Mental Illness

Everyone in Ontario is affected by mental illness. Twenty percent are directly affected by mental illness during their lifetime, while the remaining 80% are indirectly affected through family, friends and colleagues.1

The number of Ontarians requiring mental health services is increasing. While the percentage of all health care users in Ontario rose by 4% between 1992 and 1998, the percentage of patients requiring mental health services rose by 13%.2

Of those requiring mental health services, the majority are affected by mild forms of mental illness. Diagnoses include mild depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), as well as anxiety disorders and phobias.

The mental health system in Ontario is funded to serve the seriously mentally ill. Three dimensions of illness are used to identify the most seriously mentally ill: diagnosis, disability, and duration.3

  • Diagnoses includes schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and chronic depression.
  • Disability refers to the extent to which the individual's ability to function in one or more major life activities is limited. These life activities include basic living skills (eating, bathing), instrumental living skills (managing finances, appropriate use of medication) and functioning in social contexts.
  • Duration refers to the ongoing nature of the illness. This not only refers to continuous evidence of a disorder, but also to intermittent episodes with periods of full recovery.

The Numbers

  • 1% of Ontarians suffer from schizophrenia.
  • 3% of Ontarians suffer from bipolar disorder.
  • 5-12% of men and 10-25% of women in Ontario will have at least one episode of major depressive disorder in their lifetime.
  • Studies indicate that more than 90% of suicide victims have a diagnosable psychiatric illness.4
  • Persons who have depressive illness carry out 80% of suicides.5
  • Both major depression and bipolar disorder account for 15% to 25% of all deaths by suicide in patients with severe mood disorders.6
  • Suicide is the most common cause of death for people with schizophrenia.7
  • 15% of people who have significant depressive illness commit suicide.8
  • The number of suicides in Ontario increased from 930 in 1997 to 1,032 in 2001.
  • Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds in Canada and 16% among 16-44 year olds.
  • According to a report by the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI), more men in Ontario committed suicide in the past 10 years than died in car crashes. Approximately 591 men committed suicide in Ontario between 1990 and 2000, while 558 men died in car crashes.9
  • Studies consistently confirm a 50-80% prevalence rate of sexual and physical abuse among persons who later receive diagnoses of mental illness.
  • As many as 70% of outpatients and 72% of inpatients diagnosed with serious mental illness have histories of abuse.10

1. Health Canada. (October 2002). A Report on Mental Illness in Canada. Ottawa, Canada.
2. Lin, E. and Goering, P. (1999). The Utilization of Physician Services for Mental Health in Ontario. Toronto: Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.
3. Government of Ontario. (1999). Making It Happen: Implementation Plan for Mental Health Reform. Toronto.
4. Weir, E. and Wallington, T. (2001). Suicide: The Hidden Epidemic, CMAJ; 165(5):634-6.
5. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Understanding depression statistics. http://www.camh.net/depression/understanding_depstats.html
6. Goodwin, F.K. and Jamison, K.R. (1990). Manic-Depressive Illness. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, p 227-44.
7. Harkavy-Friedman, J.M. and Nelson, E. (1997). Management of suicidal patients with schizophrenia, Psychiatry Clin North Am; 20(3):625-40.
8. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Understanding depression statistics. http://www.camh.net/depression/understanding_depstats.html
9. Canadian Institute for Health Information (2002, December). Ontario Trauma Registry 2002 Report Injury Deaths in Ontario. [Online]. Available: http://secure.cihi.ca/cihiweb/dispPage.jsp?cw_page=media_04dec2002_e
10. Newmann, J.P. Abuse Histories, Serious Mental Illness, and the Treatment and Recovery Process. http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/aging/newmann.htm



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