New data says fewer Ontarians are seeking mental health supports during COVID-19, but services are helping those who use them

(Niagara Region, May 14, 2020) – As more details emerge about the psychological impact of COVID-19, CMHA Niagara is encouraging anyone who is struggling with mental health and addictions issues at this time to reach out and seek help.

The call comes as new provincial data this week showed that far fewer people with a mental health condition have been seeking formal supports since the crisis began.

In the first of three polls by Pollara Strategic Insights on behalf of Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario Division, only 13 per cent of Ontarians who identified as having a mental health condition said they’ve accessed mental health supports since the outbreak, compared to 39 per cent before the pandemic.

Further, nearly one-third (31 per cent) of those diagnosed with a mental health condition feel they do not have all the supports they need.

On the flipside, 77 per cent of those who have accessed mental health supports during the outbreak have found these supports to be helpful.

Also of interest is that 41 per cent of the general population in Ontario wish they had someone to talk to about the things that are worrying them now, and 43 per cent do not feel confident in their ability to find mental health supports.

“Our polling data suggests people don’t know where to find mental health and addictions resources or are just hesitant to reach out, but those who are reaching out and getting the help they need are being effectively supported,” said CMHA Niagara, Executive Director, Tara McKendrick.

“Despite the limitations that come with physical distancing and isolation, the CMHA has found ways to continue providing support to our clients. Help is still available and CMHA is here with our programs and services” said McKendrick.

Looking ahead, the Pollara research shows that seven out of 10 Ontarians (69 per cent) believe the province is headed for a “serious mental health crisis” as it emerges from this pandemic and nearly eight of out 10 (77 per cent) say more mental health supports will be necessary to help society.

“In order to meet an upcoming mental health crisis coming out of COVID-19, community mental health agencies need increased investment from government,” McKendrick said “The province has promised $3.8 billion over 10 years for mental health and addictions service but the investment has been slow to materialize.”

Additional findings from the Pollara research about mental health and addictions:

  • While 43 per cent of Ontarians do not feel confident in their ability to find supports if they were needed, 44 per cent do.
  • The things we recommend to stay mentally healthy are taking a hit. For example, 36 per cent of Ontarians say their diet has gotten worse, while 48 per cent say exercise habits have worsened.
  • A quarter (23 per cent) of Ontarians are consuming more substances such as alcohol, tobacco or cannabis. Among those who are consuming these substances, 29 per cent have changed the time of day when they consume.
  • Despite trying to make a daily routine, 59 per cent are finding it hard to be productive while in self-isolation. This is true of those who are currently employed and those not working.
  • 29 per cent of those who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition say they’ve had issues accessing the supports they need during this time.

Pollara’s online research of 1,001 Ontario residents over 18 was conducted from April 16-23. It carries a margin of error of ± 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20. 

Two more surveys will follow in the coming months as restrictions loosen around COVID-19 and the economy continues to re-open during this unprecedented time. CMHA Ontario is looking to evaluate how Ontarians’ perceptions of their mental health are changing as they come out from the pandemic.

Read CMHA;s release here:

Resources available:

COAST (Crisis Outreach and Support Team): COAST is a 24/7 crisis outreach and intervention service offering immediate telephone counselling and on-site crisis outreach intervention as needed. Call 1-866-550-5205 ext.1 for 24/7 confidential support.

Mental Health and Addictions Access Line: Provides support, information, and referrals to over 100 services available in Niagara. Call 1-866-550-5205 ext. 2 for 24/7 confidential support.