Study finds mental health issues on the rise during pandemic

Crisis line calls skyrocket

A study by the Pacific Blue Cross Health Foundation has found the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on both the mental and physical health of British Columbians.

Julia Payson, with the Vernon branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, said calls to the crisis line were up a whopping 63 per cent in October over the same month last year.

Payson said the increase is “unprecedented,” adding until this year it took eight years for the number of calls to crisis line to double.

“We answered more than 1,000 calls in October,” said Payson. “We have seen the numbers go up since March. We anticipate the need to continue to be quite high over the winter months.”

Christmas is historically a time when more people experience mental health challenges, and Payson said with increasing pandemic restrictions “people are losing access to the ways they usually cope with difficult times and difficult feelings. We anticipate an even higher number of calls to the crisis line.”

Payson said it is good people are reaching out for help, and she encourages anyone who needs it to call the line at 1-888-353-2273. More information on mental health and various programs can also be found on the CMHA website.

“We are really glad people reach out to get the support they need at the time that they need it,” she said. “We need people to access those services. We know the mental health impacts of COVID are real. There are resources available.”

According to the Pacific Blue Cross study, 37 per cent of British Columbians are anxious or depressed, but just 15 per cent are connecting with counselling services.

The study also found two thirds of British Columbians are expecting their mental health to deteriorate this winter.

“The survey revealed almost three times more people (52 per cent) reported poor mental health now, compared to before the start of the pandemic (19 per cent). Four in 10 (42 per cent) reported that they are exercising less, and three in 10 (32 per cent) reported having poorer quality sleep. Diet is also an issue as nearly a quarter answered they are not eating well, with a fifth stating they are consuming more alcohol.”

The study also found there is a stigma against those with mental health challenges, with one third of respondents believing those with mental health conditions are a drain on the health-care system, and one third experiencing or witnessing the marginalization of a person with a mental illness.

More Vernon News