Reducing disparities and addressing diversity

Strategic Direction #4 – Summary Version

Everyone in Canada should have the opportunity to achieve the best possible mental health and well-being.  Currently, that opportunity does not come equally.

This Strategic Direction focuses on what can be done to better address mental health needs that arise for people who are at greater risk of developing mental health problems and illnesses, or who experience disparities in access to appropriate mental health programs and services because of socio-economic status; ethno-cultural background, experience of racism and other forms of discrimination, and reasons for emigrating; living in a northern or remote community; being part of a minority official language community (Francophone or Anglophone); and gender and sexual orientation.

Social determinants such as poverty, inadequate housing, and problems finding work or getting an education can influence mental health and put people at greater risk for developing mental health problems and illnesses.  In northern and remote communities, lack of access to clean water, affordable food, and basic health services are also challenges. Leadership on many levels is required to bring about the changes in health and social policy that are needed to reduce these disparities and their impact on mental health outcomes.

Access to appropriate services can also be challenging for many groups.  Treatments and supports need to be welcoming and effective for the country’s diverse population.  Organizations and service providers need to be attuned to differences in culture, language, gender, sexuality, and experience of discrimination. This approach includes providing access to mental health services and information to minority official language communities (Francophone and Anglophone), as well as in other languages.

In addition, mental health capacity needs to be strengthened locally, among organizations and local service providers that work with specific communities.  It is also important to evaluate the potential of traditional knowledge, customs, and practices to address mental health problems and illnesses among immigrants, refugees, ethno-cultural, and racialized communities, and to improve access to those that work.



  • Make improving mental health a goal when working to enhance overall living conditions and health outcomes.
  • Improve mental health services and supports by and for immigrants, refugees, ethno-cultural and racialized groups. 
  • Tackle the pressing mental health challenges in northern and remote communities. 
  • Strengthen the response to the mental health needs of minority official language communities (Francophone and Anglophone).
  • Address the specific mental health needs related to gender and sexual orientation. 

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