Canadians & Mental Health (Webinar Recap)

Optimity recently hosted a webinar on May 29 in honour of Mental Health Awareness Month. Our very own, Mira Levine and Brett MacDonald, who serve as Client Success Advisor and Wellness Coordinator respectively, were joined by Katie Worndl from MindBeacon Group to discuss the physical, financial, and economic impact of mental illness on Canada. We have provided the key takeaway points below but if you would like to watch the full webinar, click here.

The Big Picture

Mental health is classified as the psychological and emotional well-being of a person and affects individuals of all ages, ethnicities, and genders. According to The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, one in five Canadians will experience the disorder in their lifetime, making it the leading form of disability in the country. However, this figure jumps to 80% when accounting for those who are indirectly affected by a loved one with mental illness. To put it simply, mental health affects everyone in some shape or form.


Factors & Symptoms

Although not everyone will develop mental illness after a traumatic incident, some factors that are known to increase the likelihood of mental illness include physical health status, family breakup/loss, and childhood abuse. Despite the severity of the aforementioned factors, the strength of one’s mental resilience and support group are the two things that for the most part, determine the end result.

Mental illness can be incredibly hard to spot, especially during its early stages. When looking for any possible signs, pay extra attention to any changes in eating and physical activity habits, a substantial change in energy levels, social isolation, delusion, alcohol or drug abuse, or even suicidal remarks.

Canadians & Mental Health

A form of mental illness or disorder exists throughout Canadians and its recognition has gained valuable traction. For the majority of the patients, mental illness affects relatively young individuals as research has shown that one in two Canadians will experience the disease before turning 40. Currently, 63% of the millennial population is deemed at “high risk” for mental health issues, a 10% increase from last year. For older generations who may be affected by mental health, the stigmatization that surrounds this topic may be a blocker for expression of their issues. The most alarming statistic states that two out of three Canadians suffering from mental health concerns do not seek treatment. This sufferance in silence has resulted in 4000 Canadians committing suicide, equivalent to 11 deaths per day.

Amongst the homeless, mental health has had a tremendous impact. In Canadian cities, 23-67% of the homeless population suffers from a mental illness. The inaccessibility to support is an example of a factor that amplifies this negative impact.

Financial & Physical Burden

The financial impact of mental illness on the economy is estimated at an astounding $51 billion. This translates to 500,000 employed Canadians having to take time off each week, which not only causes a loss in productivity but is also very expensive to treat. Treating a mental health condition is around 30% more expensive than other disorders.

Mental health is not only a problem that is evident in developed countries. The World Health Organization estimates that one in four people in the world will suffer from the disorder, but over 66% of countries currently spend less than 1% of their GDP on mental illness treatment. These countries still rely on large mental institutions which have been proven to be extremely ineffective. The poor in particular are at the greatest risk of developing mental illness, and in these cases, have no choice but to attend these institutions.


Mental Health in the Workplace

In the workplace, mental health plays a vital role. The state of mind of a person will determine their productivity and their overall behaviour to be content in the workplace. Absenteeism and presenteeism are the ideal examples of this topic. In many situations, these two terms can apply to those that suffer from a mental health illness and they both directly result in $6.3 billion in lost productivity per year. Another common factor that affects mental health in the workplace is the competition and monthly benchmarks. The build-up of high anxiety and stress from the requirement to complete work can have a negative pressure on anyone. In turn, Canadian businesses are realizing that 30% of disability claims are due to mental health problems & 70% of disability costs are attributed to mental health issues.

As an economy as a whole, research by the conference board of Canada found that improved treatment for depression could boost the economy by $32.3 billion a year, as well as an increase to $17.3 billion a year for improved anxiety treatment.


Improving mental health is never a sprint, it should be approached like a marathon. For improvements to be made, a person should take everything one step at a time. There is no perfect answer to resolve it directly, but there are a few ways to ensure that there are positive changes being made.

  • Seek help – are you trying to find support?
  • Nutrition – are you eating properly?
  • Exercise – are you staying active?
  • Workplace Strategies – 13 PSRs
  • Digital solution – Optimity & Beacon

Beacon provides digital therapy for guidance in overcoming mental health-related issues. This platform specializes in iCBT or internet-delivered Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to digitally provide access to a skills-building approach to therapy. Similar to CBT, you are able to grasp new skills to better manage your mental health concerns through modules, exercises and activities.   

Here at Optimity, we focus on prevention and early detection of mental health issues. We recognize that improving mental health is never a sprint, but a marathon. Getting rid of bad habits and replacing them with positive ones from your daily lifestyle is never an easy task. That is why our wellness platform is focused on making the whole process fun and rewarding! Our library is filled with thousands of micro-activities, ranging from mindful breathing to stretching exercises, that aim to increase self-esteem and overall mental health.

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