01/22/2015 10:36 EST | Updated 03/24/2015 05:59 EDT

Stress of family caregiving red flagged

Many people caring for a family member with a long-term health condition, disability or age-related problem say they're very stressed, according to a new report from the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Thursday's interim report from the commission red flags the nearly 17 per cent of caregivers aged 15 and over as a "substantial proportion" coping with very stressful levels of caregiver stress.

Separately, robots are being explored as a way to help out.

The group looked at national 13 indicators from Statistics Canada surveys and other data to see how well the health system responds to mental health needs and what collectively needs to be done, said Dr. David Goldbloom, chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

"Canada’s aging population means we expect more people with dementia and other chronic illnesses will need family care. Consequently, a rise in the number of family caregivers experiencing excessive stress can be expected," the report's authors said.

Other red indicators of "significant concern" were:

- Intentional self-harm among post-secondary students.

- Recovery or self-rated mental health among people with common mental health conditions. About a third of Canadians with mental health conditions reported very positive mental health compared with 72 per cent without a mental disorder. The group said coupled with the high rate of suicide among Canadian males relative to females (16.3 per 100,000 versus 5.4/100,000)  is cause for concern.

Yellow indicators included stress at work and unmet need for mental health care among people with mental

Sense of belonging among immigrants was rated green. 

The Mental Health Commission of Canada was formed in 2007 with a 10-year mandate to improve the mental health system and change attitude and behaviours around mental health issues. The organization is funded by Health Canada and operates at arm's length from the government.