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HomeWhat We DoMental Health and Substance Use

Mental Health and Substance Use

What is the issue?

People living with mental illness are twice as likely as other Canadians to experience problematic substance use. These individuals also account for nearly one-third of inpatient mental health admissions.

Currently, service providers supporting people living with mental illness and problematic substance use work across multiple programs and sectors, many of which operate under different funding streams and reporting mechanisms and do not share information.

As a result, people living with mental illness and problematic substance use have difficulty getting the care they need.

Additionally, the MHCC has received funding to examine the risks and benefits related to cannabis use and mental health. 

What are we doing?

To address this issue we are filling key knowledge gaps in

  • the relationship between cannabis use and mental health
  • opioid training for health-care providers


  • Mental Health and Cannabis Research
    The MHCC was allocated $10 million over five years in the 2018 federal budget to investigate the risks and benefits of cannabis as well as the varying needs of diverse subpopulations of people living in Canada. 
  • Community-Based Research Projects: Cannabis and Mental Health
    The MHCC is funding 14 projects that will be community led, culturally safe, focused on equity, and centred on lived and living experience. These innovative projects from across the country will address knowledge gaps in the relationship between cannabis and mental health for priority populations.
  • Amplifying Black Experiences in Cannabis and Mental Health Research: The Virtual Dialogue Series summarized in this report focused specifically on the experience and perspectives of Black communities. It engaged about 50 individuals, including researchers, service providers, and people with lived experience in open discussions about where and why research gaps exist, what the barriers might be, and which high-priority topics should be pursued. The dialogues took a distinctions-based approach, recognizing that, while various communities may have similar experiences that overlap, all have their own unique needs.
  • Cannabis and Mental Health Dialogue Series: Insights into Veteran and Veteran Family Experiences with Cannabis and Mental Health
    To learn more about the Veteran community’s experiences with cannabis and mental health, we partnered with the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families to lead a virtual dialogue series exploring research priorities and knowledge needs among Veterans and Veteran families. Our final report and executive summary provide an overview of the dialogue sessions and what was shared, including insights, experiences, and recommendations. Between May and June 2022, we led a series of four dialogues with the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families, asking Veterans, Veteran family members, service providers, and researchers about their perspectives on cannabis use and mental health. Visit the Atlas Institute Knowledge Hub to access the full report, which includes a collection of insights and experiences that shed light on the complexities of this topic.


  • Stigma and the Opioid Crisis: Final Report
    A qualitative study that reveals key findings on opioid-related stigma, including insights on its character (in direct care), impacts, and sources and the promising approaches to tackling it 
  • Stigma and the Opioid Crisis: Summary
    A two-page summary of the major points from the stigma and the opioid crisis final report 
  • The Opening Minds Provider Attitudes Toward Opioid Use Scale (OM-PATOS)
    The OM-PATOS scale is designed for those in the helping professions that may respond to or care for people living with opioid use or at risk of overdose or poisoning. Among its many applications are to evaluate the impact of stigma-reduction initiatives, measure an organization’s level of stigma (as part of a needs assessment), raise awareness, and track performance.
  • Opioid Training for Health-Care Providers Course Catalogue
    Programs to help health-care providers support people with lived and living experience of opioid use, which is mainly focused on starting and maintaining treatment for opioid use disorder 

Using the OM-PATOS, we evaluated four stigma reduction programs for their effectiveness at reducing opioid and substance use-related stigma among health-care and other direct service providers. The findings are useful for helping health-care provider, first responder, and other organizations create or improve stigma reduction programs and services. Read our evaluation reports

Related Initiatives
Cannabis information and educational materials


This backgrounder highlights emerging data on structural and self-stigma experienced by individuals with mental health or substance use disorder in Canada. The backgrounder provides an overview of purpose, key findings,…

What am I getting wrong about mental health? While people in Canada are talking about mental health more than ever, misconceptions in the media and elsewhere are keeping the stigma…

Despite the strong interest in the relationship between cannabis use and mental health in the Veteran and Veteran family community, published research on the topic in Canada is limited, with…

This short, animated video tells the story of our investment in 14 community-based research (CBR) projects to address knowledge gaps in the relation between cannabis and mental health. CBR meaningfully…

Mental health and substance use concerns have remained elevated in all province. The Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction tracked the relationship…

Jes is a community harm reduction support navigator and peer support worker, who has been helping people with lived and living experience of opioid use for over 25 years. Melinda…

This webinar explores the Cannabis and Mental Health project, created to give youth the education, tools, and support they need to make informed and healthy decisions. Highlights include: • The…

It has been two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since October 2020, the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction…

A report describing our evaluation of the Reducing Stigma and Promoting Recovery of Opioid Use course using the OM-PATOS. The results suggest that this online training is a promising stigma…