Ready to get help? Call (855)972-9760 Request a call

Call Us | 1-855-972-9760
AddictionAddiction TreatmentConcurrent DisordersPTSD

Concurrent Disorders: Mental Health In the Canadian Workforce

By April 10, 2019 June 15th, 2023 No Comments
man standing on a mountain with his hands spread

The conversation around mental health in Canada has progressed significantly in recent years. Serious issues are now much more visible and better understood. The stigma around mental health disorders has reduced significantly and necessary supports are increasingly available. However, there is still a lot of progress to be made before the mental health of Canadians is adequately supported.

One In Two Canadians

There remains a tendency to consider mental health disorders as affecting only small sections of society. This is partially due to the persistent stigma and lack of education around these issues. However, an estimated one of every two Canadians will experience some form of mental illness by the time they reach forty years of age. This makes it clear that mental health issues are relevant to all Canadians.

In an average week, at least 500,000 employed Canadians are unable to work due to mental health problems. The economic burden of mental health disorders in Canada is approximately $51 billion annually. Many employed Canadians struggle to be consistently present and productive in their workplaces due to mental health problems. This increases the pressure on them to support themselves and any dependents they may have. This pressure in turn creates further anxiety. If someone already coping with anxiety disorder or depression finds themselves under increased pressure to perform at work, this can exacerbate their mental health problems. Likewise, if someone is offered fewer shifts or has to take regular unpaid leave, they may quickly come under intense financial pressure. This is also a common cause of mental health problems.

Occupation Stress Injuries

We use the term Occupational Stress Injury (OSI) to describe persistent, work-related psychological injuries. We most often apply it to injuries that affect members of the military or first responders. These professional groups are some of the most affected by mental health disorders.

PTSD is one of the most common OSIs. An estimated 9.2% of Canadians will suffer from PTSD during their lifetimes. Among members of the military and first responders, the rate is significantly higher. An estimated 70,000 Canadian first responders have experienced PTSD during their liftetimes. PTSD is often rooted in traumatic professional experiences. Symptoms can emerge months or even years after the events that have caused PTSD.


PTSD and other OSIs can severely affect a person’s quality of life and ability to work. These symptoms can vary significantly in nature and severity. Symptoms based in a traumatic event or multiple traumatic events may be triggered by further experiences of trauma or associations with previous traumatic experiences. Common symptoms of PTSD and other OSIs include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Invasive Thoughts
  • Chronic insomnia
  • Isolation
  • Self-medication
  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal ideation

As these conditions affect every person who experiences them differently, various other symptoms may occur. Specific symptoms also manifest differently for different people.

Concurrent Disorders

Mental health disorders such as PTSD often co-occur alongside addiction. Many people struggling with mental health conditions do not seek out or have access to necessary supports. They may turn to self-medication with addictive substances such as alcohol, marijuana or opiates in order to manage their symptoms. This is a highly dangerous and addictive pattern of use.

An estimated 20% of people coping with a mental health disorder have a co-occurring substance abuse problem. Research shows us that PTSD is particularly associated with addiction. Approximately 50% of men and 25% of women with chronic PTSD have substance abuse disorders.

Substance abuse will ultimately exacerbate symptoms of mental health conditions. It will also prevent a person from truly addressing the underlying causes of the problems they face. Evidence-based treatment for concurrent disorders can help a person to address these underlying causes. It can help a person to develop methods for coping with the symptoms of mental health disorders in a progressive, healthy manner. While mental health support in Canada is consistently improving, the persistent stigma around these issues can prevent people from accessing necessary supports.


Stigma around mental health issues can be a barrier to treatment for many people who need it. It limits the dialogue around the issues. This negatively affects the government and treatment providers’ understanding of treatment requirements. Stigma can prevent a person from identifying or understanding the kind of treatment that they or someone close to them need. It also makes people uncomfortable discussing their mental health problems with others. Despite the prevalence of mental health issues in Canadian workplaces, 39% of workers surveyed in Ontario indicated that they would not tell their managers if they were experiencing a mental health problem.

First Responders

Stigma can be particularly damaging to first responders coping with PTSD or other OSIs. They are likely to encounter other stressful and potentially traumatic situations at work. These may exacerbate or trigger symptoms of a mental health condition. First responders often work in environments where resilience and self-sufficiency are highly valued and seeking support is seen as a sign of weakness. This is a deeply damaging belief that can stand between a struggling individual and essential support. First responders may also be concerned about the impact that reporting a mental health problem will have on their professional standing.

Many organizations that employ first responders have done admirable work to ensure that the mental health of their employees is adequately supported. We recently wrote about the efforts being made by the Ontario Provincial Police to support their officers. However, these barriers to treatment are still present and damaging. Dedicated treatment providers use evidence-based methods to effectively address OSIs such as PTSD and co-occurring addiction. If we make treatment available and support people in participating in it, they can truly address their problems and restore order to their lives.


Evidence-based treatment methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy, cue-exposure therapy and dialectical behavioural therapy have all proven effective in treating mental health disorders and co-occurring addiction. Dedicated treatment can help people coping with OSIs and addiction to address the underlying causes of these conditions. It helps individuals to identify and implement progressive coping mechanisms for mental health disorders instead of self-medication. Ultimately, evidence-based treatment can allow someone struggling with mental health disorders and addiction to lead balanced, productive lives.

Accessing Treatment

Many organizations have established connections with treatment providers. Others may be able to help employees identify an appropriate provider. Employers should also have HR systems in place which ensure confidentiality and ease in reporting mental health problems. Employers should also make efforts to publicize available support among their employees and to address any mental health stigma within their workplace.

For more information on treatment for concurrent disorders or OSIs, contact Trafalgar today.

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

We offer residential and outpatient rehab treatment programs for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.

Leave a Reply