As COVID-19 cases spike across the country, new data from the Angus Reid Institute shows anxiety levels among Canadians are reaching peaks not seen since the spring.
In fact, a new Angus Reid poll shows 64 per cent of Canadians fear the worst is yet to come.
“Anxiety is higher and we’re seeing that and for those who already struggled with mental health issues, it’s so much more impactful,” said Phyllis O’Connor, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Saskatchewan division.
In Saskatchewan, 10 per cent of those surveyed in the Angus Reid poll said they’re barely getting by when it comes to their mental health, the highest among provinces.
“As more of the economic impacts are starting to hit — and the social isolation thing has been really problematic for a lot of people — as the second wave hits it’s only going to compound,” O’Connor said.
In April, the CMHA warned of an “echo pandemic” of mental illness and mental health, something it now says is a reality.
“This echo pandemic is on us, people are suffering and it’s a direct relation to COVID-19,” O’Connor said.
“We really need to step up our game and government needs to be there to support mental health services for people who are going through this, because especially if we get a second wave, this isn’t going away.”
On Tuesday, Regina’s police chief, Evan Bray said suicide attempt calls are through the roof.
“While we’re seeing some decreases in what we call the more traditional types of crimes, thefts, break and enters, we’re seeing increases in the types of responses and calls that we’re going to that I would say are more social justice leaning,” Bray said.
With people losing their jobs, businesses and in some cases their homes, O’Connor called it tragic but said it’s not terribly surprising.
“When people get to the point where it’s hopeless, it’s when you see possibly addictions problems which can result in overdose deaths, you see thoughts of suicide because there’s just no hope,” O’Connor said.
Since June, O’Connor said the Saskatchewan division has received more than 500 calls from across the province to its wellness support line.
“That’s not people looking for a psychologist or a counsellor, it’s just somebody to talk to,” O’Connor said.
“We had a feeling it was going to be needed and unfortunately we proved true.”
Even after the pandemic ends, O’Connor said the aftermath of mental health will linger. She is calling on the government to not lose sight of the support that’s needed.
“Recovery is going to take a while. Unfortunately, the mental health problems are going to be there, so we urge the government to not lose sight of what’s happening in the area of mental health,” O’Connor said.
“We need those services, we need those supports.”