Reported feelings of depression and substance abuse have increased dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic according to a new poll conducted by Leger.

The poll, commissioned by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) found that the number of Canadians feeling depression symptoms increased from 2% before March 2020 to 14% in December.

Only 42% of those surveyed said their mental health was “very good or excellent,” compared to 67%  before lockdowns began last year.

“That’s such a wide gap, it tells us that something is going on there. The fact that fewer Canadians feel their mental health is strong or excellent doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re experiencing a mental illness,” said MHCC Vice-president Ed Mantler.

“They may be experiencing sadness or anxiety that are completely normal reactions to what’s happening around us. But we do know that those who report severe symptoms of depression in particular have increased substantially.”

Around 30% of Canadians who drink alcohol report consuming more as a result of the pandemic. Around 40% of cannabis users also reported a spike in use.

Social isolation, economic turmoil and services closed during lockdowns have all contributed to a dramatic rise in mental health issues and drug use across Canada.

Another recent poll from the Canadian Mental Health Association revealed that 40% of Canadians feel that their mental health has worsened since the pandemic began. 

Mental health experts have recently warned that demand for mental health services will likely spike as a result of the pandemic and lockdowns. In Ontario, major mental health visits jumped 8% from April to December.