Toronto – New polling data released today indicates that more Ontarians are accessing mental health supports than at any other time during the pandemic.
The survey by Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario indicates that one in four people (24 per cent) have sought help for their mental health challenges, a significant uptick from 17 per cent last winter and nine per cent almost two years ago.
The data also shows that while people have had their ups and downs, their levels of mental health distress are similar to the start of the pandemic. This is particularly true with rates of stress, anxiety and depression.
Substance use is also roughly the same as the start of the pandemic, where one in four Ontarians are still consuming more alcohol, cannabis or tobacco.
Respondents’ outlook about the future of mental health is grim: 77 per cent, up from 69 per cent when the pandemic began, feel that Ontario is on track for a “serious mental health crisis when this is over.”
“We’ve conducted four polls during this pandemic because we wanted to get a sense of how people are doing nearly two years in,” said Camille Quenneville, CEO, CMHA Ontario. “Needless to say we’re very concerned that the numbers are going in the wrong direction and people are not improving.”
While it is a positive sign that one in four people are seeking help, the survey indicates that Ontarians are not finding the supports as effective as at the start of the pandemic.
About 65 per cent are now reporting that mental health supports are helpful, down from 77 per cent near the beginning of COVID-19.
“This is troubling as it may be an indicator that people’s mental health challenges are more complex than they might’ve thought,” said Quenneville. “Many people might be saying they’re fine but that’s not what we’re seeing in the data.”
“We will continue to monitor these trends because, as we know, mental health is a continuum and people’s moods and feelings can change with a return to normalcy,” she said.
CMHA Ontario’s fourth survey was conducted by Pollara and questioned 1,001 Ontario adults from Jan. 10-17. It carries a margin of error of ± 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
CMHA Ontario’s first poll was conducted in April 2020, the second poll in July 2020 and the third in February 2021.
Mental health and addictions support have remained available through the pandemic at CMHA branches across the province. You can find your local CMHA branch at cmha.ca/find-your-cmha.
Access and effectiveness of mental health supports
- 24 per cent of Ontarians have now sought mental health supports, up from 17 per cent last winter, 14 per cent in summer 2020, and nine per cent from spring 2020
- 43 per cent of people are finding it difficult to access mental health supports, up from 37 per cent at the start of the pandemic
- A third (29 per cent) of Ontarians who’ve accessed mental health supports say they were “not helpful,” compared to 19 per cent at the start of the pandemic
- At the start of the pandemic, 83 per cent of Ontarians reported that no one in their household tried to access support. It’s now 69 per cent
Rates of mental health issues
- Nearly half (48 per cent) of Ontarians say their mental health has worsened since the outbreak began, up from 36 per cent at the start of the pandemic
- 43 per cent of people feel their mental health is “excellent” or “very good” compared to 35 per cent last winter, 48 per cent in summer 2020 and 52 per cent from spring 2020
- Worry among the overall population about the pandemic’s impact has declined to 71 per cent from 79 per cent at the start of COVID-19
- 32 per cent of Ontarians are reporting high levels of stress and 31 per cent high levels of anxiety, the same as the start of the pandemic
- 15 per cent say they are “almost always” or “very often” depressed, up slightly from 13 per cent at the start of the COVID-19
Parents and children
- More than 60 per cent of parents say dealing with the pandemic has been difficult for their children
- 65 per cent of parents say their children have difficulty dealing with an uncertain future, up from 57 per cent a year ago
- 67 per cent of parents believe not going to school has been difficult, up from 60 per cent last year
- Nearly 80 per cent of parents believe not being able to do regular activities outside of home and not seeing friends has been difficult for children
Alcohol, cannabis, tobacco, gambling
- A quarter of Ontarians report that they are consuming more substances, roughly the same as last year
- 14 per cent of people are consuming less than before the outbreak
- Among those who are consuming more, 77 per cent are choosing alcohol; 38 per cent are using more cannabis; and 27 per cent more tobacco
- Of the quarter of Ontarians who gamble, 35 per cent are gambling more than before the pandemic and 33 per cent are gambling less
About Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario is a not-for-profit, charitable organization. We work to improve the lives of all Ontarians through leadership, collaboration and continual pursuit of excellence in community-based mental health and addictions services. Our vision is a society that embraces and invests in the mental health of all people. We are a trusted advisor to government, contributing to health systems development through policy formulation and recommendations that promote positive mental health. Our nearly 30 local CMHA branches serve more than 100,000 Ontarians each year.
For more information, contact your local Ontario CMHA branch (cmha.ca/find-your-cmha)
Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario
T: 416-977-5580, ext. 4141