The mental health community is working to make treatment more accessible to Canadians through technology, art and changes in care.

Currently, only one-third of Canadians who need mental health services actually receive them, according to a survey done by Statistics Canada.

Stigma and lack of nearby treatment centres often keep those with mental illness from getting the help they need.

Just 50 per cent of Canadians would tell friends that they have a family member with mental illness while 72 per cent would discuss diagnoses of cancer, according to a Canadian Medical Association report.

Still every Canadian at some point in their life will know someone with a mental illness, whether it be a friend, family member or colleague.

So through YouTube videos, cellphone apps, art and building redevelopments the mental health community seeks to encourage more to be open about mental health and get help.

Here are five innovative efforts making mental health treatment is more accessible to Canadians:

Louis H. Lafontaine Hospital

A filmmaker has released a series of YouTube videos that follow two mental health patients from their arrival at Lafontaine hospital until they are reintegrated into the community. The six episodes of ‘Key 56' introduce Sebastien, who has schizophrenia, and Michele, who suffers from bipolar affective disorder. The patients struggle with being involuntarily confined, finding housing and handling mental health relapses.

Watch the episodes.

Royal Ottawa Health Care Group

For Canadians in rural areas accessing specialized health services often means travelling for hours by car or even by plane. But the Royal, a specialized mental health centre, is helping to alleviate this stress through modern technology and telecommunications. Telepsychiatry allows Royal physicians to connect with their patients face-to-face, no matter where the person is, using live video consultations. Physicians in outlying communities can also use the technology to do video consultations with mental health professionals. Telepsychiatry allows Royal staff members to reach out to a wider number of people and provide help to patients who otherwise may not have received treatment.

More information on the Royal.


Suffering from mental illness? There's an app for that, several in fact. Patients can now use a smart phone, iPad or iPod to learn about mental illnesses, evaluate their mental wellness and track their mood. For instance, the American made app Stop Panic & Anxiety Self-help comes with audio to coach the user through panic attacks, articles on cognitive-behavioural therapy, emotional training exercises and relaxing sounds. Another app called Mental Illness provides information on anxiety, schizophrenia, dementia and many other illnesses. Nonetheless, none of these apps can replace traditional therapy.

Building Redevelopments

Some of Canada's mental health hospitals are moving away from older models of care and redeveloping their sites to reflect those changes. In Toronto for instance the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is integrating into the neighborhood around it. By making the hospital a part of the community the centre hopes to reduce stigma and discrimination against those with mental illness. The change is part of CAMH's plan to part from the traditional model of care, which keeps patients isolated from the outside world, and focus instead on integrating the patient back into the community. Meanwhile, in British Columbia health authorities are closing Riverview mental hospital so smaller practices can be created across the province. By decentralizing care they are hoping to make it easier for individuals to access treatment facilities.

More information on the Riverview redevelopment.

More information on CAMH.

Aboriginal Youth Comic

The Healthy Aboriginal Network produces a series of comics that address health and social issues including addiction and mental illness. The network is one of the many programs partnering with Opening Minds, an initiative to reduce stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. One of the comics, called Just a Story, follows two siblings as they struggle with family issues that affect their mental health. Wendy suffers from generalized anxiety disorder and Adam has anger issues. Luckily Wendy's teacher recognizes something is wrong and encourages her to see the school counselor. Wendy then inspires her brother to get help too.

Previews of the comics.

Join the conversation: On Wednesday, Feb. 8 will host a Bell Let's Talk live chat and livestream from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET featuring special guests and experts appearing on CTV News Channel, BNN, and Canada AM.