Advertisement

Mental health advocates say need for support in N.B. doubled amid COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video: 'Mental health support needed during COVID-19 pandemic in New Brunswick' Mental health support needed during COVID-19 pandemic in New Brunswick
WATCH: The Canadian Mental Health Association says the number of New Brunswickers seeking support has more than doubled since the start of the pandemic. While the province has a plan to bolster access to those supports, as Shelley Steeves explains, some say it won’t be enough to keep up with the need. – May 26, 2021

The Canadian Mental Health Association says the number of New Brunswickers seeking mental health support has more than doubled since the start of the pandemic.

The latest research shows that the number of people seeking supports at both the community and healthcare levels has increased dramatically from 2019 to 2020, said Christa Baldwin, The Canadian Mental Health Association of NB’s Executive Director.

Read more: New Brunswick to make changes to mental health crisis and addictions response

“That jumped from 86,000 to 204,000 New Brunswickers. So those numbers speak volumes in terms of the demand,” said Baldwin.

The number of people having thoughts of suicide or self-harm has also spiked from two to 10 per cent, said Baldwin.

“Those are significant numbers and another reason why we need now the resources in place to meet that demand,” she said.

Story continues below advertisement

In a plan to boost mental health supports over the next three years, the province’s Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said both regional health authorities have already been given the green light to hire additional staff to work in mental health support. The province has also increased the overall budget for mental health services by 11 million dollars going into 2022, she said.

“The biggest issue is are we spending money in the right places, and so that is part of this exercise as well,” said Shephard, who added that the effectiveness of the changes will be closely monitored over the next year.

Read more: Maritime women encourage gratitude journaling to help cope with pandemic stress

The New Brunswick government plans to strengthen its mental health crisis and addictions response by implementing 21 new recommendations. Shephard said those recommendations should be in place by March 2022 as part of an overall plan to bolster mental health supports in the province over the next three years.

She said that one of 14 planned walk-in mental health clinics has opened in Campbellton and the remainder of the clinics should be opened across the province in 2021.

“Fredericton should be the next one going up and we have escalated those plans so that we will have all of those clinics done by the end of the year,” she said.

Story continues below advertisement

Baldwin said she is please with the progress being made but said until the province spends as much on mental health as it does on physical health, shortfalls in services will likely persist well beyond the pandemic.

“Mental health is the next pandemic,” said Baldwin.

In 2019/2020, Shephard said the province spent 8.9 per cent of its overall healthcare budget on mental health.

Baldwin says it should be 50 per cent.

“We need to recognize that mental health is equal to physical health,” she said.

Sponsored content