Vancouver, BC – In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health, well-being, and economic security of British Columbians have been hit hard. The stakes of the BC General Election on October 24 are high.
The upcoming election is unlike any that has come before. The province is dealing with two public health emergencies—the COVID-19 pandemic and the overdose crisis—while also faced with an anticipated increase of intensity of severe mental health and substance use conditions. The economic downturn and public health interventions such as school closures, non-essential service shutdowns, and physical distancing measures have helped keep us safe with unintended and significant impacts on our mental health.
CMHA BC has identified four actions for political parties to commit to that will guarantee the mental health of British Columbians is the foundation for our province’s recovery:
- Bold leadership: Mandate the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions to provide strong provincial leadership on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and substance use and convene a cross-sector provincial leadership task force to inform a coordinated, targeted response.
- Increase funding: Make a four-year investment of $2B across health authority delivered care, Ministry delivered child and youth mental health services and community-based providers of youth and adult services to deliver more accessible and integrated care.
- Establish accountability: Install an independent Mental Health Advocate that reports directly to the legislative assembly to monitor the performance of public services that impact people with mental health and substance use-related health issues.
- Reinforce equity: Earmark part of the $2B investment for mental health and substance use services that are developed by and for populations that are experiencing more severe impacts such as Indigenous peoples, Black people and people of colour, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ folks, people with low incomes and older adults.
“Now more than ever before, BC’s next government will need to prioritize mental health and well-being alongside economic recovery, with an understanding that neither can be achieved if the other is left behind,” says Jonny Morris, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), BC Division. “We urge each of the parties running for election to be clear about their plans for decisive action to prevent more devastating and long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and overdose crisis.”
A national survey conducted at the University of British Columbia, in partnership with CMHA, found that nearly 40% of Canadians feel their mental health has worsened since the onset of COVID-19—some more than others.1 The pandemic has disproportionately impacted the mental health of already underserved populations such as low income residents, older adults, and people already experiencing health and social inequities.2 People struggling with their mental health prior to the pandemic are twice as likely to have harmed themselves, and three times more likely to have thoughts of suicide. Still, many people are not accessing in-person or virtual mental health care.3
In addition, recent statistics reveal the highest monthly numbers of overdose deaths ever recorded within the province.4 The toxic illicit drug supply has fueled a sustained increase in deaths for over four years and now the added pressures of COVID-19 have led to overdose rates increasing month-on-month.
The economic recovery of the province is tied to the mental wellness of its population. Research suggests that a 1% rise in the unemployment rate increases risk of suicide and other substance use-related deaths by 2.8%.5
In the lead up to the election, British Columbians are urged to visit getloudbc.ca to learn more about CMHA BC’s proposed policy actions, as well as register to attend a virtual candidates forum and hear directly from political parties on issues related to mental health prior to the election.
About the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
CMHA is Canada’s most established mental health charity and the nation-wide leader and champion for mental health. CMHA helps people access the resources they need to maintain and improve mental health, build resilience, and support recovery from mental illness. Each year in BC alone, CMHA serves more than 100,000 people all across the province. For mental health and substance use information and resources visit www.cmha.bc.ca
Communications Coordinator – Media, CMHA BC Division
P: 604-688-3234 ext. 6326
- Jenkins, E., Gadermann, A., & McAuliffe, C. (2020). COVID-19 effects on the mental health of vulnerable populations. Canadian Mental Health Association, University of British Columbia, maru/ matchbox, Mental Health Foundation, the agenda collaborative. Retrieved from: https://cmha.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/EN_UBC-CMHA-COVID19-Report-FINAL.pdf
- Armitage, R., & Nellums, L.B. (May 2020). COVID-19 and the consequences of isolating the elderly. Lancet Public Health, 5(5): e256.
- See note 1, Jenkins, E., Gadermann, A., & McAuliffe, C.
- BC Coroners Service. (August 2020). Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths in BC: January 1, 2010 – August 31, 2020. Retrieved from: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/birth-adoption-death-marriage-and-divorce/deaths/coroners-service/statistical/illicit-drug.pdf
- Kneebone, R. (September 2019). Social Policy Trends: Suicide and the Economy. University of Calgary School of Public Policy. Retrieved from: https://www.policyschool.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Social-Policy-Trends-Suicide-Trends-September-2019-FINAL.pdf