2020 was by no means an easy year for our community, but many friends, people like you, were there to help spread hope through a time of despair. And we are so grateful for that support. But I have to tell you:
The mental health impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic will be long lasting. We are living through a collective trauma. And that’s what we have to remember; we’re going through this together.
It’s no secret this global pandemic has had a tremendous impact on everyone. Whether from isolation, being distant from friends and family, or worse - job loss or the loss of a loved one - this has led to some unsettling consequences. Opioid use has increased dramatically. Homelessness has increased in our community. Many people are facing increased levels of anxiety, depression and insomnia.
As Ottawa’s premier mental healthcare provider, The Royal is a leader in telemedicine and has been for over 10 years, but shifting all our programs to online has had its challenges. Never before has the ability to connect virtually been more important. In fact, when we opened our temporary C-PROMPT Clinic in April 2020 to meet urgent mental health care needs while other services in the region were closed or scaled back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we received over 850 referrals (in its 13 weeks of operation)! 90 per cent of our services were provided through virtual care (via telemedicine).
While we’ve met these challenges head on, we need to continue to create new solutions, discover new treatments, and destigmatize mental illness so that more people feel secure enough to reach out if they need help. But to meet all these new, ever-changing challenges, we need caring supporters like you.
With the increased number of people in need, I (and many other staff members at The Royal) have felt more personal and professional pressure than ever before. We know so many people in our community are feeling immeasurable despair at this time.
Whether you are struggling, a friend, neighbour or loved one, please know that you do not need to suffer in silence. Mental illness is like any other illness and needs to be treated as such. As a supporter and mental health advocate, you can help people feel more comfortable reaching out to get the treatment they need and deserve.
We’re not out of the woods yet. COVID-19 is still as much a threat to our mental health as it is our physical health. We need your help to see our community through this year, while we create access, hope and explore new possibilities for the future of mental healthcare.
I wish you and your loved ones health and safety this new year.