To investigate patterns and predictors of help seeking and met/unmet needs for mental health care in a national population health survey.
Participants were respondents to the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey on Mental Health (CCHS-MH; n = 25,133). We used regression to identify the diagnostic and sociodemographic predictors of the use of informal supports, primary care, and specialist care, as well as perceived unmet needs.
Eleven percent of Canadians reported using professionally led services for mental health or substance use in 2012, while another 9% received informal supports. Two-thirds of people with substance use disorders did not receive any care, and among those who did, informal supports were most common. Seventy-four percent of people with mood/anxiety disorders and 88% of those with co-occurring disorders did access services, most commonly specialist mental health care. Men, older people, members of ethnocultural minorities, those not born in Canada, those with lower education, and those with higher incomes were less likely to receive care. Unmet needs were higher among people with substance use disorders.
Gaps in services continue to exist for some potentially vulnerable population subgroups. Policy and practice solutions are needed to address these unmet needs. In particular, the convergence of research pointing to gaps in the availability and accessibility of high-quality services for substance use in Canada demands attention.