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Canada’s Mental Health Epidemic

By Harland C. Lindsay, Director, Parkin Architects Limited

Parkin has been designing hospitals for decades, usually acute care hospitals. Only in the last few years have mental health facilities become the focus for restoration and renewal – and the need is still overwhelming. Take a look below.

Overall Numbers:

Of Canada’s 36 million people, major chronic diseases¹ are approximately:

  • Heart, 1.5 million                                   4% (of population)
  • Diabetes, 2.5 million                             7%
  • Musculoskeletal, 5.7 million                16%
  • Mental health 6.7 million                     19%


Fast facts² from the Canadian Mental Health Association:

Who is affected?

  • Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.
  • 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
  • Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.
  • Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
  • About 1% of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”).


How common is it?

  • Schizophrenia affects 1% of the Canadian population.
  • Anxiety disorders affect 5% of the household population, causing mild to severe impairment.
  • Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds.
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women from adolescence to middle age.
  • The mortality rate due to suicide among men is four times the rate among women.


What causes it?

  • A complex interplay of genetic, biological, personality and environmental factors causes mental illnesses.
  • Almost one half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem.
  • Stigma or discrimination attached to mental illnesses presents a serious barrier, not only to diagnosis and treatment but also to acceptance in the community. 
  • Mental illnesses can be treated effectively.


¹ Chronic Disease Facts and Figures, Public Health Agency of Canada

² Fast Facts on Mental Illness, “CMHA



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