More than half of young Canadians who sought mental health services said they weren’t easy to access


As Canada continues to experience the consequences of the pandemic, mental health is at the forefront of many public discussions. Today, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released new information that illustrates Canadians’ experiences with the mental health system. 

CIHI’s newest data shows that in 2022, 3 out of 5 children and youth (age 12 to 24) with self-reported early needs accessed mental health and substance use services. Early needs are defined as mild to moderate functional impairment (in working or doing schoolwork, taking care of things at home or getting along with other people) or a perceived need for care. Within this age group, access to community-based mental health services differed by gender. About half of boys and young men with self-reported early needs were able to access services compared with more than 60% of girls and young women, and 80% of transgender and non-binary children and youth. Among all young Canadians who accessed mental health services during the past 6 months, more than half said that they were not easy to access. 
Looking at data from a different age group, 2 out of 5 Canadians age 15 and older said they always or usually had support navigating mental health and substance use services over the last year. Respondents identified several ways to support individuals navigating mental health and substance use services: more choice of where, when and how services were provided; more communication between providers; and scheduling support. A smaller proportion of transgender and non-binary individuals, individuals with less than high-school education and individuals from lower-income families said that they had the necessary support to navigate mental health and substance use services compared with their peers.

Hospital-based mental health services for all ages

Updated information about hospital-based mental health services was also released today. This data shows that in 2021–2022,

  • The rate of hospital stays that are a direct result of substance use (alcohol, cannabis and other substances) increased to 555 per 100,000, up from 510 per 100,000 in 2019–2020. This represents an 8% increase since the start of the pandemic. 
  • The proportion of people who visited an emergency department (ED) at least 4 times a year for help with mental health and substance use remained stable. Just less than 10% of all people who visited an ED at least once for a mental health or substance use issue visited at least 4 times. 
  • The proportion of people who were admitted to the hospital at least 3 times a year for help with mental health and substance use increased to 13.5%, up from 12.6% in 2019–2020.
Ensuring that all Canadians can easily access mental health services when they need them can help reduce the anxiety many patients experience when seeking help. By monitoring how many Canadians access community-based services — along with their experiences of having support in navigating the mental health system — decision-makers can better understand where to place any additional services or focus targeted improvement efforts.Mélanie Josée Davidson, Director, Health System Performance, CIHI

These results were released today in CIHI’s Your Health System (YHS) web tool. CIHI has also updated the results for 52 existing Health System Performance indicators and 22 contextual measures in YHS, and for 30 indicators in the Health Indicators e-Publication.

About CIHI

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing essential health information to all Canadians.

CIHI works closely with federal, provincial and territorial partners and stakeholders throughout Canada to gather, package and disseminate information to inform policy, management, care and research, leading to better and more equitable health outcomes for all Canadians.

Health information has become one of society’s most valuable public goods. For more than 25 years, CIHI has set the pace on data privacy, security, accessibility and innovation to improve Canada’s health systems.

CIHI: Better data. Better decisions. Healthier Canadians.

Media contacts 
For English inquiries: 
Alya Niang
For French inquiries: 
Alya Niang

How to cite:

Canadian Institute for Health Information. More than half of young Canadians who sought mental health services said they weren’t easy to access [Media release]. Accessed January 28, 2023.

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