Mental health affects people of all ages, incomes, education, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds can and do experience poor mental health and mental illness.  At the same time, some individuals are more vulnerable to mental illness than others and not everyone is equally able to access the care they need.


Youth aged 15-24

  • Most likely to experience mental illness and/or substance abuse
  • Suicide is the main cause of death for youth in this age bracket, leading to over 4000 premature deaths every year

Those experiencing Poverty

  • Folks experiencing homelessness have extremely high rates of mental illness
  • Counselling can be difficult to access at low or no cost
  • Stigma associated with mental illness and the inability to access sufficient care can leave individuals vulnerable to poverty, a lack of housing and employment insecurity

Indigenous Communities

  • Legacy of colonialism and residential schools to be felt through intergenerational trauma
  • Indigenous Canadians both on and off reserve are more likely to seek help
  • Access to mental health facilities on reserves are often difficult to access
  • Institutional racism has is also present in the mental health care system in various ways: lack of culturally relevant supports available to Indigenous peoples
  • Culturally appropriate resources and mental health strategies are overlooked, due to colonization & cultural insensitivity


Cultural Sensitivity

The awareness of cultural differences and similarities between people, without assigning values that are positive or negative, better or worse, right or wrong.

First Responders, Veterans, Military Personnel

  • Military personnel, veterans, and first responders such as police, paramedics, firefighters, and 911 operators are over 4x more likely to develop mental illness than the general population due to operational exhaustion and stress
  • 45% first responders screen positive for 1+ mental health disorders
  • University of Regina-led research team has found that mental health issues increase with the number of years serving as a first responder and that paramedics report they experience very high rates of exposure to human suffering

Rural, Remote, or Northern Canadian Communities

  • Communities outside major metropolitan areas often have limited access to healthcare services due to a lack of appropriate services available and barriers to access
  • Rural populations are more likely to experience isolation, significant wait times, and less support in comparison to large urban centres
  • British Columbia, an estimated “10% of rural communities” have been deemed “communities in crisis” due to inadequate staffing levels

Immigrant/Refugee Populations

  • Disproportionately at risk for psychiatric disorders if they have experienced or been exposed to “war, violence, torture, forced migration, exile, and to the uncertainty of their status in the countries where they seek asylum.”
  • The change that comes with being new to a country, including shifts in social networks & in socio-economic, cultural system
  • Immigrants and refugees access mental healthcare less frequently than the rest of the population, which is due to both structural and cultural barriers
    • Including: language barriers, stigmatization, lack of culturally relevant services, etc.
  • Cultural norms may also play an important role

People with Disabilities

  • Folks with mental-health related disabilities usually have co-current disabilities, and have reported “lower levels of educational attainment,” make up less than half the employment rate for those without disabilities, and receive half the income level of their colleagues
  • A majority of individuals surveyed noted believed their disability factored into not receiving jobs, not receiving promotions, and feeling overall disadvantaged when it comes to employment


  • In 2016, over 1.8 million seniors over the age of 60 were experiencing a mental health issue or illness
  • Seniors are faced with multiple stigmas relating to their mental health, which is compounded when also dealing with mental illnesses
  • The Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health reports that delirium and depression are commonly found in senior citizens, with depression being the most common mental health issue among adults as they age
  • Estimated by 2031, seniors in long-term care will have quadrupled, which is cause for concern due to the fact that mental health challenges are common in long-term care facilities
  • Significantly high suicide rates among older adults are recorded globally

People of Colour

  • People of colour are severely underrepresented in discussions of mental health and in the portrayal of mental illness by the media
    • “Articles, personal stories and pop-culture references in mainstream media are often focused on white bodies, which creates stereotypes about mental illness as a non-coloured issue.”
  • This exclusion has further stigmatized and silenced people of colour in their fight for mental health care, in addition to the barriers experienced when trying to find a “culturally sensitive healthcare provider,” or when attempting to access safe spaces, additional challenges reveal themselves through “issues of racism, sexism, classism…”
  • These barriers further compound the stigma associated with seeking mental health care, and uphold systems and structures of oppression within the healthcare field


  • Canadian studies indicate that LGBTQ2+ people are more likely than heterosexuals to report unmet mental health needs and were more likely to consult mental health practitioners
  • Stigma, discrimination, and marginalization plays a central role to LGBTQ2* experience of mental health and mental health care
  • Higher rates of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and phobic disorders, suicidality, self-harm, and substance use among LGBT people
  • Double the risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than heterosexual people
  • For more, check out Ontario Health

Survivors of Violence & Trauma


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