The demand for mental health services continues to rise in London and Middlesex County amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s what been seen at the Middlesex branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), which provides support in the region through a number of avenues including its 24/7 support line, a 24/7 crisis line and a 24/7 walk-in crisis centre.
“Our calls since March have doubled to our crisis line, Reach Out, and they just continue to go up,” said Karna Trentman, the director of community services for CMHA Middlesex.
Similar increases in demand have also been seen at My Sister’s Place, a CMHA-linked agency that provides drop-in and wraparound services for women.
“We have been giving out meals (at My Sister’s Place) since COVID hit and now with the colder weather coming, we were up to well over 4,000 meals that we gave out in September… last year at the same time, I think it was just over 1,000,” said Trentman.
Trentman added that instances of anxiety and symptoms of depression have increased, an uptick that she credits in part to the pandemic.
“The numbers of people in crisis is up as well because this has had stress on everybody and has really affected people who may have already been struggling with mental health concerns.”
The pandemic, along with ensuing rise in demand for mental health services, has also taken a toll on staff at CMHA Middlesex.
“On the one hand, I cannot say enough good things about our staff, they’ve really risen to the occasion,” said Trentman. “But at the same time, it is really hard on them and they are affected by all the same things in terms of looking after children at home and worrying about elderly vulnerable people.”
Much of what’s been seen in the local front has also been reflected in a new report from the national branch of CMHA.
The report found that “COVID-19 has widened persistent mental health inequities, making things worse for those who were already vulnerable.”
Since the pandemic began, mental health has declined in 44 per cent of women and 32 of men, according to the report.
It also found that 1.6 million people had unmet mental health needs with suicidal thoughts on the rise for a number of groups, including those who identify as LGBTQ2, those with a disability and Indigenous people.
While COVID-19 has created new problems, it has also prompted new solutions from CMHA Middlesex.
Some solutions include temporary fixes, such as socially distanced and outdoor visits for case managers. Others include virtual programs, such as workshops or Bounce Back, a free skill-building tool that aims to help users manage mild to moderate depression and anxiety, stress or worry.
“Some of the things that we’ve had to change because of COVID have been so successful that they may outlast COVID,” said Trentman.
More information on the support services CMHA provides can be found on the agency’s website.
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