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Mental Health and Employment

Wikis > Mental Health and Employment

This section is intended to provide an overview of mental health and employment. If you would like to modify these wikis or to submit a new subsection, get in touch with to be added as an author.


Mental Health and Employment appear to be interweaving into each more than ever before. The challenges combine in dealing with mental health issues and try to find and maintain employment. This wiki is an “information hub” created to assist individuals in the career counselling field with finding resources that can assist them in working with clients with mental health issues. As career counsellors, we are NOT mental health counsellors or doctors. Mental health is a major barrier that can come between a client and their ability to obtain employment. We must be comfortable with learning about mental health and referring clients to appropriate services and resources to assist them with being successful in their employment goals.

Mental Health and Employment: Overview by the CMHA

“Of all persons with disabilities, those with a serious mental illness face the highest degree of stigmatization in the workplace, and the greatest barriers to employment. Many and varied employment obstacles face adults with psychiatric disabilities, such as gaps in work history, limited employment experience, lack of confidence, fear and anxiety, workplace discrimination and inflexibility, social stigma and the rigidity of existing income support/benefit programs.

The unemployment rate of persons with serious mental illness reflects these obstacles and has been commonly reported to range from 70-90%, depending on the severity of the disability. These statistics are particularly disturbing in light of the fact that productive work has been identified as a leading component in promoting positive mental health and in paving the way for a rich and fulfilling life in the community.

Access to meaningful, paid work is a basic human right for every citizen, and those who experience serious mental illness should have equal access to the fundamental elements of citizenship which include: housing, education, income and work. This means that each individual has the right to be employed in a mainstream job, rather than being labeled as a client in a training program or a sheltered workshop.”[1]

Facts about Mental Illness


Who is affected?

  • Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.
  • 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
  • Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.
  • Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
  • About 1% of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”).

How common is it?

  • Schizophrenia affects 1% of the Canadian population.
  • Anxiety disorders affect 5% of the household population, causing mild to severe impairment.
  • Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds.
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women from adolescence to middle age.
  • The mortality rate due to suicide among men is four times the rate among women.

What causes it?

  • A complex interplay of genetic, biological, personality and environmental factors causes mental illnesses.
  • Almost one half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem.
  • Stigma or discrimination attached to mental illnesses presents a serious barrier, not only to diagnosis and treatment but also to acceptance in the community.
  • Mental illnesses can be treated effectively.


What is the economic cost?

  • The economic cost of mental illnesses in Canada for the health care system was estimated to be at least $7.9 billion in 1998 – $4.7 billion in care, and $3.2 billion in disability and early death.
  • An additional $6.3 billion was spent on uninsured mental health services and time off work for depression and distress that was not treated by the health care system.
  • In 1999, 3.8% of all admissions in general hospitals (1.5 million hospital days) were due to anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, major depression, personality disorders, eating disorders and suicidal behavior.Sources: The Report on Mental Illness in Canada, October 2002. EBIC 1998 (Health Canada 2002), Stephens et al., 2001


How does it impact youth?

  • It is estimated that 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder – the single most disabling group of disorders worldwide.
  • Today, approximately 5% of male youth and 12% of female youth, age 12 to 19, have experienced a major depressive episode.
  • The total number of 12-19 year olds in Canada at risk for developing depression is a staggering 3.2 million.
  • Once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80% of people who are affected, allowing them to get back to their regular activities.
  • Mental illness is increasingly threatening the lives of our children; with Canada’s youth suicide rate the third highest in the industrialized world.
  • Suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15-24 year old Canadians, second only to accidents; 4,000 people die prematurely each year by suicide.
  • Schizophrenia is youth’s greatest disabler as it strikes most often in the 16 to 30 year age group, affecting an estimated one person in 100.
  • Surpassed only by injuries, mental disorders in youth are ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada.
  • In Canada, only 1 out of 5 children who need mental health services receives them

Community Associations Providing Mental Health Services


COAST Hamilton: assists individuals who are dealing with mental health issues with finding housing and crisis support

COAST Halton: assists individuals with safe beds, help groups, housing and crisis support

Youthlink: provides support to young people who are experiecing mental illness

Durham Mental Health Services: assists adults in the Durham region who are dealing with mental health issues

