Mental health and contact with police in Canada, 2012: highlights

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  • According to the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey―Mental Health (CCHS―MH), about 5 million, or approximately one in five (18.4%), Canadians aged 15 and older reported coming into contact with police in the 12 months prior to the survey. Of those 5 million Canadians who came into contact with police, 18.8% also met the criteria for having a mental or substance use disorder.
  • In 2012, 1 in 10, or approximately 2.8 million Canadians aged 15 and older, met the criteria for at least one of the following mental or substance use disorders: depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, alcohol abuse or dependence, cannabis abuse or dependence, or other drug abuse or dependence.
  • Overall, the proportion of persons with a mental disorder only (5.5%) was higher than the proportion of persons with a substance use disorder only (3.4%), while 1.0% of Canadians had both a mental and a substance use disorder.
  • Compared to other age groups, rates of disorders were highest among younger Canadians, with almost one in five (18.5%) Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 meeting the criteria for at least one of the mental or substance use disorders measured by the survey. This was partly influenced by substance use disorders, which were significantly higher among this age group.
  • Overall, Canadians with a disorder had higher rates of childhood maltreatment (66.5%), as measured by the 2012 CCHS―MH, than those without a disorder (44.9%). Differences in the types of childhood maltreatment experienced tended to be most pronounced for what could be considered the most serious forms of maltreatment. For instance, the proportion of those having been physically attacked was almost three times higher for those with a disorder (22.9%) than those without a disorder (8.4%).
  • Among Canadians who came into contact with police, those with a mental or substance use disorder, compared to those without a disorder, were more likely to come into contact with police for problems with their emotions, mental health or substance use (18.7%), as well as for being arrested (12.5%).
  • While the majority of people who came into contact with police did so for only one reason, a higher proportion of Canadians with a mental or substance use disorder (30.6%) reported more than one reason for contact compared to those without a disorder (12.2%).
  • The presence of a mental or substance use disorder was associated with increased odds of coming into contact with police, even after controlling for related demographic and socioeconomic factors. Furthermore, those who perceived a need for help with their emotions, mental health or substance use also had greater odds of contact with police, regardless of whether those needs had been met.
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