This ongoing pandemic is deepening the mental health crisis. Action is needed now to provide support to people in need. This World Mental Health Day we are raising the alarm and calling for governments to immediately invest in mental health supports ― Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (09 Oct. 2020) ― In recognition of World Mental Health Day, which takes place on October 10, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is renewing its call for action on mental health.
NUPGE shares WHO's call for investment in mental health services
The World Health Organization (WHO) has highlighted the urgent need to increase investment in mental health services, which were chronically underfunded even before the pandemic.
The pandemic has caused a spike in demand for mental health services, but access is being disrupted by a lack of resources and social distancing concerns.
COVID-19 is a physical illness — but hits mental health hard
WHO shows the situation is dire in many countries, and little attention is being paid to the concurrent mental health crisis that is accompanying the pandemic. Unfortunately, Canada is no different in our failure to address mental health issues. COVID-19 has shown the critical need for governments to invest in a strong public health care system and in public health in general as these are clearly the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19. It is important, however, to also recognize that while COVID-19 is a physical illness, it has also hit mental health hard. Governments in Canada and around the world have long ignored mental health issues leaving many people untreated. World Mental Health Day reminds us of this failing, and NUPGE is raising the alarm to call for investments in mental health.
Untreated anxiety, depression, drugs, and alcohol can easily spiral out of control
Stress about our health, concern for our families, job loss, social isolation, and income insecurity, all are factors in a general increase in anxiety and depression. The situation is difficult for all of us, but far more difficult for those with underlying mental health issues. Alcohol and drug consumption have increased and the opioid crisis is taking more lives today than even COVID is claiming. In the absence of an increase in professional assistance, and the failure to ramp up services and reach people in need, more people will spiral downwards. We will also see the impacts will grow exponentially as the consequences harm families and communities. Investments in timely mental health services are necessary and will save much more in long term costs related to this illness. Like any illness, it is far better to treat mental illness early.
Investments needed in training, infrastructure for an expanded public mental health system
The National Union is calling on governments to heed this call and to invest immediately in expanding public mental health services. This requires expanding the training and support needed for increased mental health services now and into the future. The Speech from the Throne had some encouraging words about increasing access to mental health services. This is positive but a comprehensive plan to address gaps in mental health and the resources to carry out the plan are needed. The upcoming federal budget will be an opportunity for the government to show that it understands the impact this pandemic is having on all aspects of our lives and that it is willing to do what is required to address the gaps in the system.
The pandemic has harmed our collective mental health; the crisis can no longer be ignored
Long after the pandemic has receded, we will be living with its long-term impacts. The lingering mental health crisis can be managed, but it will grow much worse without attention. People need to have access to help and this requires taking immediate steps to put those services in place. As the second wave builds in most provinces, and with winter coming, the situation is urgent.
Mental health services for all
WHO has called for investment. Public investment is needed, and most critically needed for the most vulnerable in our society. The homeless, the marginalized, those with limited resources and a wide range of problems, these are the people who are most susceptible to suffering mental injury from the impacts of COVID. Everyone who needs help should have it, but mental health services can no longer be predominantly for those with access to private insurance or an ability to pay. Mental health must be part of our public health care system. This must be one of the structural changes we make in response to this pandemic. This pandemic can be the catalyst that leads us to deal with some long-standing unresolved issues in our society: action is what is needed, and now.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE