Mental health program launching in Waterloo region

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On May 21, Explore Waterloo Region and the Region of Waterloo announced that they are launching a mental health and well-being pilot program for employees in the tourism and hospitality sector.

The Region of Waterloo reported that tourism was “the first and hardest-hit” sector as a direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with employment standing at 45 per cent lower than it was in March 2020. 

Months into the pandemic, the tourism industry is still experiencing increasing unemployment.

Between March and April of this year, Canada’s tourism industry further decreased employment by 4.4 per cent, according to the Region of Waterloo website.

The Canadian tourism sector alone accounts for 93.5 per cent of employment losses.

“It’s been a very difficult time for tourism and hospitality employees,” said Minto Schnieder, CEO of Explore Waterloo Region. 

He said that the tourism and hospitality sector is being challenged by the pandemic — not only by the sheer amount of job losses, but also due to current employees being at risk of contracting the virus.

“The pandemic has hit this sector extremely hard. Many people have been laid off, and those who have been working worry about contracting the virus.”

At the beginning of this year, YMCA WorkWell, a community-focused non-profit that offers recreational programs and services, conducted a mental health survey among workers in the tourism and hospitality industry. 

YMCA WorkWell’s survey showed that the workers scored double-digits below the median score in health: well-being, financial health and mental health.

“The shadow pandemic that mental health is causing for the hospitality and tourism workers in our region is alarming,” said Karen Redman, the regional chair.

Redman said the Region of Waterloo is pleased to be working toward providing mental health support to the tourism and hospitality workers, which it is going to do in partnership with Carizon Family Community Services.

In the statement published to the Region of Waterloo website, Carizon CEO Tracy Elop said, “At Carizon we continue working hard to help mitigate the devastating impact of the coronavirus on our community’s mental health and wellbeing.”

“We know that we all have been impacted in different ways, and particularly, hospitality workers are struggling financially and emotionally.”

The program is being managed with the objective of “unique tailored mental health services” to meet each worker’s individual needs to best assist them in recovering and remaining mentally healthy.

The program is a partnership between six Waterloo Region counselling service providers to see to it that support services are accessible throughout the three cities: Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo, and the four townships: Township of North Dumfries, Township of Wellesley, Township of Wilmot and Township of Woolwich.

The six-month pilot program is expected to launch within the next few weeks. Upon its launch, information regarding the program will be made available on Carizon’s website.

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