Skip to main content

Mental Health and Addictions

The Issue 

Mental health challenges are the leading cause of disability in Canada. They affect the lives of the people who experience them, and the lives of their families and caregivers. Mental health and wellness encompass a wide set of practices, from promoting self-care and self-love, to managing anxiety and depression, to living with a neurodivergence, and even dealing with addictions. Mental health challenges impact people from all walks of life, but there are certain groups that are particularly at risk. For example, people living on a low income are especially vulnerable to mental health issues; constantly worrying about how they will meet their daily needs can cause chronic stress and other psychological disorders. People with mental health challenges are also over-represented in the criminal justice system, with 36% of federal offenders requiring psychiatric or psychological follow-up. 

1 in 5

Canadians experience a mental health or substance use disorder


increase of visits to CAMH’s Telemental Health – between February and April 2020


of Ontarians reported that they were using substances to cope with the stress and anxiety they were experiencing from the pandemic

How we help

We aim to support individuals, families, and communities to improve their mental health and wellbeing. Our approach emphasizes group and peer programs that help people develop and maintain the coping and life skills needed to participate fully in the community. In addition, we invest in community-based counselling interventions that use evidence-based approaches to improve mental health, reduce harm, or address addictions/substance use. United Way also supports system-level solutions that coordinate services based on geography or population, or make a contribution to community well-being through research and public policy. United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in programs and services that support individuals, families, and communities that face systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities, and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. 

A man smiles at the camera during a video call

I’ve struggled with alcohol addiction for most of my life. I’d find myself in dangerous situations with no memory of how I got there. It affected my relationships. And, I’ve never been able to hold down a job — every position I’ve lost is because of alcohol. My housing situation has always been precarious too. I got kicked out of housing due to my addiction. But I recently stayed in a United Way-supported shelter. The program at the shelter helped me achieve my goals. They also support me in other ways: they call to check in, they make sure I have food by helping me get to the grocery store or food bank, and they ensure I get to my medical appointments. I’d probably be homeless right now if it wasn’t for this agency… I’ve never felt better!

Wade, United Way program participant

Here’s how your local love helped people dealing with mental health challenges: 

Man talking to a therapist in office


Individuals gained the tools and resources to effectively manage mental health or addiction challenges

A man in woods looking up at sky


Individuals improved their capacity to cope with mental health and addictions issues

A group of seniors sitting together and chatting


Individuals enhanced their social support and peer networks to reduce social isolation

January 21, 2019

Low-cost—or free!—mental health services in Toronto and the GTA

A guide to finding affordable counselling and other mental health resources in your neighbourhood