Key Findings

“CAMIMH was established in 1998 and serves as the only national coalition
representing the mental health sector across the continuum of non-governmental
stakeholders. The core purpose of CAMIMH is to put mental illness and mental
health on the national health and social policy agendas. CAMIMH has been highly
effective in forging collaborative national leadership on mental illness and mental
health policy through four pillars of public education, research, data collection and
reporting, and policy frameworks.”1
“Mental Health Literacy in Canada Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and
Mental Health May 2007 5

Perceived Prevalence and Recognition of Mental Disorders Canadians appear to have
reasonably good MHL regarding prevalence, awareness of warning signs, and ability to
identify a mental disorder as such. These capacities would likely enhance the ability to
identify a mental health problem and to intervene early. There is room for some improvement
of general knowledge of mental health problems: many people underestimate the prevalence
of mental disorders and many, especially youth, confuse other types of disorders with mental
Perceived Causes Like people in other countries, Canadians are inclined to prefer
psychosocial explanations for mental health problems, although they are more apt to identify
biomedical causes for serious mental illness. It is debatable to what extent these tendencies
represent an area for intervention. There is strong evidence for psychosocial causal
influences especially prolonged stress, for common mental disorders. In addition,
biomedical, particularly genetic, explanations can increase stigma and reduce
optimism about recovery.
Attitudes about Treatment and Recovery Compared to those studied in other research,
Canadians are more inclined to recommend medical help for symptoms of mental disorders.
However, they are still somewhat ambivalent about medical care, especially for common
mental health problems and with regard to psychiatric medications, as found in other studies.
Focus group results show that many people would like access to a range of treatment
options, but many have a poor understanding of the different options available. Canadians
are generally optimistic about the prospect of recovery from mental disorders, but more so
for common mental health problems compared to serious disorders.
Conceptions of Mental Illness, Stigma and Perceptions of Dangerousness Stigma and
discrimination toward persons with mental disorders remain somewhat problematic in

Canada, although more so for serious mental illness. Canadians know that stigma and
discrimination towards mental disorders exist, and they exhibit some reluctance about
disclosing mental health problems especially in the workplace, for fear of stigma and
discrimination. Public education about mental disorders may help to reduce stigma. Because
Canadians prefer to maintain a distinction between common mental health problems and
serious disorders, targeted anti-stigma campaigns may be most effective. For less serious
mental disorders, initiatives that emphasize the commonness of mental health problems
appear to be helpful. As fear of stigma can deter treatment seeking, access to self-help
interventions represents a promising practice. Workplace initiatives are needed to manage
people’s concerns about disclosing mental health problems at work. Community
development and self-help initiatives including training in communication and advocacy,
would support mutual empowerment for social action to reduce stigma, end discriminatory
practices, and improve services.
Beliefs about Protecting/Promoting Mental Health Canadians appear to have good
knowledge of prevention strategies and many of the strategies they recommended such as
social support, physical exercise and stress reduction, are indeed protective factors. The
focus group participants who attributed mental illness to genetic causes expressed more
pessimism about prevention; this finding calls for careful construction of key messages for
educational initiatives. Perceived Linkages between Mental and Physical Health Canadians
show a good intuitive understanding of the mind/body connection. A significant body of
research investigating how the relationship works has emerged in recent years, and people
could benefit from this information, to protect their mental and physical health. Raising public
awareness about the connections between stress, depression and chronic disease
represents a good opportunity for intersectoral collaboration, which is itself integral to
effective health promotion.”2