English Health & Medicine Opinion

Mental Health Matters

It really is hard to think of any positives from this pandemic. But one thing that COVID has taught me and many Canadians about is mental health. There are so many adults and children with mental health issues. More than we ever imagined. And we need to do much more to help them because mental health matters.

Yesterday, a report at the Toronto District School Board showed the backlog of cases has increased by about 25% due to the pandemic. Those numbers are likely similar in other school boards across the country as children try to cope with the punishment I dreaded most as a child – grounding. For the past year, after school, they must come home. They can’t go over to their friends’ houses. No playdates or parties. No gymnastics or hockey. This is so hard for children to understand and it is evident why so many kids are needing psychological services in schools. Clearly, school boards must immediately be given more funding to support our students with mental health challenges.

Across Canada and the world, mental health problems have a stigma attached to them which prevents many from reaching out for services. Bell Let’s Talk Day has helped reduce the stigma by encouraging Canadians to share on social media their mental health challenges and struggles and to support each other. But there is still a giant stigma.

Services are also hard to access and costly. Before receiving treatment from a psychologist or psychiatrist, many people wait 6 to 12 months. And if you choose to receive treatment privately from a psychologist, be prepared to spend $100/hr or more!

COVID has made life much harder for those requiring hospital day programs or hospitalization. Group therapy is gone, as are visits from family and friends. For those with severe mental health challenges, these supports are not enough and have left many people struggling.

Many celebrities have commendably gone public with their mental health challenges with the goal of making everyone else remember mental health challenges can affect anyone. Hollywood star Jim Carrey, best-selling author Kelly Oxford, TSN host Michael Landsberg, musician Leonard Cohen, and comedian Howie Mandel all made their struggles public in recent years.

We must not judge those suffering from mental health challenges. We must be supportive and listen to our friends and families because mental health matters and too many are suffering silently.

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