Projections of the pandemic’s impact on mental health in the Waterloo region

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Graphics by Brittney Cheng

18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has reported a 44 per cent increase in the number of people now contacting Here 24/7, a mental health and crisis services hotline in Waterloo. 

This March, calls to CMHA Waterloo Wellington rose to 6,500 compared to 4,500 per month in March of last year, according to the report. 

Many folks that we’re seeing through Here 24/7 are people that have had to reach out for the very first time and have never needed that help before, ”Helen Fishburn, the CMHA Waterloo Wellington’s chief executive, said. 

CTV News Kitchener reported that in CMHA Waterloo Wellington’s area, 3,625 people are on the waitlist for addiction and mental health care, of which 2,044 live in Waterloo Region. 

Fishburn explained there are more people in need of mental wellness support services such as therapy, community care, nursing and psychiatric care than there were before the pandemic hit.

“People can’t wait for this care. We have to do better,” Fishburn said. 

While continuing to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, CMHA Waterloo Wellington still offers some in-person support. “We’re really encouraging people to reach out,” Fishburn said.

Moreover, CMHA has conducted several polls in the Waterloo region to evaluate the ongoing effects of COVID-19 in people’s daily lives. 

A poll conducted by both CMHA and the University of British Columbia among some 3,000 people reveals that about 77 per cent of candidates reported feeling more cynical than usual and 80 per cent said they feel apprehensive, anxious, stressed, lonely, sad or bored.

 The poll also revealed that the number of people experiencing suicidal thoughts has increased by 5.5 per cent, from 2.5 per cent before COVID-19 to the current figure of 8 per cent.

“What it is, is a combination of factors which contribute to a lower mental mood. Things like lack of sunlight, isolation in the winter generally,” Fishburn said.

If you or someone you know is in need of mental health supports:

CMHA Waterloo Wellington Here 24/7 Crisis Support Helpline: 1-844-437-3247

Teletypewriter (TTY) for people who are deaf: 1-877-688-5501 

Or visit: www.here247.ca

CMHA Website: https://www.here4help.ca.

ConnexOntario (Mental Health and Addiction Services) Information: 1-866-531-2600

ConnexOntario Website: https://www.connexontario.ca/contact-us.

Ontario Suicide Prevention Network Contact Number: 905-897-9183

Ontario Suicide Prevention Network Website: https://www.ementalhealth.ca/index.php?m=record&ID=10502

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 833-456-4566

Canada Suicide Prevention Service Website: https://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/en/.

To connect with a Crisis Counselor Text HOME to 741741

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