The Cost of Mental Health Care in Canada

The Cost of Mental Health Care in Canada
Rohit Kumar Family Practitioner Windsor, Ontario

Dr. Rohit Kumar is a retired family practitioner in Windsor, Ontario. Dr.  Rohit Tinni  Kumar  studied  at  Dalhousie  University  in  Nova  Scotia  and  interned  at  the Toronto  East  General  and  Orthopedic  Hospital.  He  began  his  residency  in  Internal  Medicine  at Dalhousie  University,  then  at  Oakwood ... more

Thank you to Latimer et. al. for their article: Costs of services for homeless people with mental illness in 5 Canadian cities: a large prospective follow-up study. CMAJO July 19, 2017 vol. 5 no. 3.

In doing research for my book, The Bipolar Doctor(1), I found that 6.7 million Canadians are living with mental health illness versus 2.2 million with diabetes. (2) About 2.4 million Canadian aged 20 years and older live with ischemic heart disease (IHD).(3) This means that at any one time, the prevalence of mental health disease is greater than that of DM and IHD combined. This disease burden is often ignored by governments, both provincial and federal, in providing funds to optimally treat this endemic illness. Research dollars for mental health research are woefully small, and the present system of health care for these millions of individuals is bursting at the seams.

As mentioned in my book, the human cost of mental health illness not diagnosed due to system restrictions or misdiagnosed is unmeasurable.

The economic burden of mental illness in Canada is estimated at $51 billion per year. This includes health care costs, lost productivity, and reductions in health-related quality of life. (4) (5)

Alcohol and substance dependence, which are defined as mental health diagnoses, cost Canada $14.6 billion in 2002 (death, illness, law enforcement, loss of productivity, etc.). (6)

Allowing for the differences in the years of the quoted references for health care costs, the estimate would be that mental health care costs Canada approximately 65 billion dollars annually. This does not account for the fact that our present expenditure for mental health care is nowhere sufficient to cope with the need. To compare, the annual budget of the Department of National Defence in 2016-2017 was 18.6 billion dollars, about 30% of the mental health costs to our country. (7)

Increased awareness of the true burden of mental health care, the deficiencies in diagnosis and treatment, inadequate follow up, destigmatization, and societal acceptance still need to be addressed in Canada and worldwide.


(1) The Bipolar Doctor by R.T. Kumar MD MSc, pp. 141. Published by FriesenPress, Copyright 2015

(2) Mental Health Commission of Canada. Making the Case for Investing in Mental Health

(3) Heart Disease- Heart Health, Government of Canada extracted from: heart-health.html

(4) Smetanin et al. (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041. Prepared for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Toronto: RiskAnalytica.

(5) Lim et al. (2008). A new population-based measure of the burden of mental illness in Canada.Chronic Diseases in Canada, 28: 92-8

(6) Rehm, J., Baliunas, D., Brochu, S., Fischer, B., Gnam, W., Patra, J., Popova, S., Sarnocinski-Hart, A., & Taylor, B. (2006). The costs of substance abuse in Canada 2002. Ottawa: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. Retrieved

(7) Highlights: Budget 2016 extracted from: -2016/inbg2b1d

More about Dr. Kumar

Dr. Rohit Kumar is a retired family practitioner in Windsor, Ontario.

Dr. Rohit Tinni Kumar studied at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and interned at the Toronto East General and Orthopedic Hospital. He began his residency in Internal Medicine at Dalhousie University, then at Oakwood Hospital and Medical Centre in Dearborn, Michigan, where he was a Senior Internal Medicine Resident.

His appointments have included the Medical Officer for the Canadian Armed Forces Addiction Rehabilitation Clinic, Area Atlantic and a General Duty Medical Officer in the Canadian Forces Hospital in Halifax, N.S. Dr. Kumar has held positions in London at the Regional Cancer Centre and in Windsor at Hotel Dieu-Grace Hospital.