Canadian Medical Association

Canadian Medical Association

August 18, 2008 00:01 ET

Canadian Medical Association/Not in My Backyard: Mental Illness Stigma Widespread Among Canadians

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - Aug. 18, 2008) - The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) today released its eighth annual National Report Card on Health Care in Canada, focusing on both access to health care services and mental health care in Canada.

The CMA's National Report Card on Health Care measures public opinion gathered by Ipsos-Reid to paint a portrait of Canadians' attitudes and experiences with the health care system. The Report Card is a key part of the CMA's commitment to Canadians to track access to care and government action on the health care system.

"This year's report card shines a harsh, and frankly unflattering, light on the attitudes we Canadians have concerning mental health," said CMA President, Dr. Brian Day. "In some ways, mental illness is the final frontier of socially-acceptable discrimination. Can you imagine the public uproar if mental health was replaced with race, gender or religion?"

The survey found:

- Almost half of Canadians (46%) think people use the term mental illness as an excuse for bad behaviour;

- One in four (27%) Canadians are fearful of being around people who suffer from serious mental illness;

- Just half of Canadians (50%) would tell friends or coworkers that they have a family member suffering from a mental illness, compared to wide majorities who would discuss diagnoses of cancer (72%) or diabetes (68%) in the family.

- The majority of Canadians would be unlikely to hire a lawyer (58%), a child care worker (58%), financial advisor (58%) or a family doctor (61%) with a mental illness. Only one in three (31%) Canadians would hire a landscaper with a mental illness

- Almost six in ten (59%) Canadians say they expect the number of people with a mental illness to increase over the next 10 years;

- Most (60%) Canadians agree that the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness is underfunded and nearly three-quarters (72%) agree funding should be on par with funding for physical health issues such as cancer and diabetes.

While attitudes toward mental illness are concerning, attitudes toward people suffering from addiction are even more troubling. The survey found that:

- Less than half of Canadians think alcohol and drug addition is a mental illness;

- Only 1 in 5 Canadians would socialize with someone who has a drug or alcohol addiction;

- Less than 5% of Canadians would hire someone who has a drug or alcohol addiction.

"These figures show clearly the insidious stigma still associated with mental health and mental illness," said Dr. Day. "These are the attitudes that have kept mental health on the outside for far too long."


In addition to important information on Canadians' attitudes toward the mental health, the 8th Annual CMA Report Card also shows that the public's evaluation of the health care system is up slightly over last year. In 2008, two in three (66%) Canadians asked gave the system an "A" or a "B" for overall quality of the health care services available. Last year 62% of those asked graded the system with either an "A" or "B".

The disparity in attitudes between Canadians who have a family physician and those who do not appears to have widened in the last year. In 2008, Canadians with a family physician were 17 points more likely than those without a family physician to give an A grade to the overall quality of the health care system (26% vs. 9%) among those without a family physician. In 2007, this difference was 11 points (23% vs. 12% with no family physician).

"These findings indicate that the worrying trend of 'have' and 'have-not' patients continues," said Dr. Day. "Ensuring Canadians have access to a family physician is a key area for action."


In the 2008 Report Card, Canadians' perceptions of the actions of the federal government in dealing with health care remained largely unchanged from last year, with 34% assigning either an "A" or "B" grade to the federal government's performance (33% in 2007). This year, however, 40% of Canadians graded the performance of their provincial government with either an A or B grade, a five-point increase over 2007. The contradictory grades for the provincial and federal levels of government translate into uncertainty among Canadians as to whether health care services will get better or worse in their communities over the next two or three years - 49% said they thought services would get better, while 48% said they will get worse.

"The uncertainty of Canadians is a direct reflection the lack of leadership in health demonstrated by our politicians," said Dr. Day. "Funding has been returned to the system, but Canadians are still waiting for a renewed vision that will ensure the sustainability of the system."


The annual report card telephone survey by Ipsos-Reid surveyed 1,002 Canadian adults between June 10 and 12, 2008. This sample provides a ±3.2% margin of error for the overall national findings 19 times out of 20.

The Report Card can be accessed at:

Contact Information

  • Canadian Medical Association
    Lucie Boileau
    Media Relations Manager
    Media Office
    General Council (from Sunday, August 18)