We know the physical dangers of COVID-19. But this pandemic has also been dangerous to our mental health.
The grief and loss. The increased stress over work and safety. The isolation. The harsh realities of lockdown have taken a toll on our mental health and the consequences have been tragic and heartbreaking.
The province’s Chief Coroner says that opioid rates and related deaths have increased by up to 40 per cent since last March. Demand for services at child and youth mental health centres have increased by 20 to 100 per cent.
With an average wait time for mental health and addiction services still at two-and-a-half years, many are forced to seek help in the only place they can go: our already vastly overburdened emergency rooms.
There should be no shame in suffering from mental illness or addiction. But there should be shame in our province’s ability to support and treat the million seniors and adults and children who are suffering.
So on January 28 – Bell Let’s Talk Day — let’s talk about a better approach to mental health care.
Let’s talk about the excellent and specific recommendations OPSEU/SEFPO members in Mental Health and Addictions made to the government last fall, including more culturally sensitive services, more supportive housing, more mobile crisis response teams, and more mental health courts.
Let’s talk about the fact that basic psychological counselling is not covered by Medicare, leaving it out of reach to all but the wealthy and those whose jobs provide decent health coverage.
Let’s talk about the fact that those suffering mental illness or addiction shouldn’t have to rely on charity to get the treatment they need – it should be as free from cost and from stigma as suffering a broken leg.
The pandemic has taught us that we all have to work together to protect each other’s health. It’s time to start working together to protect each other’s mental health, too.
OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida