You may have heard about the mental health toll on people because of the COVID-19 pandemic. You may also know that outside of the pandemic there have been concerns for years about how we’ve been unable to keep pace with the demand for more mental health assistance. The first problem has been feeding the second, so for this year’s Giving Tuesday, local mental health agencies are asking you to help them.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the baseline of mental health and addictions needs across our community,” said the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington in a media release. “We have seen a sharp increase in the number of people reaching out for help—many of whom have never needed help from the mental health system before. Calls to our Here 24/7 crisis line have increased by 40 pr cent since June 2021.”
“To be honest, the need has always been there. Prior to the pandemic, we were underwater, we were underwater with the needs, with being able to respond to those needs, and that’s across the board, cradle to grave,” said CMHA CEO Helen Fishburn on the Guelph Politicast this past summer. “Since the pandemic, it’s now a tsunami. The water is that much deeper, and scarier and more dangerous and I would say particularly for children and youth.”
In terms of hard numbers, there are over 3,800 people in Waterloo Region and Wellington County who are waiting for mental health and addictions care. Why? CMHA points to the fact that only 5.8 per cent of the total $69.8 billion health care budget goes to mental health and additions services specifically.
“Prior to the pandemic, we had 11 kids waiting to see our child psychiatrist and now there’s 170; prior to the pandemic 20 kids were waiting for counseling and treatment and now there’s 140; and we’ve seen the eating disorders program go from a two-month wait to a 15-month wait,” Fishburn said. “So we had the need before, the needs have always been there, but it’s just incredibly intense now. It’s way more than we could have ever imagined.”
The need is forcing CMHA to reach out beyond traditional mental health funding from the government, and this Giving Tuesday, they’re asking for assistance from anyone who’s looking to give. CMHA adds though that there’s no “right” way to give; you can give money, volunteer your time, or even help just spread the word. If you would like to give financially, visit CMHA’s webpage here. If you should happen to need help, please reach out to Here 24/7 at 1-844-437-3247 (Here 247).
Even more specific than the general call for more mental health funding, is the goal of the local youth services hub, The Grove. They have the goal of raising $200,000 by the end of the year, and Guelph’s biggest private employer has just pledged to match any and all donations to that cause.
“I am inspired by our younger generations every day. They deserve a future where they are empowered to learn, grow and thrive and should have the support they need to do so. After all, they are our future,” said Jim Jarrell, president and chief operating officer of Linamar in a statement.
The goal of The Grove Hubs is to build a more effective health and social service system, through integration and collaboration, to better meet the needs of youth in Wellington County and Guelph. There are presently three Grove locations across Wellington County including Erin, Palmerston, and Fergus, with an additional location opening soon at the University of Guelph. Earlier this year, the Grove and its partners broke ground for a new building on Woolwich Street.
For the people helped by the Grove, its benefits are obvious.
“I knew I needed help with my eating disorder when this terrifying thought crossed my mind: ‘at least I’ll be a pretty corpse.’ The solution for me, at the time, was to go by taxi, 45 minutes away, sit in a waiting room with strangers and then go home again. I knew that if I didn’t take this opportunity and get my head together, I was going to die,” said an anonymous youth quoted in the media release.
“So, despite how awful and lonely that journey was, I did it. And I got the help I needed. But, looking back, I see just how broken the youth mental health system has been for youth like me. That’s why The Grove is so critically important,” they added.
If you would like to donate to the Grove, visit their website here.