Toronto, ON, February 6, 2019: Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) today released its annual Child and Youth Mental Health Report Card which includes new research findings from the Canadian Centre for Heath Economics at the University of Toronto calculating a productivity loss in Ontario (due to absenteeism) of $421 million in 2017 for parents with children who experience issues related to anxiety.

CMHO commissioned the Ontario productivity study based on surprising findings from its previous 2017 research from Ipsos showing a large number of parents in Ontario, one in four, missed work to care for their child with anxiety. This is the first time that a review of the in-direct costs due to parents caring for children with mental health issues to Ontario employers has been estimated. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the cost to the Canadian economy of mental illness is estimated at $50 billion annually, with $20 billion of that stemming directly from workplace losses.

The productivity costs associated with childhood anxiety may be large, but are difficult to quantify according to Audrey Laporte and Adrian Rohit Dass, the University of Toronto researchers that conducted the productivity analysis. “The results suggest that the labour market burden on parents with children who suffer from anxiety disorders in one year alone is quite significant,” said Laporte Professor of Health Economics and Director, Canadian Centre for Health Economics at the University of Toronto. “It is hoped that more studies will be done exploring the associated economic costs.”

“When it comes to our economy and workplaces, the effects of mental illness are staggering. On average, mental health issues costs businesses almost $1,500 per employee, per year and this does not taken into consideration the new data from Children’s Mental Health Ontario,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “At a time when Ontario businesses face a number of challenges, mental health does not have to be one of them. Providing better support to the caregivers of children and youth with mental illness and employers is fundamental to not only creating healthy workspaces but building a stronger Ontario for all. Industry, government, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations need to work together to address the mental health challenges affecting every corner of the province.”


CMHO Report Card Findings: 

This year’s CMHO Annual Report Card highlights the new UofT productivity costs as well as data from an online survey and interviews it conducted of Ontario parents or caregivers that have sought mental health treatment for their child or youth. Survey findings from siblings of young people with mental illness are also included.

“In some parts of the province, children and youth with mental health issues wait more than a year to receive the treatment they need from community-located mental health centres and when children and youth fail to get help, the results can be devastating,” said Kim Moran, CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario. “Our new research shows that families with children with mental illness are facing too high a personal and financial burden. Coupled with the existing data showing the skyrocketing increase of families turning to emergency rooms in crisis for child and youth mental health treatment and the direct hospital costs as a result, this new data illustrates that now , more than ever, is the time to increase investments in the child and youth mental health system.”


Impact on Ontario families:

  • 80 per cent of parents report that their work and 73 per cent saying their finances were (negatively) impacted.
  • Physical health and mental well-being of the family also ranked highly in terms of being impacted with 88 per cent citing an impact.
  • The majority, 57 per cent, also report that no individual (parent or caregiver) or family supports were provided to help families during their experience.
  • Completing or struggling at school and challenges with family relationships are the top issues that siblings of a child or youth with mental illness face. Almost 94% of those polled had challenges with their sibling, 82% had challenges with their parents or caregivers and half have trouble completing school work and more than one third have missed school (34%).


Gaps in child and youth mental health care as identified by families and CMHO:

Mental illness impacts all Ontario families. Seventy per cent of adult mental illnesses begin in childhood and by the age of 40, half of all Ontarians will have struggled with a mental health problem. Research shows that best health outcomes for those with mental illness are proven when interventions happen as soon as possible.

The CMHO 2018 Child and Youth Mental Health Report Card shows:

  • Almost all parents, 90 per cent, report wait times for starting or transitioning between services as the biggest gap in care for families seeking help for their child and youth with mental health issues.
  • Identified equally by parents or caregivers as a gap in care, at 90 per cent. is having not yet received a plan or never received a plan to transition their youth from the child and youth mental health system to receiving adult services.
  • Seventy-one per cent report a lack of availability of programs and services to meet their child or youth’s needs.
  • Sixty-two per cent cite a lack of coordination between health care providers, followed by lack of a transition plan(55%).
  • Of those parents and caregivers that have transitioned their children to adult mental health services, 89 per cent of have not found equal or complementary programming to those they assessed in the child and youth system.
  • The majority of Ontario siblings of a child or youth that has experienced mental illness disagree (76% strongly disagree and 10% somewhat disagree) that the Government provides enough support for kids and young people with mental health issues.

