The findings are included in the agency's 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey on mental health that was released Wednesday, and are based on a national sample of more than 25,000 people 15 or older in the 10 provinces.
In the previous year, more than one in six respondents experienced a need for mental health care, mainly for counselling, the survey suggests. Other mental health care needs were for medication and information.
"An estimated 600,000 had a perceived unmet mental health care need, and more than 1,000,000 had a partially met need," the report's authors said, extrapolating from the sample.
About 17 per cent of the population 15 or older reported having had an mental health care need in the past 12 months, the agency found. Of these:
- 67 per cent said their needs were met.
- 21 per cent said their needs were partially met.
- 12 per cent said their needs were unmet.
"The presence of a mental disorder, higher distress, and chronic physical conditions were positively associated with perceiving a mental health care need, many of which were unmet or only partially met," the report's authors concluded. "As well, higher levels of distress predicted a greater likelihood that needs would be unmet or partially met."
Most perceived barriers to receiving mental health care were related to personal circumstances, although almost one in five who reported barriers said they were related to features of the health-care system.
The Canadian Mental Health Association says this is the first release of comprehensive national mental health-related data in more than a decade.
At least one in five Canadians will experience a mental health condition or illness in his or her lifetime. The other four in five will have a family member, friend or colleague who will be directly affected.