Minds that matter: Report on the consultation on human rights, mental health and addictions

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has just released a report on human rights issues experienced by people with mental health and addictions.

Societal factors can create the conditions for discrimination and exclusion of people with mental health issues or addictions. This report found that, in Ontario, people with mental health issues or addictions are much more likely to live in poverty than people with other types of disabilities or without disabilities. Barriers to housing, services and employment opportunities for people who have low income will likely disadvantage people with mental health issues or addictions.  As well, a shortage of affordable housing opportunities and high levels of poverty often result in homelessness. The lack of available mental health services, housing and other supports has resulted in too many people with mental health issues and addictions in the criminal justice system. Discrimination contributes to low levels of education and high levels of unemployment and poverty.

Some forms of discrimination are explicit and direct; others unintentional and subtle. Some rental housing providers, employers and service providers, including health care providers, may turn people away based on disability-related factors. Stereotyping can lead to harassment towards people with disabilities in the form of negative comments, social isolation and unwanted conduct from employers, landlords, co-workers or service providers. We also learned how people can be denied employment, service or housing opportunities because seemingly neutral rules actually lead to disadvantage; these can include tenant screening practices, hiring practices or police background checks.

There are signs that a shift is underway in how people with mental health issues or addictions are viewed. Mental health has been made a government priority at the provincial and federal levels. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities changes the focus on persons with disabilities from recipients of charity to holders of rights. By ratifying this convention, Canada has agreed to take steps to ensure equality and non-discrimination in many aspects of life for all people with disabilities. Across Ontario, there is increasing awareness and acknowledgment of the major barriers that people with mental health issues and addictions face. Individuals and organizations are asking for more education about mental health, and for changes to laws and policies to end negative stereotyping and discrimination.

Preventing and eliminating discrimination is a shared responsibility. This report sets out recommendations for action for government, housing providers, employers, service providers and other parties, as well as a series of OHRC commitments towards eliminating discrimination based on mental health and addictions in Ontario.

You can access the report here.

The above text was retrieved from the Executive Summary of 'Minds that Matter''
(Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2012)