Editorial: Seek support for mental health challenges

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Last week was Mental Health Week in Canada, and there’s never been a more appropriate time to seek help or at least open the door to the idea. 

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals’ mental health has been widely acknowledged. One measure, an Ipsos poll conducted earlier this year, found 60 per cent of Canadians reporting that they were experiencing mental health issues.

That deaths caused by use of illicit drugs from a toxic supply do not abate despite public  awareness campaigns and other policy shifts is another huge mental health-related concern. In March 2021, about 5.1 overdose deaths per day occurred in B.C. From January to March, 69 per cent of those dying were aged 30 to 59, with males accounting for 80 per cent of all individuals dying due to toxic drugs in the first three months of this year.

But even without the additional stress and social isolation caused by the pandemic, many people are reluctant to seek help for depression, anxiety, manic behaviour, or unhealthy coping mechanisms like drug and alcohol use or gambling addictions.  

The Ipsos poll found that 54 per cent of the people suffering in some way had not sought medical or psychological support. Affordability and stigma were the two main barriers cited.

Increasing access to counselling services through the public health-care system is a step that is long overdue and one which would address the huge affordability barrier. Provincial and federal governments have been promoting some programs that provide free phone and online access to assistance. One of those, a web portal called Wellness Together Canada, had 1.2 million users in the first year. The newest one on the block in B.C. is an app for youth aged 12 to 24 called Foundry BC, with access to virtual counselling appointments and support groups. More sites are listed on page 7 of this issue of the paper. 

Stigma is not something that can be easily eliminated with funds or access to specific services. But the simple fact of realizing that so many people are suffering should make it easier to take the steps they need to stay alive and be as mentally healthy as possible in these extra-challenging times.

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