Inadequate Mental Health Supports In Rural And Northern Ontario Communities

Endorsed In: 
May, 2021
Paper Type: 
Position Paper

Download: Click here to access the full paper


  • Anchaleena Mandal (Queen's University) 
  • Madison Burella (Northern Ontario School of Medicine)

Background: ​

When compared to the rest of Ontario, individuals living in rural and Northern Ontario report poorer mental health than those living in urban communities in the province. Northern Ontarians self-report higher rates of depression. There is also higher use of prescription medications in Northern Ontario than in urban communities, particularly sleep aids, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications. Furthermore, Northern Ontario has approximately twice the hospitalization rate for mental health concerns compared to the rest of Ontario, especially for suicide-related hospitalizations. Compared to urban areas, residents in rural and Northern areas are also in greater need of psychotherapy and counselling. The fragmented mental health system in rural and Northern communities significantly differs from the mental health services readily available in urban communities and is a contributing factor to these concerning statistics. This especially affects the Indigenous peoples who comprise approximately 2.8% of Northern Ontario’s population. Indigenous peoples in these communities face many challenges, including inequitable access to health care and residential school trauma that influences overall mental health and wellbeing.


  • The Government of Ontario should create a province-wide multi-modal strategy focused on improving accessibility to mental healthcare services in rural and Northern Ontario.
  • The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC) should encourage the Faculties of Medicine across Canada to increase opportunities of exposure to rural mental health practice for medical students.
  • The Government of Ontario should organize peer-support initiatives that promote skills development as a means to help reduce stigma around mental health and empower rural communities to help themselves.