Cross-country mental health data should be standardized, researchers say

Posted on September 19th, 2017

A new report is providing a rare opportunity for health care providers and policy makers to directly compare statistics on mental illness and treatment in different parts of Canada.

“Toward Mental Health Services in Canada,” published by the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health & Addiction at Simon Fraser University, with contributions from researchers across the country, has compiled standardized information on mental health and addiction care and access in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C.

“This is ultimately about accountability,” Dr. Paul Kurdyak, co-author of the report, told the Star. “Everybody is crying for better results in the mental health system and yet the mental health system, historically, has been invisible — and there’s no way to address the deficiencies that we know exist unless at minimum you’re able to measure the status quo.”

While province-to-province comparisons are common in areas of medicine like cancer care, data collection for mental health and addictions in Canada is fractured and inconsistent.

Healthcare is administered by the provinces and territories, making national oversight difficult, said Kurdyak, a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto.

Different jurisdictions collect different statistics and define information in different ways, making apples to apples comparisons next to impossible.

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