Mental health service use in a nationally representative Canadian survey

Jitender Sareen, Brian J Cox, Tracie O Afifi, Bo Nancy Yu, Murray B Stein
Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Revue Canadienne de Psychiatrie 2005, 50 (12): 753-61

BACKGROUND: Previous Canadian surveys have noted a wide range of prevalence rates for mental health service use and found no consistent relation between type of contact with mental health professionals and severity of illness. This study is the first investigation to examine the prevalence and correlates of mental health service use in a nationally representative Canadian survey.

METHODS: The Canadian Community Health Survey Cycle 1.1 was conducted between 2000 and 2001 (n = 125,493; respondent age 12 years and over; response rate; 84.7%). Respondents were asked whether they had contacted a professional because of emotional symptoms in the past year and about their experience of barriers to treatment. DSM-IV major depression and alcohol dependence diagnoses were assessed with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview Short Form. The relation between a range of measures of clinical severity and the type of professional contacted for emotional symptoms was examined.

RESULTS: The prevalence of 12-month help seeking for emotional symptoms was 8.3% (99%CI, 8.10 to 8.55); an additional 0.6% (99%CI, 0.49 to 0.62) of the sample perceived a need for treatment without seeking care. Respondents endorsing contact with multiple professionals or with psychiatrists only had higher levels of severity than those who had contact with family doctors only or nonphysician professionals only.

CONCLUSIONS: Although untreated depression remains a significant problem in Canada, more severe illness was more likely to be associated with seeing a psychiatrist (or multiple professionals), indicating a relation between greater severity of mental illness and receiving more specialized care.

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