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Most Ontario residents say their mental health has worsened during the pandemic

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With each new week of lockdown living logged in our memories, it’s becoming more and more clear just how long the impacts of this pandemic will be felt.

Nearly 300,000 lives have already been lost around the world to COVID-19, and analysts predict it could take years for the global economy to bounce back after the virus has been controlled (or, science-willing, eradicated.)

It’s heavy stuff, to say the least, and Ontarians — now in our ninth week of pandemic-mandated physical isolation — are feeling the weight.

The newly-released results of a survey from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) show that 69 per cent of all Ontario residents believe we’re headed for a “serious mental health crisis” on account of the pandemic.

Closer to eight out of 10 residents (77 per cent) told CMHA they think “more mental health supports will be necessary to help society” as we emerge from this unprecedented situation.

And as for damage already done, three-fifths (58 per cent) of the Ontario residents surveyed by Pollara Strategic Insights for CMHA stated that their own mental health has been “negatively affected by the pandemic.”

These are just a few interesting, yet concerning findings from a CMHA survey conducted among 1,001 Ontario adults between April 16 and April 23.

“CMHA Ontario is looking to evaluate how Ontarians’ perceptions of their mental health are changing as they come out from underneath the pandemic,” reads a release from the charitable organization.

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“Two more surveys will follow in the coming months as restrictions loosen around COVID-19 and the economy continues to re-open.”

The first round of polling also found that 23 per cent of Ontarians have been consuming more substances such as alcohol, cannabis and tobacco since the pandemic first hit.

A full 90 per cent of people stated that they’re “concerned about COVID-19’s impact on the economy” and 69 per cent expressed concern for their own personal finances amid the pandemic.

While many are concerned for the mental states of themselves, their friends and their family members, more than a quarter also stated that their physical health has suffered as a result of the outbreak. 

Nearly half of all survey respondents (48 per cent) said that their exercise habits have worsened while 36 per cent indicated that their diets had gotten worse since the pandemic began.

Worries about productivity, educational impacts and of course, the virus itself have also been weighing on the minds of Ontario residents, according to CMHA.

“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,” reads the agency’s Monday release.

“Sixty-nine per cent of Ontarians are concerned about catching the virus, while 70 per cent are concerned about losing family or friends to COVID-19.”

Fortunately, the provincial government has poured a significant amount of resources into beefing up its virtual mental health supports.

Ontario has now invested more than $12 million into providing free, internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy programs to anyone in the province who may be suffering from depression or anxiety as a result of the pandemic. 

“While critical, I know that staying home is no small ask,” said Minister of Health Christine Elliott when announcing the funding in early April. 

“There are many for whom isolation brings unique challenges for their mental health: anxiety, depression, a growing sense of loneliness or helplessness,” she said. “These challenges cannot be diminished, nor will they.”

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