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Mental Illness

Mental illnesses are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood or behaviour associated with significant distress and impaired functioning.

Examples of specific mental illnesses include:

  • Mood disorders: major depression and bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Problem gambling
  • Substance dependency

Information on each of these disorders may be found in the Public Health Agency Report, "The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness In Canada 2006".

Risk Factors

Mental illness arises from a complex interaction of genetic, biological, personality and environmental factors. Mental illnesses affect people of all ages, education levels, income levels and cultures.

Specific risk factors include:

  • family history of mental illness,
  • age,
  • sex,
  • substance abuse,
  • chronic diseases,
  • family, workplace, life event stresses.

The relative effect of each of these risk factors varies among mental disorders. For example, women are at greater risk than men for some disorders (and vice versa) and some disorders typically appear in early adulthood (18 to 30 years) whereas others show a higher risk in middle age between 40 and 60 years.

More information on the factors that affect mental illness can be found on page eight in the Public Health Agency Report, "The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness In Canada 2006".

Minimizing the Risks

Early recognition of mental illness and appropriate response can minimize the impact of the illness. More information on factors that affect mental health and factors that reduce the risk of mental illness can be found on pages 08 to 28 in the report "The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness In Canada 2006".

Factors such as: good parenting, social support, meaningful employment and social roles, adequate income, physical activity, and an internal locus of control all contribute to better mental health and can assist with recovery from mental illness.

Managing Mental Illness

Facts & Figures

Knowledge Development and Exchange

Initiatives, Strategies, Systems and Programs

The Government of Canada announced the creation of the Mental Health Commission of Canada in its March 2007 Budget. The Commission was created to focus national attention on mental health issues and to work to improve the health and social outcomes of people living with mental illness.

Since the March 2007 announcement, a board of directors and eight advisory committees have been established to guide the work of Mental Health Commission.

More information on the Mental Health Commission of Canada

In Canada, the planning and delivery of mental health services is an area in which the provincial and territorial governments have primary jurisdiction. The federal government (chiefly through Health Canada) collaborates with the provinces and territories in a variety of ways as they seek to develop responsive, coordinated and efficient mental health service systems. The Public Health Agency of Canada's Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control contributes through surveillance activities.

Mental Illness Links