Toronto: Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) released findings today from a recently commissioned survey* from Ipsos Public Affairs that shows one in four Ontario parents have missed work to care for their child experiencing issues related to anxiety. The survey also reveals that there is a significant number of parents in Ontario seeking mental health services for their children than previously thought (36 per cent vs. 20 per cent1) and of those who do, four in 10 didn’t get the help they needed or are still waiting.

The survey polled the general population in Ontarians and parents with children under age 25, and young Ontarians aged 18-34. Youth aged 18-24 were asked about their current experiences, and 25- to 34-year-olds were asked to reflect on their youth experiences. 

“There is a child and youth mental health crisis that Ontario families are facing and that continues to be ignored by the government of Ontario,” said Kim Moran, CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario. “Kids can’t keep waiting for help. In some areas of the province they are waiting 18 months or not getting any help at all and now we see that the lack of support is impacting the income of families and the education of children and youth. This is not acceptable. Ontario needs urgent funding for children’s mental health care so that they can receive the right kind of treatment for their needs within 30 days and immediate care if they are in crisis.”  

The survey also showed that the majority (55 per cent) of Ontarians do not agree that children and youth receive the type of mental health treatments where and when they need it. In Eastern Ontario and Northern Ontario, the rates are much higher with 70 per cent and 61 per cent respectively.

CMHO has provided the Ontario government with a plan to meet the increased demand and wait times that they are experiencing in more than 100 of their child and youth mental health centres across the province, and that is clearly shown in this new survey to be the experience of parents and youth, and has also been previously reported by Ministry of Child and Youth Services and CMHO data.  

CMHO can improve the child and youth mental health care system with an immediate investment by the province of $125 million toward community-based mental health centres to increase staff and deliver more innovative services to match the specific mental health treatment needs of children and youth in the communities where they live. CMHO has launched an awareness campaign and is urging all Ontarian’s to write to Premier Wynne to ask for immediate funding at 

The Canadian Institute of Health Information recently released data which demonstrates that children and youth with mental health disorders are increasingly seeking treatment in hospitals

because they cannot access treatment in their communities. Emergency department visits for children and youth with mental health disorders has risen by 63 per cent and hospitalizations by 67 per cent in Ontario – rates are higher than the national average. “Ontario hospitals are dedicated to delivering the highest quality of mental health care to child and youth patients,” said Anthony Dale, President and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association. “Yet, we know that hospitals are not always the most appropriate location for many of these young patients to receive the care they need. Further investments in mental health services across the continuum are needed to help ensure that clients have timely access to these vital interventions and treatments.”

Key findings show:

Reported concerns and incidence of anxiety and mental health issues:

  • Half of parents report having ever had concerns about their child’s level of anxiety2.
  • 62 per cent of youth report having ever had concerns about their level of anxiety; only 3 in 10 (32 per cent) have talked to a health care professional about anxiety. 

Reported seeking help and challenges of getting mental health services:

  • One-third (36 per cent) of parents have sought help for their child; of those who did, 4 in 10 didn’t get the help needed or are still waiting.
  • Half of parents who sought help said they faced challenges in getting the services they needed. The primary reason cited was long wait times (65% of those who sought help). Other reported challenges include: services don’t offer what my child needs (38%), don’t know where to go (26%), and don’t offer services where I live (14%).
  • 4 in 10 youth have sought mental health services. Nearly half of these were not able to get the help they needed (42 per cent) and half found getting services challenging. Top three reasons for challenges were: not the type of service needed (44 per cent), didn’t know where to go (39 per cent), and long wait times (34 per cent).
  • 57 per cent of youth have turned to a friend or family member about their anxiety. 

Impact of child or youth in school due to anxiety or mental health issues:

  • one third of parents have had a child miss school (33 per cent) due to anxiety and 44 per cent of parents have been concerned about their son or daughter’s performance in school.
  • nearly half of youth (46 per cent) reported missing school; of those with concerns about their anxiety, the rate of school avoidance is higher at 61 per cent.
  • 6 in 10 youth (61%) of youth are concerned about their school performance; of those with concerns about their anxiety, 79 per cent are concerned about their performance.

“Sadly, these findings are not surprising,” said Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario. As we too have reported, our teachers see this every day in their classrooms. There is so much more to do on behalf of children and families struggling with anxiety and other mental health issues including providing more mental health care supports at community mental health agencies.”

Frustration is also mounting with parents. Michele Sparling, parent of a child with mental health issues, board chair of Parents for Children’s Mental Health and chief initiator of Shine Out, Shine Out which raises funds and awareness for child and youth mental health, says, “early and timely interventions can make a huge difference in the outcome of a child with mental illness. Navigating the child and youth mental health system is extremely frustrating, and more importantly I have seen too little improvement for families being able to get timely access to services that are critical to successful early interventions. Something has to be done now in to making the system easier and more accessible for Ontario families.” 


For more information, visit:

 *An online survey was conducted on Ipsos’ online Omnibus among a representative sample of 806 Ontarians, 18 years and older, between October 24 and 26, 2017. Analysis includes subgroups of parents with children under 25 years old (n=289), and 18 to 34 year olds (n=210).

The sample has been weighted and is representative of Ontario’s age, gender and regional composition in accordance with the latest census data.

The credibility interval for the total sample is ± 4.0 percentage points, 95% of the time. The credibility interval for subgroups is higher.

The precision of Ipsos online surveys is measured using a credibility interval. This is similar to standard confidence limits assigned to traditional phone and other surveys, but has been tailored for online surveys.


View The Ipsos documents here


  1. MHASEF Research Team. (2015) The Mental Health of Children and Youth in Ontario: A Baseline Scorecard. Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.
  2. Symptoms of anxiety can include: excessive fear or worry; panic or anxious thoughts; irritability, sadness or aggression; nausea, sleep problems or difficulty performing daily tasks; avoidance of stressful situations (like school, sports and parties)—among other things.