Not in My Backyard: Mental Illness Stigma Widespread Among Canadians

    MONTREAL, Aug. 18 /CNW Telbec/ - 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

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

    "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:

For further information:

For further information: Lucie Boileau, Media Relations Manager, Mobile:
(613) 447-0866; Media Office - General Council (from Sunday, August 18): (514)

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