The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) warned today that demand for access to mental health services will likely spike once Canada emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) data, more Ontarians required mental health care between March to December 2020 than in the same period the year before. 

“Ontarians worried about contracting COVID-19 or having a loved one do so; about finances and job security; about their children and parents tolerating the loneliness and isolation. To make matters worse, we did so without our usual coping mechanisms,” said OMA President Dr. Samantha Hill. 

“We have been unable to hug each other, to surround ourselves with friends and family or to ‘get away.’ It’s been harder than usual to go to the gym, to access psychological therapy and even buy groceries. Prolonged stress like this taxes our mental and physical health. The resulting need for mental health services further increases the pandemic deficit of health care.”

For the period from August to December 2020, the province’s healthcare system saw a 8% spike in major mental health visits and a 12% increase in other related visits.

The findings by the OMA echo similar concerns by the Canadian Mental Health Association which raised the alarm earlier this month about an impending mental health crisis. 

“We are hearing from people unable to secure timely treatment. Many people who had the ability to access online supports [increased by the provincial government during this period] feel that the online support isn’t giving them the care they need,” said CMHA Nova Scotia executive director Pamela Magee. 

“We are hearing this as well from those who are contemplating suicide and have lost hope. They feel there isn’t a door they can walk through to receive timely and adequate care.”

According to a poll commissioned by the CMHA in cooperation with the University of British Columbia, around 40% of Canadians reported that their mental health has worsened over the course of the pandemic. 

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