Ontario doctors predicting huge demand for mental health services post pandemic

 

With a vaccine now available for Canadians (although delays are impacting both the provincial and federal timeline of vaccinations), many Ontario doctors are looking forward to a post-pandemic Ontario.

Unfortunately, according to the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), the future looks bleak.

According to a release from the OMA, Ontarians sought more mental health care from their doctors, for issues other than substance abuse, from March to December 2020 than for the same period in 2019.

Additionally, after the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, mental illness diagnoses persisted for six years after the pandemic had ended.

Further, many people who were forced to isolate or quarantine during SARS showed they experienced post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after the ordeal.

“This past year has been exceptionally, unprecedentedly, stressful. Ontarians worried about contracting COVID-19 or having a loved one do so; about finances and job security; about their children and parents tolerating the loneliness and isolation. To make matters worse, we did so without our usual coping mechanisms,” Samantha Hill, president of the OMA, said in the release.

“We have been unable to hug each other, to surround ourselves with friends and family or to ‘get away.’ It’s been harder than usual to go to the gym, to access psychological therapy and even buy groceries. Prolonged stress like this taxes our mental and physical health. The resulting need for mental health services further increases the pandemic deficit of health care," she continued.

Moreover, based on available data, Canadians' mental health has declined steeply as the pandemic has dragged on--the number of visits to physicians for major and other mental health conditions was nearly the same from May to July 2020, but there was an 8-per-cent increase in major mental health visits and an almost 12-per-cent increase in other mental health visits from August to December 2020.

“Ontario’s doctors will continue to work with the government to provide the mental health and addiction supports needed for both patients and health-care workers,” Allan O’Dette, CEO of the OMA, said in the same release.

“The stronger our overall health-care system is, the better able we are to look after all aspects of our own and our community’s well-being," he continued.

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