New nationwide survey finds British Columbians’ mental health eroding
Vancouver – The second wave of the pandemic has intensified feelings of stress and anxiety, increased levels of despair, suicidal thoughts and hopelessness among British Columbians. This, according to the newest wave of data collected through a nationwide monitoring survey on the mental health impacts of COVID-19, released today by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in partnership with UBC researchers.
Among people in British Columbia who completed the survey, (69%) indicate they’re worried about the second wave of the virus, with 55% worried about a loved one or family member dying, and only 22% feeling hopeful. As winter approaches, 42% of British Columbians say their mental health has deteriorated since March. More than a third of British Columbians (36%) are worried about finances.
“Cold weather, uncertainty, eroded social networks and restrictions on holiday gatherings are hitting at a time when people are already anxious, hopeless and fearful that things are going to get worse,” says CMHA’s National CEO, Margaret Eaton. “I am afraid that many people are in such despair that they can’t see past it.”
Of great concern is the sharp increase in suicidality this fall, with 1 in 10 Canadians (10%) experiencing recent thoughts or feelings of suicide, up from 6 per cent in the Spring and 2.5 per cent throughout pre-pandemic 2016.
“We are seeing a direct relationship between social stressors and declining mental health,” says lead researcher Emily Jenkins, a professor of nursing at UBC who studies mental health and substance use. “As the pandemic wears on and cases and related restrictions rise, a good proportion of our population is suffering. Particularly concerning are the levels of suicidal thinking and self-harm, which have increased exponentially since before the pandemic and are further magnified in certain sub-groups of the population who were already experiencing stigma, exclusion, racism and discrimination.”
Thirteen per cent of people surveyed in British Columbia have indicated that they have increased their use of substances as a way to cope. Sixteen per cent of people in British Columbia have reported increased alcohol use, while many have also increased their use of other substances, including cannabis (6%) and prescription medication (3%).
The pandemic keeps underlining that mental health is not only an individual responsibility, and that policy-level interventions are required. Even before the pandemic, the mental health care system in Canada was not meeting people’s needs due to long waitlists, access issues, inequity and underfunding.
“Given this new data, the ongoing devastating losses due to the overdose crisis, and the trend of worsening mental health across the population, the Province should absolutely ensure mental health and substance use care are a top mandate priority in the coming months and beyond,” says Jonny Morris, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division (CMHABC).
The survey was dispatched by Maru/Matchbox from September 14-21, 2020 to a representative sample of 3,027 people ages 18 and up living in Canada. The British Columbia sample was 445.
It is the second of three strategic waves of national surveying that is also aligned with work being conducted by the Mental Health Foundation in the U.K.
To access a complete summary of the findings, please click here.
For media inquiries:
External Relations Specialist
Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division
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UBC Media Relations
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