Did you know?

  • In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental illness.
  • By the time Canadians reach 40 years of age, 1 in 2 have – or have had – a mental illness.
  • Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.
  • After accidents, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24.
  • Indigenous people, especially youth, die by suicide at rates much higher (6 times more often) than non-Indigenous people.
  • About 4,000 Canadians per year die by suicide – an average of almost 11 suicides a day. It affects people of all ages and backgrounds.
  • Men have higher rates of substance use disorders than women, while women have higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders.
  • Individuals with substance use disorders are up to 3 times more likely to have a mental illness.
  • Mental illness and substance use disorders are leading causes of disability in Canada.
  • Many individuals would be reluctant to disclose a mental illness to an employer or coworker.

Source: Centre for Mental Health and Addiction

Either directly or indirectly, we are all affected by mental illness and substance use. It is important to know the facts and challenge the myths that surround mental health and addiction, that result in stigma and discrimination.

FACT: Sometimes we think that mental illness is really just a person’s ability to deal with life’s ups and downs. However, that’s not the case. Mental illness creates distress, is a real health problem caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and can be treated. When someone has a physical health issue, we don’t expect them to just “get over it and we don’t blame them if they need medications or procedures to help them recover. It should be that same for whatever people need – counselling, medication, compassion – to recover from mental illness or addiction

Fact: The language we use can add to stigma. The experience of feeling shame and being judged is part of the problem individuals living with mental illness and addiction face each day. Many people say that the stigma associated with mental illness and addiction, including harmful words and phrases, is worse than the illness itself.

An example of more positive language would be to say ‘people who use drugs’ instead of ‘drug users’.

Fact: Some people who experience mental illness may act in ways that are unexpected or seem strange to others. However, it is important to remember that the illness, not the person, is behind these behaviours. No one chooses to experience mental illness. People who experience a change in their behaviour due to a mental illness may feel embarrassed or ashamed around others. It’s also true that people with mental illness are like anyone else, as they may make poor choices or do something unexpected for reasons completely unrelated to symptoms of their illness.

Fact: Addiction is not a choice. Addiction is a type of mental illness. And while it is true that it is a choice to use a substance the first time, no one chooses to become addicted.

Fact: PTSD can impact anyone, not only individuals who have been involved with military action. Individuals with a history of tragedy, loss or a major event (such as sexual, emotional or physical abuse, or an accident) may have painful memories that impact their emotional wellness.

Fact: Asking someone whether they have suicidal thoughts will not increase their chances of attempting suicide. However, not asking may. Feelings of hopelessness (no one understands) and helplessness (nothing can help me) lead to suicide. Talking about it, offering support, and reaching out can make a difference.

Fact: People living with a mental illness or addiction can, and do, recover. There are many kinds of treatments, services, and supports available that can help. No one should expect to feel unwell forever. People who experience mental illness or addiction can, and do, lead productive, successful lives. They work, volunteer, and contribute their skills and abilities to their communities. Even when people experience symptoms of a mental illness or addiction that last for a long time, they can learn to manage their symptoms so they can get back to their goals and living well.

Fact: Without harm reduction, people would continue to use substances, but in an unsafe and unsupported way. Harm reduction provides safe options to those struggling with addiction.

Harm reduction:

  • Enables safety
  • Minimizes harm
  • Reduces Illness and injury
  • Maintains/improves the health status of individuals using substances
  • Embodies compassion
  • Recognizes that every life is valuable