 “The CMHO’s annual Report Card is invaluable for many reasons, one of which being that it shines a light on areas where we, as a society, must do better to help young people and their families,” said Valerie Chort, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship, RBC. “Mental illness can take a huge toll on young people, as well as in workplaces, schools and our communities. That’s why RBC is committed to working with partners that support prevention and early intervention programs so young people have timely access to knowledge, supports and care, when and where they need it.”


The financial and physical impact of one Ontario family:

When Michele and Lloyd Sparlings’ son was in Grade two, he started to show signs of anxiety. He was often worried or afraid and went from being a “social little guy” to a boy who seemed to always be on the outside circle at school and with friends. By 12-years-old, their son was taking medications and trying to manage the associated side effects. He was bullied at school and missed nearly 1/3 of his Grade 6 year because of his anxiety and depression being debilitating, and also because of going to many appointments.

As a result, both parents could not continue to work in the same way. Michele, an HR consultant with her own business, reduced her working hours to be able to make the over one-hour commute daily with her son for therapy. “I became absolutely physically and mentally exhausted,” Michelle said. “I felt like I had nothing left to give. I was so depleted. I was up all through the night, trying to manage the household, trying to help my son.”

Lloyd, a partner in the tax services practice at a major consulting firm was able to keep working, but changed to a “flexible” schedule that sometimes meant completing work in the evenings and weekends.

“Michele and I are fortunate because we both have careers in consulting,” said Lloyd. “Someone on scheduled work hours would have found it extremely difficult to accommodate the family’s needs, and it is easy to see how opportunities for promotions and advancements are indefinitely put on the back burner.  And, for the small or independent business owner, who has to pass up work because of the unpredictability of their availability - when they don’t work, there is no money coming in.”


Child and Youth Mental Health Care Recommendations from CMHO and Parents and Caregivers:

The Government of Ontario has pledged $3.8 billion towards improving mental health and addictions. Previous governments have not provided an appropriate increase in investments to end wait times and the economic and personal burden of families with a child or youth facing mental health issues. There is an important opportunity and solutions available to begin to fix the gaps in care and loss productivity that Children’s Mental Health Ontario and the families are reporting.

“With financial and policy support from the Government of Ontario, together we can end the wait for better child and youth mental health care,” said Moran. “We can begin to address this crisis by increasing funding to community mental health programs by  $150 million so that no child or young person waits longer than 30 days for mental health treatment and that no youth waits for help just because they turned 18.”

Children’s Mental Health Ontario and families recommend:

  • Ensure that no child or youth waits more than 30 days for mental health and addictions treatment.
  • Expand specialized youth mental health and addictions centres to ensure that children and youth get the type of treatment they need which may include emergency or 24 hour crisis care outside of hospitals.
  • Hire and retain the highest skilled staff caring for our most vulnerable children including 1400 new full-time professionals.
  • Increase capacity for transition-aged youth (18) and raise the age of service in child and youth mental health care from 18 to 25 for improved care between child, youth and adult services
  • Support parents and siblings in their communities and in the workplace with family counseling.
  • Develop quality standards to deliver the best mental health and addictions services.

In addition to the recommendations found in the 2018 Children’s Mental Health Ontario Report Card, a strategic investment and policy framework has been submitted to the Ontario Government for consideration by CMHO and Family Engagement Committee has provided a pre-budget submission with recommendations for change.




For more information, contact:

Kathleen Powderley, Responsible Communications, 416-803-5597, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Leah Sullivan, Children’s Mental Health Ontario, 647-688-5484, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



The calculation of lost productivity by University of Toronto does not include costs of lower productivity or under–performance (presenteeism) due to illness as a way of measuring the impact of workplace disability and uses a conservative estimate based on Statistics Canada average salary and absenteeism data of time away from work.  The economic analysis of lost productivity was done as a follow up to CMHO’s 2017 Survey of Ontario parents and youth conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs which found that one in four parents miss work due to caring for their child or youth with anxiety.

Children’s Mental Health Ontario conducted an online poll of parents and caregivers of children and youth who have received mental health care in Ontario between October 30 and November 9, 2018 and asked to reflect on their own experiences (226 respondents). An additional online poll of Ontario youth (18+) that are siblings of children or youth with mental illness that received treatment in Ontario were also polled between January 4, 2019 and January 15, 2019. One-on-one interviews were also conducted with parents and siblings between Nov. 1, 2018 and January 15, 2019 and asked to reflect on their own experiences.