Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Learn about PTSD, what we're doing to help, and resources for support.
On this page
- About PTSD
- PTSD in Canada
- How the Government of Canada is helping
- Mental health support
- Related links
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a diagnosable, mental health disorder that may occur after exposure to psychological stressors during a specific, severe, potentially psychologically traumatic event or series of events.
PTSD has specific psychological symptoms and can affect people of any age, culture or gender.
PTSD may involve different combinations of:
- sleep disturbances
- intrusive memories
- persistently negative thoughts
- low mood, anger, or feeling emotionally numb
- regular, vivid recall of the psychologically traumatic event
- trouble remembering parts of the psychologically traumatic event
- having difficulties feeling emotionally connected to family or close friends
- avoiding reminders or thinking about the psychologically traumatic event
PTSD may be diagnosed if:
- symptoms last for more than a month, and
- symptoms cause significant distress or impairment:
- at work or school
- in social or family life
- in other important areas of functioning
The diagnosis of PTSD is made if the person's condition isn't better explained by another physical or mental health disorder.
PTSD in Canada
Prevalence of PTSD symptoms in Canada
About 8% of adults have moderate to severe symptoms of PTSD. This percentage is higher among women (10%) than men (6%). It is highest among people aged 18 to 24 (14%) and lowest in people aged 65 and older (3%).
Adult Canadians diagnosed with PTSD
About 5% of adults report having a diagnosis of PTSD. Having a diagnosis of PTSD is not the same as having moderate to severe symptoms. Not everyone with moderate to severe symptoms seeks care or gets a diagnosis.
A diagnosis must be given by a healthcare professional, such as a:
- family doctor
A healthcare professional will use information about PTSD symptoms as part of their assessment.
How the Government of Canada is helping
We are committed to addressing PTSD. In June 2018, the Government of Canada passed the Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act. The Act recognizes that all Canadians can be at risk for PTSD and that many face higher risks because of the nature of their work.
The Act led to a National Conference on PTSD in April 2019. Experts from across the country, including people with lived experience, shared their knowledge and views. With their involvement, we developed Canada's first Federal Framework on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
The release of the Federal Framework on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Recognition, Collaboration and Support in February 2020 connects and builds on existing federal efforts. It focuses on occupation-related PTSD, but also acknowledges other populations affected by PTSD.
The Framework was developed to help:
- improve tracking of PTSD and its economic and social costs
- promote and share guidelines and best practices for diagnosis, treatment and management of PTSD
- create and distribute educational materials
The Framework also laid important groundwork for coordination and collaboration across federal sectors.
The Framework is used to:
- support knowledge creation, knowledge exchange, and collaboration across the federal government, and with partners and stakeholders
- inform practical, evidence-based public health actions, programs, and policies
- reduce stigma and improve recognition of the symptoms and impacts of PTSD
As mandated by the Act, the Framework will be reviewed for its effectiveness within 5 years of its publication, by 2025. The review will include a progress update on initiatives and their results.
Federal investments addressing PTSD and trauma
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many frontline and essential workers experienced long hours and prolonged stress while working to keep Canadians safe and healthy.
We committed $50 million through Budget 2021 to support projects addressing PTSD and trauma for those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
- health care providers
- long-term care workers
- personal support workers
- public safety personnel and their families
Projects funded through this investment aim to:
- help reduce stigma
- remove barriers to care
- enhance trauma-informed practice
- improve help-seeking and system navigation
- test and implement promising approaches and adaptations for those at risk of experiencing PTSD and trauma
This investment also supports the Canadian Institute for Pandemic Health Education and Response (CIPHER), a knowledge development and exchange hub. CIPHER uses data from funded projects to help inform mental health interventions and enhance public health policy and practice.
Other federal PTSD-related activities
Other federal initiatives to support people living with PTSD include:
- an action plan on posttraumatic stress injuries for public safety personnel
- community-based projects dedicated to improving the mental health of people across Canada
- a national research consortium hosted by the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment to improve the mental health and treatment of public safety personnel
- A military, Veteran, and family health research hub hosted by the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) which is committed to improving the way that Canada cares for members of the military, Veterans, and their families
- the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families, a centre of excellence on mental health for Veterans and their families
- The Atlas Institute provides easier access to information, research, tools, and expertise on PTSD and related mental health conditions
Mental health support
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call Talk Suicide Canada at 1-833-456-4566. Support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For residents of Quebec, call 1-866-277-3553 or visit suicide.ca.
Free and confidential mental health and substance use support is also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from Wellness Together Canada.
- Cycle 2: Symptoms of PTSD during the COVID-19 pandemic (infographic)
- Projects addressing PTSD and trauma in those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic
- Veterans Affairs Canada: What is PTSD?
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and war-related stress
- Posttraumatic Stress Injuries and support for public safety officers
- The Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment: Glossary of terms
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