Background: This report presents the initial results of the first Epidemiological Catchment Area Study in mental health in Canada. Five neighbourhoods in the South-West sector of Montreal, with a population of 258,000, were under study. The objectives of the research program were: 1) to assess the prevalence and incidence of psychological distress, mental disorders, substance abuse, parasuicide, risky behaviour and quality of life; 2) to examine the links and interactions between individual determinants, neighbourhood ecology and mental health in each neighbourhood; 3) to identify the conditions facilitating the integration of individuals with mental health problems; 4) to analyse the impact of the social, economic and physical aspects of the neighbourhoods using a geographic information system. 5) to verify the adequacy of mental health services.
Method: A longitudinal study in the form of a community survey was used, complemented by focused qualitative sub-studies. The longitudinal study included a randomly selected sample of 2,433 individuals between the ages of 15 and 65 in the first wave of data collection, and three other waves are projected. An overview of the methods is presented.
Results: The prevalence of psychological distress, mental disorders and use of mental health services and their correlates are described for the first wave of data collection.
Conclusion: Several vulnerable groups and risk factors related to socio-demographic variables have been identified such as: gender, age, marital status, income, immigration and language. These results can be used to improve treatment services, prevention of mental disorders, and mental health promotion.