According to World Health Organization (WHO, 2014), mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. While mental health disorders are commonly known for their impact on health and well being, they also have an economic impact in terms of absenteeism, loss of productivity, unemployment and medical expenses.
In 2012, a total of 2.8 million Canadians aged 15 and older, or 10.1%, reported symptoms consistent with at least one of the following mental or substance use disorders: major depressive episode, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and abuse of or dependence on alcohol, cannabis or other drugs. Over the course of the lifetime, rates of substance use disorders were higher than the rates for mood disorders. About 6 million Canadians met the criteria for substance use disorder, while 3.5 million met the criteria for mood disorder. Females had higher rates of mood disorders and generalized anxiety disorder than males, while males had higher rates of substance use disorders.
Persons with mental disorders often suffer a wide range of human rights violations and social stigma.
Some people are more vulnerable and at higher risk of developing a mental illness than others. The factors that may contribute to a person’s risk include trauma and abuse, social isolation, homelessness, socio-economic disadvantage, physical or intellectual disability and genetic predisposition. Harmful use of alcohol and other drugs can significantly increase the occurrence of mental illness.
The first signs of mental illness may emerge in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Young people at risk of developing a mental illness may be those who have been bullied at school, children of parents with a mental illness, children linked with the criminal justice system, refugees and children brought up in a traumatic environment.
These children or young people at risk may already be linked to services offering counselling, or may be part of a youth group.
Stigma and discrimination are factors that can affect a person’s ability to seek help for mental illness. Stigma is a negative stereotype. Stigma is a reality for many people with a mental illness, and they report that how others judge them is one of their greatest barriers to a complete and satisfying life