December 5, 2020
By Nick Parker
Politicians can talk about COVID-19 as much as they want, but in doing so, they are leaving out an epidemic that has the potential to be just as great, or even greater than the current pandemic.
That epidemic is mental health.
Mental health was an issue we faced before COVID, but could soon become further exacerbated as the pandemic continues.
According to the CBC, data from 2018-2019 shows that over 25,000 Canadians were admitted to hospitals due to self-harm, 3,800 of these cases, unfortunately, resulted in deaths. Comparatively, the Government of Canada’s epidemiology update reports that, to date, 23,667 people were hospitalized due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now throw in heavy lockdowns, a constant over reporting of COVID that causes distress, and liquor stores being considered “essential” – in time, all we’ll be left with is a disaster.
At the start of the pandemic, the goal of flattening the curve was to allow the healthcare system to handle confirmed cases in a manner that would not overburden the Canadian hospitals.
But what about mental health admissions? Do we not consider those just as real of a threat to our healthcare system?
At the moment, there are no updated statistics on 2020 numbers for hospitalizations due to mental health but if the same trend we had in 2019 follows into 2020, it does not look promising.
In a survey done by the Canadian Mental Health Association in early May 2020, 69 per cent of Ontarians believed that Ontario was headed towards “a serious mental health crisis”. Furthermore, 53 percent of those surveyed said they were concerned for their own mental health.
More emphasis needs to be put on mental health services and resources by the government and the media. Constant fear-mongering by the media has created a divide, while the government seems to be just as lost as its citizens.
So, what has the government been doing to respond to the mental health crisis?
On September 10, 2020, the Minister of Health Patty Hadju announced an $11.5 million dollar investment in mental health funding for organizations across the country to fight mental health issues for all Canadians, and specifically for black Canadians who face systematic issues.
Furthermore, on October 8, 2020, the Minister of Health once again announced $10.2 million in funding for research teams to tackle mental health issues due to the pandemic.
But is this enough? I argue no. In order to solve a crisis, it needs to be acknowledged first. But instead, Canadians are barraged daily with COVID-19 numbers and stories, all of which contribute to the stress and anxiety that many are experiencing.
In no way is it safe to say that COVID-19 should be ignored. It is a real danger to many in society, and measures need to be taken.
Many Canadians will continue to suffer due to heavy restrictions and lockdowns and many will continue to fear for their own mental health. We may think it could never happen to us or our loved ones, but in reality it could be someone within our own family who continues to suffer in silence, as many do.
We should not have to choose between a cure and good mental health. There needs to be a balance of perspective, and it needs to come from the people who lead this country – not me.