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COVID-19 pandemic increases demand on CMHA


by Adam Gault

As the continued lockdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic near the three-month mark, many in Windsor-Essex County are struggling with a variety of mental health issues.

The Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) Windsor branch has reported a near doubling in the amount of crisis calls they received in April of this year, recording 1049 calls, versus the 577 in April of 2019.

The continued strain of the pandemic has led to an increase in depression and addiction issues across the region, with rising accidental overdoses impacting a number of individuals.

“Just recently, there was a significant amount of overdoses in one weekend in Windsor-Essex County,” CMHA Windsor Director of Communications and Mental Health Promotion, Kim Willi, explained. “It’s addictions, depression, anxiety, stress. I think it’s across the board where we’re seeing increases.”

While now just beginning to resume select face-to-face services, staff members at the CMHA have been committed to providing the people of Windsor-Essex with telephone support over the last several months. As well, several new innovative ways were created to engage with their clients, including the new Mental Health and Addiction Urgent Care Centre, which hopes to alleviate the strain on emergency rooms for the duration of the pandemic.

“This was introduced in early April as a way to divert people from going the hospital and emergency room,” Willis said. “We certainly don’t want people not to go to the hospital when it’s necessary. We know that historically, there have been people experiencing mental health crisis, and addiction crisis, and they go to the emergency room because there’s nowhere else to go.”

Through a partnership with Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, clients will be assisted with a multidisciplinary healthcare team in a face-to-face setting at the Urgent Care Centre located at CMHA’s Windsor office location at 1400 Windsor Ave.

In addition, CMHA has deployed a Pandemic Response Therapist, a specialist who is able to speak to clients via telephone regarding heightened anxiety, depression, and grief as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Overall, we know that mental health has been really affected,” Willis explained, adding that keeping a daily routine and having personal goals are important during the lockdown. “Even for the most healthy people it’s been a challenging time.”

As a resource-based service, the CMHA has also been providing online seminars and podcasts designed to educate and communicate the importance in addressing mental health, as well as the importance in open communication and discussion when it comes to dealing with these issues.

“I think now more than ever, it’s so important that we keep connected and use whatever means we can, whether through phone or technology, to stay in contact with our family and our friends,” Willis explained. “We’ve all had good days and bad days through this, and we need to share that, so we’re not alone in dealing with this.”

A full breakdown of CMHA’s services can be found online at windsoressex.cmha.ca CMHA’s 24-hour crisis line can be reached at (519) 973-4435

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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