Youth Mental Health Reality: The Difference We Can Make

  1. An estimated 1.2 million children and youth in Canada are affected by mental illness—yet, less than 20 per cent will receive appropriate treatment. By age 25, approximately 20 per cent of Canadians will have developed a mental illness. Youth who are engaged in child and adolescent mental health services, and who require continued services, are also often not well supported as they prepare to enter the adult mental health system.
  2. 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence.
  3. Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.
  4. In 2016, suicide accounted for 19% of deaths among youth aged 10 to 14, 29% among youth aged 15 to 19, and 23% among young adults aged 20-24
  5. An estimated 75% of children with mental disorders do not access specialized treatment services.
  6. A growing body of international evidence demonstrates that promotion, prevention, and early intervention initiatives show positive returns on investment.
  7. Wait times for counselling and therapy can be long, especially for children and youth. In Ontario, wait times of six months to one year are common.
  8. After accidents, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-34 (Statistics Canada, 2019).
  9. First Nations youth die by suicide about 5 to 6 times more often than non-Aboriginal youth. Suicide rates for Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average.
  10. Canada’s youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world.
  11. Unicef Canada Report Card 14 finds that in general, boys are more likely to die by suicide than girls – three times more likely, on average. Girls however, attempt suicide twice as often as boys – though they generally choose methods than are less lethal. For Indigenous boys, the rates are higher than the average of any wealthy country. Suicide, as discussed in the report, is defined as the suicide rate for teenagers aged 15-19.



1. Mental Health Commission of Canada
2. Government of Canada (2006). The human face of mental health and mental illness in Canada. Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.
3. Pearson, Janz and Ali (2013). Health at a glance: Mental and substance use disorders in Canada. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-624-X.
4. Statistics Canada (2018). Leading causes of death, total population, by age group. Canada, 2016. Table 13-10-0394-01
5. Waddell et al. (2005). A public health strategy to improve the mental health of Canadian children. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 50: 226-33.
6. Roberts and Grimes (2011). Return on investment: Mental health promotion and mental illness prevention. A Canadian Policy Network / Canadian Institute for Health Information report. Ottawa: CIHI. Mental Health Commission of Canada (2014). Why investing in mental health will contribute to Canada’s economic prosperity and to the sustainability of our health care system. Retrieved from
7. Children’s Mental Health Ontario (2016). Ontario’s children waiting up to 1.5 years for urgently needed mental healthcare. Retrieved from waiting-up-to-1-5-years-for-urgently-needed-mental-healthcare-3. Office of the Auditor General of Ontario (2016). Annual report 2016, volume 1. Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.
8. Statistics Canada (2019). Suicide in Canada: Key statistics.
9. Health Canada (2015). First Nations & Inuit health – mental health and wellness. Retrieved from
10. Canadian Mental Health Association. Fast Facts About Mental Illness. Webpage: http://www.cmha. ca/media/fast-facts-about-mental-illness/#.V9CLdfkrK70
11. Unicef Canada Report Card

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