For two years, COVID-19 has plagued us. And for two years, CMHA and UBC have been asking Canadians how they’re doing. Now, in the latest round of research, Canadians are saying they are stressed about what’s coming next. They’re concerned COVID-19 is here to stay.
According to the research, 64% of people in Canada are worried about new variants, while 57% of people in Canada are worried about COVID-19 circulating for years to come.
All of these worries amount to chronic stress for the population and it’s taking a toll, making basic decisions harder, sapping our energy and leaving people plain tired or burnt out. Nearly half (46%) of Canadians are stressed or worried about coping with uncertainty.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has equally been hammering the very people who take care of us. In a paper released on March 1, community mental health workers – and the agencies they work for – reveal that they’re on the verge of burning out.
CMHA North West Vancouver has been grateful to receive provincial investments in counselling for the communities we serve. Between May 2020 and November 2021, we provided over 1800 counselling sessions. Funding allowed us to provide free counselling, approximately 20% of all sessions, for those who can’t afford our low cost options.
CMHA NWV offers both in person and online counselling. Over the next year we hope to expand our in-person counselling to the Sunshine Coast.
Despite this meaningful investment, we are still experiencing a wait list. Also, there is a significant gap in trauma-related counselling for those who need longer term support. To respond to this need, CMHA NWV would need annualized funding rather than year-to-year.
Time to fix the broken system
Our mental health system is a hodge-podge of public, private and not-for-profit services. Canadians are faced with long waiting lists in the public system, and high costs in the private and they don’t know where to go to get the help they need. In fact, according to the CMHA and UBC numbers, almost one in five (17%) people said they needed help with their mental health during the pandemic but didn’t receive it. That’s because they didn’t know how or where to get it (36%), couldn’t afford to pay (36%), couldn’t get access (29%) or because their insurance didn’t cover it (19%).
CMHA is calling on the federal government to fix what’s broken. That means adequately funding the community mental health and addictions services. It means investing in strategies that strengthen mental health and prevent mental illness in the first place. It means free, community-based counselling and psychotherapy. And it means housing, income supports and food security, which are all essential for mental health.
With community services running on empty, Margaret Eaton, National CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association, couldn’t say it better: “It’s time to check the engine light on our mental health system.” And with over a third (37%) of Canadians reporting a decline in mental health since the pandemic started, it really is the time.