COTA: Assists individuals in the Toronto area that in treatment for mental illnesses

The ROYAL: assists with individuals with mental illness in Ottawa

St Leonards Community Services: provides various programs for support for individuals experiecing mental health issues


CMHA- assist individuals who are dealing with mental health issues

Mental Health Services: Various health assistance programs

My Mental Health: provides a list of mental health services that are available in Alberta

Assertive Outreach Services: provides outreach services to individuals dealing with mental health issues

List of services that are availiable for individual dealing with mental health issues


Your Mental Well-Being-Government of Sasketchawan: provides services for individuals dealing with mental health issues

Programs and Services for individuals dealing with mental illnesses within the province of Sasketchwan

British Columbia

Vancouver Coastal Health- information on different organizations that assist individuals with mental health issues

BC Mental Health and Addiction Services: Assist individuals who are dealing with mental health and addictions

Here to Help: Reources to assist individuals who are dealing with mental health and addictions issues.

Mood Disorders Assoociation of British Columbia: An association that deals with mood disorders

British Columbia Schizophenia Society: An organizations that assists individuals who are dealing with Schizophenia.

Mental Illness First Aid: This is a course that educates indiviudals on how to communicate and assist individuals dealing with mental health issues

Province of Manitoba: Healthy living: A resource for services assist with mental health

My Mental Health: A list of service providers and resources in Manitoba

Prince Edward Island

PEI Health PEL: Mental Health Services: A link to various mental health services in PEI

Canadian Mental Health Association in PEI

Canada-Helps-Charity Profile: an association that assists individuals with mental health illnesses

Nova Scotia

CMA: Regional Assistance with Mental Health

Mental Health Resources Halifax: A guide for Friends and Family in dealing with Mental Health Illness

A list of mental health resources in Nova Scotia

New Brunswick

Welcome to Capital Region: provides assistances to individuals who are dealing with mental health issues

CMA: New Brunswick Chapter

Canadian Mental Health Association

The ACADIE-BATHURST Health Authority: provides assistances to individuals dealing with mental illness

NewfoundLand and Labrador

CMA- Information for individuals dealing with mental health issues

Newfoundland and Labrador Mood Disorders Information

List of associations that assist individuals with Mental Health illnesses


Find an Advocate: a resource for finding mental health services in Quebec

CMA: Quebec Mental Health Services

Community Resources for Mental Health in Quebec

Northwest Territories

Community organizations and associations that assist individuals with mental illness

Suicide prevention organization: provides resource and support for those affect by sucicide


Mental Health Organization in the Yukon: A list of mental health associations in Yukon

Additional mental health services in Yukon


Government of Nunavuty Department of Health

Embrace Life Council

Government of Nunavut Action Plan on suicide prevention

International Resources

The Jack Project: Helping youth deal with mental health issues

World Health Organization

International Society for Mental Health


International Medical Corps


Resources for Career Practitioners

Resources for Employers

Resources for Clients

Information on Mental Illness (by the Canadian Mental Health Association – CMHA)


  • Repetti, Rena L.; Matthews, Karen A.; Waldron, Ingrid. “Employment and women’s health: Effects of paid employment on women’s mental and physical health.”American Psychologist 44 (11), Nov 1989, 1394-1401
  • Jahoda, Marie. “Economic Recession and Mental Helath: Some Conceptual Issues.”. Journal of Social Issues 44 (4), Winter 1988,13-23
  • Banks, Michael. H, Clegg, Chris. W, Jackson, Paul. R, Kemp, Nigel. J, Stafford, Elizabeth. M and Wall, Toby. D. “The use of the General Health Questionnaire as an indicator of mental health in occupational studies”. Journal of Occupational Psychology 53 (3), September 1980, 187-194.
  • Thomas, Claudia, Benzeval, Michaela and Stansfeld, Stephen. A. “Employment transitions and mental health: an analysis from the British household panel survey”. J Epidemiol Community Health 2005 (59), 243-249
  • Stafford, M. Elizabeth. Jackson, Paul. R and Banks, Michael. “Employment, work involvement and mental health in less qualified young people”. Journal of Occupational Psychology 53 (4), December 1980, 291-304.




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