Posted on January 26, 2021 by Fraser Ratchford
Staying home and wearing masks is protecting our physical health — but it’s important to look after our mental health as well.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there is growing concern about Canadians’ mental health. According to a recent Infoway study, 21 per cent of Canadians reported a “fair” or “poor” mental health status in 2020, up from 17 per cent in 2019. Their use of digital mental health tools is increasing, too. In 2020, 16 per cent of Canadians stated that they’ve used an e-mental health service in the past, up from 12 per cent in 2019.
What can we do?
To start, we can talk about it. Initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk Day seek to raise awareness and reduce stigma around mental health. Similarly, a wide array of digital apps and services can help provide support to those who need it, through virtual visits, peer support, self-guided modules and more. By connecting online, we can reach those who might otherwise remain isolated.
There are other benefits too. Our study found that 85 per cent of Canadians who used an e-mental health service in the past year agreed it saved them time, while another 80 per cent reported it allowed them to receive treatment more quickly. For specialized and vulnerable populations in particular, these efficiencies can make a big difference. It might mean that a precariously employed individual doesn’t have to choose between receiving care and missing work — or that a new parent doesn’t face the additional stress of travelling with their baby to a perinatal mental health appointment.
Ultimately, e-mental health services enable individuals to have greater choice in how, when and where they receive support. By meeting people where they are at, we can start to dismantle some of the barriers to mental health care and provide support that meets their individual needs and circumstances.
Dr. Ariel Dalfen (Head of the Perinatal Mental Health and Perinatal Mental Health Telemedicine Programs, Mount Sinai Hospital) summed it up well during our recent podcast interview: “I know it’s easier said than done not to let shame silence you, but it’s so important [to reach out]. There are so many good treatments.”
You can join the mental health conversation on January 28, 2021 by following the #BellLetsTalk hashtag on social media — check out the Bell Let’s Talk Toolkit to get started. Be sure to listen to our full interview with Dr. Dalfen on the Digital Health InfoCast and visit our COVID-19 Resources page to find options for support.
Have a comment about this post? We’d love to hear from you.
Fraser Ratchford is a Senior Director at Canada Health Infoway and works with Infoway’s partners to electronically connect citizens to their health information, to their care team, and to other virtual health services and tools. Prior to his role at Infoway, Fraser held a number of leadership positions in health care. His major focus over the past 30 years has been digital health, working in various sectors including government, hospital and public health.