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CMHA Vernon sees marked increase in people seeking help during pandemic

Mental health continues to be a concern for many people in Canada as restrictions continue
Mental health - Getty
New Westminster is participating in a pilot project with the Canadian Mental Health Association that seeks to change paradigms about responses to mental health crises.

More people than ever are struggling with mental health issues.

But the good news is, more people than ever are reaching out for help.

Julia Payson, with the Vernon branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, said the number of people seeking help has doubled from pre-COVID days.

And 2021 saw more people seeking assistance than 2020.

“Our crisis line saw a very large increase,” said Payson, adding as an example there was 30 per cent increase in people accessing mental health support crisis line in November 2021 over to November 2020 alone.

There has also be a marked increase in the number of people reaching out to the suicide prevention hotline.

“People just weren't coping as well,” she said of 2021. “What we learned through COVID is if we lose access to our coping mechanisms - we lose access to the gym, to our friends, to our nights out, our coffee dates and our social events even - we learned we actually depend on those things a lot more than we realized to manage our own health.”

Payson said in many ways 2021 was harder than 2020 because people thought things were going to be better, but COVID concerns and restrictions, continued as they are heading in to 2022.

While the increase in callers is concerning, Payson said it also shows people recognize they need some help and are seeking out that help, which is a good thing.

The increased workload has changed the way CMHA operates some its programs. CMHA has also received funding to help meet the increased demand as well.

Payson said “as hard as it is to say we have seen such a huge increase in people needing to use the crisis line” it is good so many people are actively working on their mental health.

“It continues to be really important for people to look at how they take care of themselves and the people around them, because that's how we get through this – by taking care of each other."

There has also been an increase in people volunteering for the crisis line.

All volunteers are not only provided with crisis line training, but they also receive support from the CMHA where they can debrief and talk about how they are feeling.

For more information and to access help, see the CMHA website.