Backgrounder: Mental Health Landscape of Peterborough

Written by admin, October 16, 2014

October 16, 2014 – Mental health issues are a growing concern in our community.  In 2013, there were over 3,000 Emergency Department (ED) visits at PRHC related to mental health disorders and this number has been on the rise since 2009.  In fact, over the past decade the average number of ED visits related to mental health disorders is equal to the number of ED visits related to diseases of the circulatory system (ie. heart attacks and strokes).  It is estimated that one in five people in Canada experience a mental health problem or illness every year (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2011), with a cost to the economy of well over $50 billion.  Based on Peterborough’s current population, this translates to roughly 27,000 local residents who will suffer some sort of mental illness every year.

In order to have a healthy community, the residents of Peterborough need access to safe, affordable housing while their basic needs are being met, including access to nutritious food, adequate health care, and appropriate supports.  As we continue to strive for this as a community, challenges arise that lead some people to experience issues impacting their mental health.  Supportive services in Peterborough play a fundamental role in livelihood, overall health outcomes, and success of people experiencing mental illness.  These services, with a focus on mental health and addictions support and recovery, have seen significant increases in the number of people served over the past few years.  For example, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge Canadian Mental Health Association branch saw an increase in the total number of people who have received their services from 3,459 in 2012/13 to 4,337 in 2013/14.  FourCAST Addiction Services saw nearly 3,000 more people walk through their front doors in the 2013/2014 year than the previous year.  Community Counselling and Resource Centre states that all of its service users have a mental health issue even though it is not always the main presenting concern, and they accepted 957 new clients in 2013.  Lastly, in a recent interview with staff of the New Canadian Centre, it was shared that mental health is a prominent concern with most of the families they see.

On the topic of mental health supports in Peterborough, it is also important to mention The Warming Room, a successful drop-in program that ran this past winter as a means to provide shelter for individuals who were unable to access the already existing shelters in the City.  One of the most significant challenges the program faced was a lack of mental health support for its guests.  The Warming Room Annual Report (May, 2014) states that “the level of mental illness at the Warming Room was incredibly high”.  As a result, one of the recommendations made was for a more integrated system of care, highlighting particular attention to the availability of on-site mental health supports.

It is also essential to consider the stigma associated with mental illness as this directly influences access to, and quality of care   According to the Centre for Addition and Mental Health (2012), 46% of Canadians think that people use the term mental illness as an excuse for bad behaviour; 27% of Canadians said they would be fearful of being around someone with a serious mental illness; and only 42% said they would socialize with a friend who had a serious mental illness.  We also know that 49% of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem (CMHA, 2014).  It is important to consider the added cost to society when a high number of people go undiagnosed as a result of the associated stigma.  For example, many employees are reluctant to disclose a mental illness due to stigma which means they report to work but may not be as productive as they could be with the proper supports and care in place.  This is a huge cost to society overall.

It has been proposed that a local, community-wide Mental Health Planning Table be formed to address issues related to the prevention and reduction of stigma associated with mental health.


  • § How could municipalities support more coordinated planning around mental health in our communities?  If a Mental Health Planning Table is created, what should its priorities be (ie. school programs, community campaigns, recommendations on supportive housing, etc…)?
  • § How could municipalities work to reduce stigma associated with mental health and addiction issues?


Bradley, L. (2010). The need for transforming the mental health care system in Canada:

Implications for healthy workplace stakeholders. Presentation at the Healthy Minds Matter: Taking Action Workplace Health Symposium: Toronto, Ontario.

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2010a). Fast Facts: mental health/mental illness.

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Canadian Mental Health Association. (2014). Fast Facts About Mental Illness.  Retrieved from

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2010c). Mental health and addiction statistics.

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Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2012). Statistics on Mental Illness and Addictions.  Retrieved from

Fourcast. (2013). Four Counties Addiction Services Team Annual Report – 2013.  Retrieved from

Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2011). The Life and Economic Impact of Major Mental Illnesses in Canada.  Retrieved from

Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2012). The Facts. Retrieved from

Peterborough Public Health (2010). Community assessment report 2010: Prepared for the purposes of Healthy Communities. Peterborough, ON: Author.