Access to Mental Health Services for Adults: An Issue of Time

6 May 2022


Everyone has mental health needs. That is, everyone needs what supports a healthy mental and emotional state. Most times, self-care and healthy relationships with family, friends, and community are sufficient to respond to these mental health needs. Other times, individuals need help from a mental health professional. The 2020 edition of the Primary Health Survey informs us on the perceived mental health needs of New Brunswick citizens aged 18 years and over.

Half of New Brunswick’s adult population perceives their mental health as being very good or excellent. Alternatively, 18% report having felt the need to see or talk to a health professional about their mental or emotional health or their use of alcohol or drugs in the last 12 months. Among those individuals, some did see someone, but others did not. The second group of individuals, then, has a perceived need for mental health services that was not met. In New Brunswick, this group includes approximately 38,000 people (33%) over the age of 18 years

Perceived mental health need varies from 12% in Zone 4 (Madawaska and North-West Area), gradually increasing to 20% in Zone 1 (Moncton and South-East Area); see below. Although fewer citizens in Zone 4 report a perceived mental health need, this zone has the highest proportion of individuals whose perceived mental health needs have not been met.



Perceived barriers to accessing mental health services

When it came to reasons why an adult didn’t see or talk to someone, the top reasons varied by age. Being busy was most frequently reported by adults aged 35 to 54, whereas wait times was the top reason reported among younger adults (18-34 years old). For this age group, a close second barrier was the financial costs. Young adults were three times more numerous to report financial barriers to mental health services than all the other adult age groups.  




The Government of New Brunswick Health Care Plan, announced November 2021, includes access to addiction and mental health services as one of the five action areas. To adequately respond to the needs of citizens, our government, together with the communities, must first understand the needs of citizens and the barriers they face.

As discussed here, the mental health needs and barriers to accessing mental health services experienced by citizens vary depending on where they live and their age group. For example, we showed how citizens in Zone 1 had almost double perceived mental health needs compared to citizens in Zone 4. We also showed how cost is much more of a barrier for younger adults compared to older adults. Understanding the variability in these and other influential factors will be crucial for government and communities working towards better access to mental health services for New Brunswickers.

More information on the provincial Health Care Plan can be found here. More information on the Primary Health Survey can be found here


1. In the context of this article, the term perceived mental health need means “having felt the need to see or talk to a health professional in the last 12 months about their mental or emotional health or their use of alcohol or drugs.” Unmet perceived mental health need means that they did not see or talk to a health professional about this need.