Mental health help line sees 20 per cent jump in calls this year

Calls for mental health and addiction supports have increased by 20 per cent in over the past year, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington.

CMHA Waterloo Wellington says 5,500 people called help line every month since May

CMHA W-W's service line has been receiving around 5,500 calls a month since May, up from 4,500 calls earlier in the year. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Calls for mental health and addiction supports have increased by 20 per cent in over the past year, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington.

The organization says since May, it has been receiving about 5,500 calls each month to its Here 24/7 service line. That's up from 4,500 calls earlier in the year. 

"At first, we thought maybe it was just a spike," said Brook Young, senior director of services. "But it's been fairly consistent for the last few months."

She told CBC News it's hard to say why the number of calls has increased, but thinks it may have to do with the number of people struggling with opioid addiction and with the attention media has been giving addiction and mental health. 

3K people waiting for help

"Our challenge on the other end, though, is how do we continue to meet the demand," she said. 

Although Here 24/7 staff are managing to answer the calls coming in — with only a five second wait according to a CMHA press release — the high volume of calls is creating long waiting lists for services.

In Waterloo region and Wellington County, there are around 3,000 people waiting for mental health or addiction services funded by the Local Health Integration Network. 

Young says those individuals are waiting for everything from individual counselling to a psychiatric assessment to longer-term residential addiction treatment. 

Need an increase in funding

Depending on where they live and what services they are waiting for, their wait could be as short as a week to as long as multiple years. 

"Our service providers are working as hard and as fast as they can, but it's hard to keep up," Young said. 

Although they are seeing an increase in need, she said they haven't seen a significant increase in government funding to meet that need. 

"We're talking with our funders daily," she said. "We're looking towards innovative partnerships, talking with local corporations about how might we do something differently to make sure folks are connected. I think it's going to be an ongoing challenge in the province of Ontario, for sure."

At a time when the provincial government is showing signs of fiscal restraint, she said agencies are "all waiting and seeing what that looks like for us."

The Here 24/7 service line can be reached by calling 1-844-HERE-247.

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