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Canadian health-care professionals weigh in on pandemic mental health in new survey


A new survey is shedding some light on the stresses, scars and opportunities for change that have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey, conducted by Yorkville University, asked front-line workers for their insights on the state of mental health care in Canada right now.

Dr. Sarah Stewart-Spencer, the dean of behavioral sciences at Yorkville University, says one thing that stood out to her from the survey was “we’re all connected and we’re all affected.”

“Really, everyone had a collective experience, whether it was the fatigue that was left over, the stress that it put on our bodies and our daily lives. But another piece is now, we all kind of know what it means when we say, ‘Wow this had been a hard last few years.’”

She adds that those shared experiences aren’t over yet.

“There’s still a lot of aftermath, still a lot of sickness. We all still see that fatigue really lingering as well, and many are dealing with grief and loss on top of that. So there’s really a sense of collective understanding that came out of this.”

Of those surveyed, 92 per cent agree that the pandemic left traumatic scars for people across Canada. And more than half said the state of parents’ and caregivers’ mental health post-pandemic is “somewhat or significantly deteriorating.”

Stewart-Spencer says, regardless of whether people struggled with their mental health or not before the pandemic began, everyone “felt a shift.”

“So collectively, we all felt that as well. And for those that are facing mental health crisis or still feeling the mental health illness that they’re experiencing, the reality is access to care is a huge concern right now. We really see that being the biggest, and really the most concerning. Making sure that we have enough front-line workers, making sure there’s a counsellor or psychotherapist there, ready to help. And the unfortunate part is we’re seeing extensive wait lines, we’re seeing extensive lack of care. So I’d say that’s a really big piece that came out of this.”

More than half of the survey’s respondents ranked access to care as one of the most challenging barriers facing people living with mental illness.

Stewart-Spencer says there is also a “back-to-back challenge” now.

“Because we’ve been dealing with years of really, stress, and this ongoing, chronic sense of struggle, but now we’re going into back-to-back challenges with the economic and financial hardships that we’re now encountering, so we really are seeing a wide range of impact.”

A large percentage of those surveyed said they see the flexible or hybrid workplaces that resulted from the pandemic as a positive thing.

“We’ve been in virtual care for almost two decades, but the relatively large access to that was really kind of cut off. We hadn’t accelerated into that space,” Stewart-Spencer says. “Because of the pandemic, we were able to innovate, to be creative, to find ways to reach clients and give the care that we need.

“We have found a new way as humans to truly connect and become an extension of our self in that space to give support to others.” Top Stories

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