). Among the areas of their lives most affected were their leisure and hobbies, followed by participating in social activities with family and friends (Government of Canada, 2015).

Millennials and Youth Are Most at Risk of Developing Mental Health Problems

According to recent findings “[p]eople in their early and prime working years are among the hardest hit by mental health problems and illnesses.” (MHCC, 2013). Of these, adolescents and millennials are most at risk, with numbers rising drastically each year. In 2016, 56% of millennials were revealed to be at risk of mental health issues (Chai, 2017c). By 2017, that number jumped to 63% (Chai, 2017c). Even more worrying is the fact that among 15-24 year-olds in Canada, suicide is the leading cause of death (Chai, 2017b).

The high risk that youth and millennials face may be attributed to several different factors, such as the added stress that comes with the transition into adulthood. Those with counselling therapist training also know that mental health problems tend to manifest during young adulthood, with 70% of all mental health conditions first appearing during this stage of life (Chai, 2017c).

Underfunding and Stigma May Be Contributing to Poor Mental Health in Canada

According to many mental health experts, the Canadian mental health system is underfunded (MHCC, 2017). Spending in the area of mental health in 2015 only amounted to 7.2% of Canada’s total health spending, which is well below that of other countries. England, for example, allocated 12% of its total health spending to mental health (MHCC, 2017a). As a result, it’s not surprising that 1.6 million Canadians have reported that their mental health needs are met only partially or not at all (MHCC, 2017a).

Additionally, because of the stigma still associated with mental illness, many people who need mental health services delay seeking help (Government of Canada, 2017). For these reasons, many who would benefit from counseling and other mental health services aren’t receiving the care they need.

Those With Counselling Therapist Training Can Play a Major Role in the State of Mental Health

The good news is that “[m]ost people with a mental health problem or illness have a mild to moderate condition,” which can be addressed with short-term interventions and community support including services such as counselling (MHCC, 2017a). Research has shown that psychological services including counselling provide significant benefits to as much as 80% of people treated (Chodos, 2017). In addition, people prefer these services over taking medications, and note that the benefits counselling sessions provide are lasting (Chodos, 2017). The role of those with professional counselling training is therefore very important to mental health in Canada. In helping clients surpass stigma, develop wellness strategies, and more you will be providing a valuable service.

Are you looking to become a professional counsellor?

Contact Rhodes Wellness College to find out about our unique counselling programs.


Chai, C. (2015). One-third of Canadians at ‘high risk’ for mental health concerns: poll. Retrieved March 1, 2018, from https://globalnews.ca/news/1968323/one-third-of-canadians-at-high-risk-for-mental-health-concerns-poll/.

Chai, C. (2017a). The No. 1 mental health issue Canadian employees take time off work for. Retrieved March 1, 2018, from https://globalnews.ca/news/3202781/the-no-1-mental-health-issue-canadian-employees-take-time-off-work-for/.

Chai, C. (2017b). These 3 groups are at ‘high risk’ of mental health issues in Canada. Here’s why. Retrieved March 1, 2018, from https://globalnews.ca/news/3415871/these-3-groups-are-at-high-risk-of-mental-health-issues-in-canada-heres-why/.

Chai, C. (2017c). Why more Canadian millennials than ever are at ‘high risk’ of mental health issues. Retrieved March 1, 2018, from https://globalnews.ca/news/3417600/why-more-canadian-millennials-than-ever-are-at-high-risk-of-mental-health-issues/.

Chodos, H. (2017). Options for improving access to counselling, psychotherapy and psychological services for mental health problems and illnesses. Retrieved March 1, 2018, from https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/sites/default/files/2017-07/Options_for_improving_access_to_counselling_psychotherapy_and_psychological_services_eng.pdf.

Government of Canada (2015). Mood and anxiety disorders in Canada. Retrieved March 1, 2018, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/mood-anxiety-disorders-canada.html.

Government of Canada (2016a). Measuring Positive Mental Health in Canada: Social support. Retrieved March 1, 2018, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/measuring-positive-mental-health-canada-social-support.html.

Government of Canada (2016b). Suicide in Canada: infographic. Retrieved March 1, 2018, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/suicide-canada-infographic.html. Government of Canada (2017). About mental illness. Retrieved March 1, 2018, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/about-mental-illness.html.

MHCC (2013). Making the Case for Investing in Mental Health in Canada. Retrieved March 1, 2018, from https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/sites/default/files/2016-06/Investing_in_Mental_Health_FINAL_Version_ENG.pdf.

MHCC (2017a). Strengthening the Case for Investing – Backgrounder. Retrieved March 1, 2018, from https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/case-for-investing-backgrounder.

MHCC (2017b). Strengthening the Case for Investing in Canada’s Mental Health System: Economic Considerations. Retrieved March 1, 2018, from https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/sites/default/files/2017-03/case_for_investment_eng.pdf.

Noakes, S. (2015). Stigma around mental illness a $20B problem in workplace. Retrieved March 1, 2018, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/mental-illness-workplace-1.3295242.

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