A survey that asked residents to rate how "mentally healthy" they consider the city to be has given Cambridge the lowest score among Waterloo region municipalities.
The survey, the first of its kind conducted by the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo-Wellington (CMHA WW), asked survey respondents to assess the significance of 11 factors that contribute to their community's mental health on a 10-point scale.
They include food security, access to parks and green spaces, access to public transportation, opportunities for children and youth and access to mental health services.
The survey looked at what is important to residents’ mental health, what cities can do to contribute to the mental health of its residents and whether it is important for local governments to prioritize support for mental health and well-being.
Waterloo and Guelph scored the highest with average rankings of 6.8 and 6.7 respectively, while respondents from Kitchener and Cambridge ranked their cities at 5.9 and 5.8 respectively.
Wellington County reported the lowest assessment of mental health with a score of 5.
Nearly all respondents, 92 per cent, believe it is important for local governments to prioritize support for the mental health and well-being of residents.
“Mental health has evolved into a crisis that transcends jurisdictional boundaries and requires a coordinated effort from all levels of government,” said CMHA WW CEO Helen Fishburn in a press release.
“This crisis permeates all levels of society and its consequences ripple through our communities, strain healthcare systems and impact productivity and well-being. We can no longer pay lip service to the mental health crisis. We need it to be a consideration in every decision that our local leaders make.”
Almost three-quarters, 73 per cent, of 530 residents who responded to the survey describe their state of mental health as “good” or better, while the balance describe their mental health as either fair or poor.
This result is consistent across both geographic regions, says the report.
Just over seven-in-ten residents report that they have accessed mental health services and supports, either for themselves or on behalf of an immediate family member.
The need to access mental health services and supports is highest among those identifying as Indigenous/Aboriginal, 90 per cent, LGBTQ+, 90 per cent, and lowest among those identifying as a person of colour/visible minority and those over the age of 75.
Nearly all participants of the survey prioritize knowing they are safe from violence and physical harm as contributing to their overall mental health.
Of marginally less importance is living in a community where they know they can access mental health supports and living in a city where the commute is reasonable.