Thunder Bay

Mental health during pandemic a 'huge concern': health minister

Canada’s health minister says the mental health of Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a “huge concern,” and she's encouraging anyone struggling to make use of a series of free mental health tools provided by the federal government.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday the mental health of Canadians during the pandemic is a "huge concern" for the federal government. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Canada's health minister says the mental health of Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a "huge concern," and she's encouraging anyone struggling to make use of a series of free mental health tools provided by the federal government.

CBC reported earlier this week that admissions at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre's adult and forensic mental health wards have surged in the last six weeks, with those admitted experiencing symptoms that are more severe than usual.

And federal health minister Patty Hajdu said the issue isn't confined to Thunder Bay.

"It's a huge concern for me, and for our government," Hajdu said on Friday. "We knew that this would be an issue for Canadians, that people would struggle with increasing depression, anxiety, all the fear and worry, the economic disruption."

"We knew this from previous experiences with outbreaks, but of course watching what was happening around the world."

The federal government, Hajdu said, is offering a number of free mental health tools to Canadians.

The tools can be accessed online, and include free access to mental health professionals, self-guided mental health courses, and other resources.

"This is a completely normal struggle in such difficult times," Hajdu said.

Another concern is substance use, with more people seeking help with addictions.

Hajdu said an example is the number of opioid overdoses, which has been increasing across Canada.

"Our government has been very aggressive on a drug policy, trying to ensure that we have a full complement of supports for people who use substances, including a range of harm reduction tools," she said. "The thing, I think, that can help is community programs at the ground level, that do work with people who use substances, that do provide safer solutions."

Hajdu said the federal government is providing funding to those community programs; the funding, she said, is "extremely important."

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