Providing Access to the Right Services, Treatments and Supports

Strategic Direction #3 – Summary Version

We have made, and continue to make, progress in dealing with mental health problems and illnesses in Canada. Still, fragmented and underfunded mental health systems across the country are far from able to meet the mental health needs of Canadians. People living with mental health problems and illnesses — whatever their age and however severe their mental health problem or illness — and their families should be able to have timely access to the full range of options for mental health services, treatments and supports, just as they would expect if they were confronting heart disease or cancer.

Mental health-related services, treatments and supports are delivered in many locations by a wide variety of mental health professionals, health professionals, other service providers and volunteers. For those needing assistance, the current system can feel like a maze, as it can to the thousands of dedicated people who provide the services, treatments and supports that people need. While there will never be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, our goal should be to have a system in which every door is the right door to meeting people’s mental health needs in the least intensive, most appropriate and cost effective manner possible.

We need a ‘balanced’ approach so that people have ready access to intensive services, treatment and support when they need them, and are able to move easily among different levels of care as their needs change. Each individual’s journey to recovery and well-being is unique, and the right combination of services, treatments and supports will depend on people’s preferences and on the nature of their condition. Each community has particular resources to draw upon and specific challenges to meet.

A more integrated mental health system must also be linked to all parts of the community and other service systems. Family doctors, teachers, police personnel, and long-term care workers are among those who should work with each other and with mental health service providers to address people’s mental health needs. A more coordinated and integrated system will make available multiple resources to help facilitate recovery: timely access to medications and to adequate and affordable housing; professional counselling as well as readily available peer support; and help setting and meeting educational and employment goals.


  • Expand the role of primary health care in meeting mental health needs.  
  • Increase the availability and coordination of mental health services in the community for people of all ages.
  • Provide better access to intensive, acute, and highly specialized services, treatments and supports when they are needed by people living with severe or complex mental health problems and illnesses.
  • Recognize peer support as an essential component of mental health services.
  • Increase access to housing with supports, and to income, employment, and education support for people living with mental health problems and illnesses, and provide greater support to families.

For a full version of this Strategic Direction, including the recommendations for action, download the Strategy