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More mental health services and awareness needed

By Tara Clow May 2, 2023 | 1:50 PM

Mental health is now a common concern, more than ever before, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association of New Brunswick.

Many are dealing with feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression.

Spokesperson Kristen Barnes says, “One of the things that we’re advocating for right now is to promote universal access to mental health for all people. That continues to be something that we see as a need across Canada and in many places of the world. Just like we have a physical health care system. If we break a leg, we can go and get help for it under Medicare, but if we’re struggling with our mind or our mental health that’s not something we can go get cared for. We pride ourselves on a universal health care system in Canada and we should have equal rights to getting support for mental health just like our physical health.”

Barnes says about 37 percent of Canadians have said their mental health worsened through the pandemic.

“When we look at the pandemic, we were forced to talk about loneliness and isolation and distancing which happened during the pandemic. It also changed our routine, our social connections, our relationships and the way we were able to connect. There was a lot of grief, not only the people that we lost, but also just in general and in terms of grief of our routines The pandemic certainly has created a shift and an evolution in terms of our mental health. The CMHA actually served or reached about triple the amount of people that we normally had been serving prior to the pandemic,” Barnes adds.

When it comes to the demographics of those affected by mental health, Barnes says in the pandemic, they saw an increased need amongst vulnerable populations and youth.

“In the year 2020, for example, about a quarter of hospitalizations for children and youth between the ages of five and 24 were actually mental health related. So, we saw an increase in needs in different areas for different people,”

The CMHA offers many programs and workshops in person and online for anyone wanting to learn more about mental health, which Barnes says is a stepping stone towards learning to cope and learn what resources are needed.

“We have lots of free online and in-person workshops or educational engaging sessions. We also have an online well-being Learning Center that people can access through our website. We also offer self-help and therapeutic-based support groups. Those are offered free of charge. We also have a Bounce Back program, which offers one on one free account coaching to anybody experiencing any type of mental health concerns such as low to moderate depression, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, feeling distressed, struggling with self-confidence. or anything like that,” Barnes explained.

She says the key is to reach out and ask what services are available and where to find them.

Barnes adds that the system isn’t perfect though. She says the first door to the mental health system shouldn’t be through an Emergency Room.

“When we look at the investment that is put into mental health compared to physical health, there’s not enough preventative or upstream services that are available. There are a lot of community organizations, there are mental health and addiction services and also the formal system, but there are not enough services. Unfortunately, right now, we are seeing people accessing their first order of service through the ER because we haven’t been able to provide services leading up to that. That’s really what we are trying to focus on right now, becoming more of an upstream preventative and supportive system instead of intervening in crisis,” Barnes says.


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