WINNIPEG -- The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) has released new data that shows half of Canadians wait nearly one month to receive counselling for mental health.

The data is from 2019-20 and was collected from the majority of provinces and territories to determine if Canadians are getting access to mental health supports in a timely matter.

Tracy Johnson, the director of health system analytics for CIHI, said this is the first time this information has been collected.

She added the data also found that one in 10 Canadians could wait up to four months to receive ongoing counselling.

"We still know that there's differences in the programs across the country and the offerings across the country, and we have to understand those better before we can assess if this is a good thing or a bad thing," said Johnson.

She said the data shows from when someone was given a referral for counselling to when they were able to book their first appointment.

"This is a starting point that says, that allows provinces actually to say, 'Is this good enough? And how do we compare with each other?'"

CIHI also found that throughout the country, a quarter of Canadians do not attend their first counselling appointment.

Children and youth also have to wait longer for counselling services compared to adults, as the median wait time for those under the age of 18 is 28 days compared to 23 for adults.

The longest wait time for children and youth happens to be in the summer when the wait climbs to 40 days. The report believes the reason for this is because children aren't in school during that time.

When it comes to specific numbers for Manitoba, Johnson said the province hasn't given CIHI its reports yet.

"Manitoba has agreed to work towards providing this data," she said. "Provinces are pulling this data from different information systems across every province, and some had a better head start at having places they could go to even collect it."

CIHI said in the report that the information collected only comes from publicly funded counselling services and the information does not include those who pay out of pocket or through insurance.

The data doesn't indicate if the counselling reflects the care needed per individual.

CIHI had received information from Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, B.C., and the Yukon.


The new data also looks at how long it takes for Canadians to get home care services.

Again, the new information comes from 2019-20, and CIHI found that half of Canadians wait three days for their first home care service.

That being said, one in 10 Canadians has to wait over a month for services.

Manitoba was included in this data and Johnson said the province had similar numbers as the country's average.

She added all the data collected by CIHI isn't impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There might have been a couple of weeks of (the) pandemic in there at the end of March, but next year we'll bring out the pandemic numbers."

She said when the pandemic numbers come out, Canadians will see how much COVID-19 has impacted all these services.

"All of those we do know have been affected by COVID. When you shut things down, you change the way care is delivered, you change people's access to things. We're going to see these numbers in a different way next year and we're probably going to need a couple of years to figure out, so was this a good baseline number, and are we getting back towards something like that? Or did everything change so drastically in the pandemic year that we're going to need to look at that?"

Johnson said CIHI is hoping this new data will help give a clear picture of what Canadians need in terms of access to health services and what is considered appropriate.

She added CIHI will be monitoring the data every year and is working with all provinces to improve the data to make it more comparable.