Local mental health crisis line fields 6,000 calls a month

The Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington now gets about 6,000 calls every month to its mental health crisis line. That's up from about 5,000 a month before the pandemic.

Anxiety, depression, COVID stress driving calls to local mental health crisis line

The Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington now gets about 6,000 calls every month to its mental health crisis line. (Shutterstock /

Last summer, many people in Waterloo region and Wellington County hit a wall with their mental health.

Between June and July, calls to a local mental health crisis line climbed quickly from about 170 every day to about 200

Six months later, the need for mental health supports continues.

The Canadian Mental Health Association's Here 24/7 line is still getting about 200 calls a day. Often, those calls are coming from people dealing with increasingly complicated mental health troubles, says Jeff Stanlick, acting director of services with the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo-Wellington (CMHA WW). 

"Where somebody may have called us before with anxiety or depression, we now add in the COVID-related stress, hopelessness, isolation and oftentimes substance use," Stanlick said.

The heightened demand adds up to about 6,000 calls a month — up from the historical average of about 5,000, said Stanlick.

Difficult time of year

"This time of year is a tough time of year for people outside of a pandemic, as you can imagine," he said. "So when you throw in the added stresses of COVID, it becomes quite unbearable for many people."  

In some ways, Stanlick said, the growing number of calls is a good thing. It means people are getting more comfortable reaching out and asking for the help they need.

But, he said, it also highlights the fact that more resources are needed to help people with their long-term mental health. When people can get help on an ongoing basis, it means they're less likely to find themselves in a moment of crisis, he said. 

'Extensive' wait lists

"The reality is that there continues to be extensive wait lists," said Stanlick, noting about 3,500 people are waiting for CMHA's addictions or mental health care in Waterloo region and Wellington County.

These in-demand services run the gamut from community psychiatry to dialectical behavioural therapy, supportive housing to eating disorder treatment, he said.

"Pandemic or not, it's a lot of people waiting for service," he said.

Stanlick said more funding is key to expanding these programs and taking people off that wait list. 

CBC News reached out to the Ministry of Health to ask if any additional funding for local mental health services is on the horizon.

In the meantime, Stanlick encourages anyone who needs help with their mental health to reach out for it. That could mean calling Here 24/7, using their Employee Assistance Program if they have one, or checking in with friends and family.

"It's about supporting our family, our friends, our neighbours, and just watching out for each other to see how everyone is doing."

If you are in crisis or wish to discuss whether CMHA has the right service for you, call Here 24/7: 1-844-437-3247 (HERE 247). Kids Help Phone can be reached at 1-800-668-6868 or by text at 686868. 


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