Out from the shadows: What health leaders should do to advance the mental health and substance use health workforce Journal Articles uri icon

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  • The Mental Health and Substance Use Health (MHSUH) impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are proving to be significant, complex, and long-lasting. The MHSUH workforce—including psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists, addiction counsellors, and peer support workers as well as psychiatrists, family physicians, and nurses—is the backbone of the response. As health leaders consider how to address long-standing and emerging health workforce challenges, there is an opportunity to move the MHSUH workforce out from the shadows through full inclusion in health workforce planning in Canada. After first examining the roots and consequences of the long-standing exclusion of the MHSUH workforce, this paper presents findings from a recent study showing how the pandemic has compounded MHSUH workforce capacity issues. Priorities for MHSUH workforce action by health leaders include closing regulation gaps, engaging the public and private sectors in coordinated planning, and accelerating data collection through a central health workforce registry.


  • Bartram, Mary
  • Leslie, Kathleen
  • Atanackovic, Jelena
  • Tulk, Christine
  • Chamberland-Rowe, Caroline
  • Bourgeault, Ivy

publication date

  • January 2023