New nationwide survey finds Albertan’s mental health eroding
Fort McMurray, AB (December 10, 2020) – The second wave of the pandemic has intensified feelings of stress and anxiety, causing alarming levels of despair, suicidal thoughts, and hopelessness in the province of Alberta. This, according to the newest wave of data collected through a nationwide monitoring survey on the mental health impacts of COVID-19, released by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in partnership with UBC researchers.
Most people in Alberta (66%) indicate they’re worried about the second wave of the virus, with 54% worried about a loved one or family member dying, and only 17% feeling hopeful. As winter approaches, 40% of Albertans say their mental health has deteriorated since March. 48% of parents of children under 18 are worried about finances.
“Cold weather, uncertainty, eroded social networks and restrictions on holiday gatherings are hitting at a time when people are already anxious, hopeless and fearful that things are going to get worse,” says CMHA’s National CEO, Margaret Eaton. “I am afraid that many people are in such despair that they can’t see past it.”
Of great concern is the sharp increase in suicidality this fall, with 1 in 10 Canadians (10%) experiencing recent thoughts or feelings of suicide. That’s up from six per cent in the spring and 2.5 per cent throughout pre-pandemic 2016.
“We are seeing a direct relationship between social stressors and declining mental health,” says lead researcher Emily Jenkins, a professor of nursing at UBC who studies mental health and substance use. “As the pandemic wears on and cases and related restrictions rise, a good proportion of our population is suffering. Particularly concerning are the levels of suicidal thinking and self-harm, which have increased exponentially since before the pandemic and are further magnified in certain sub-groups of the population who were already experiencing stigma, exclusion, racism and discrimination.”
Unfortunately, few Albertans are getting mental health services and supports they need, while many are relying on a combination of healthy and unhealthy strategies to cope.
Nearly 17% have indicated that they have increased their use of substances as a way to cope. 18% of Albertans have increased alcohol use, while many have also increased their use of other substances, including cannabis (8%) and prescription medication (7%).
The pandemic keeps underlining that mental health is not an individual responsibility, and that policy-level interventions are required. Even before the pandemic, the mental health care system in Canada was not meeting people’s needs due to long waitlists, access issues, inequity and underfunding.
“Community mental health services can take the pressure off hospitals and acute care, which have been hit hard by COVID-19, but they are chronically underfunded. Now more than ever, Governments need to continue to fund services in the community to ensure that people get the help they need sooner,” says Amanda Holloway, CMHA Wood Buffalo’s Executive Director.
The survey was dispatched by Maru/Matchbox from September 14-21, 2020 to a representative sample of 3,027 people ages 18 and up living in Canada. The Alberta sample was 397 participants.
It is the second of three strategic waves of national surveying that is also aligned with work being conducted by the Mental Health Foundation in the U.K.
To access a complete summary of the findings, please click here.
To get help:
- CMHA Wood Buffalo offers peer based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy programming through the Recovery College at recovercollegewoodbuffalo.ca
- CMHA Wood Buffalo operates the Welcome Centre for one-on-one conversations with the expertise of people with lived experience of mental health and substance use problems. Book with us at facebook.com/CMHAWB
- Get free mental health help at ca/bounceback or https://ca.portal.gs/
- Albertans can also access 24/7 services by calling the Addiction Helpline at 1-866-332-2322, Mental Health Helpline 1-877-303-2642 or visiting ahs.ca/healpintoughtimes.
- Reach Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or kidshelpphone.ca
- Thinking of suicide? Call 1-833-456-4566 or visit crisisservicescanada.ca.
- Support is also available for caretakers because caring for people who are at risk of suicide can take it’s toll. Caretakers can reach out for support by contacting CMHA Wood Buffalo’s Caregiver Connection program at firstname.lastname@example.org or for 24/7 access, the Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642.
- In an emergency, please call 9-1-1 or visit your nearest emergency department.