If you are in distress, you can text WELLNESS to 741741 at any time. If it is an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency department.

From Mental Health Commission of Canada and Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

A series of Leger national surveys conducted during COVID-19 found that 2SLGBTQ+ communities across Canada have been disproportionately impacted by pandemic-related substance use and other mental health issues. Members of those communities reported having symptoms of anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide at rates far higher than the general population. Only one in five 2SLGBTQ+ racialized respondents reported excellent or very good mental health.

The report also found that about 30 per cent of 2SLGBTQ+ respondents who consume alcohol reported increased consumption since the start of the pandemic, a rate 50 per cent higher than among non-2SLGBTQ+ respondents. About 20 per cent of 2SLGBTQ+ respondents who use cannabis reported using more, double the rate among non-2SLGBTQ+ respondents.

2SLGBTQ+ youth reported being particularly impacted in terms of mental health and substance use. The polling found 60 per cent of 2SLGBTQ+ youth (16-24) reported moderate to severe anxiety symptoms during the pandemic; about 40 per cent reported symptoms of depression; and almost 30 per cent reported thoughts of suicide since the start of the pandemic.

“We are sharing this report as Pride celebrations occur this summer to acknowledge that 2SLGBTQ+ communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to increases in social, political, and economic inequities. However, we must take pride in knowing that 2SLGBTQ+ communities are resilient, strong, hopeful, accepting, and inclusive.” — Michel Rodrigue, president and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada

These findings highlight the importance of continued investments in creating culturally safe environments and practices in substance use and mental health services and supports for 2SLGBTQ+ communities. It also underscores the need to build capacity and competency, and to address barriers to access.” — Rita Notarandrea, CEO, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Additional findings:

  • 1 in 4 (24%) 2SLGBTQ+ respondents reported excellent/very good mental health during the pandemic, compared to nearly half of non-2SLGBTQ+ respondents (43%).
  • Almost half (46%) of 2SLGBTQ+ respondents reported moderate-to-severe anxiety symptoms, compared to just under a quarter (22%) of non-2SLGBTQ+ respondents.
  • Finances were cited as the top barrier for accessing both mental health and substance use services, and overall, 2SLGBTQ+ faced more barriers than non-2SLBTQ+ respondents in accessing mental health services.
  • 30% of all 2SLGBTQ+ respondents and 40% of all 2SLBTQ+ youth reported accessing virtual mental health services since the start of the pandemic; fewer reported accessing in-person services.

The MHCC and CCSA tracked the relationship between mental health and substance use through Leger polls conducted during the pandemic.

On August 3, 2022, an expert panel will discuss the impacts of the pandemic on 2SLGBTQ+ communities mental health and substance use. For more information, click here.

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From Mental Health Commission of Canada 

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) marks this year’s Mental Health Week (May 2 to 8) with a salute to workers and employers across the country, who have shown empathy and resilience throughout the shared experience of a historic mass disruption to their workplace.

The MHCC wishes to especially highlight and acknowledge the contributions of front-line workers, including those in health care who may not have had the privilege of working from home, in hybrid or remote environments. We can continue to share our collective empathy for health care workers by protecting and supporting their psychological safety.

Leading with empathy and wellness in a hybrid work environment

At the same time, we recognize that workers and employers, in additional sectors, face emerging and unique challenges in returning to their traditional workplaces or “settling into” hybrid arrangements.  

35% of all employed Canadians indicate they are burned out. One in five workers feel they are in crisis or have concerns about their ability to cope. We also know that 30 per cent of short- and long-term disability claims are due to mental health problems and illnesses.

Such findings are what motivated our workplace mental health experts help organizations safeguard their employees’ well-being by prioritizing psychological health and safety — whether in the office, at home, or a combination of both with our new Manager’s Toolkit: Leading in a Hybrid Work Environment

Just like this year’s Mental Health Week theme, empathy is the foundation of this toolkit. It offers practical examples of how to be compassionate during difficult conversations and provides useful tools for navigating the new hybrid workplace. It is important that managers help employees recognize the signs of declining mental health and create workplaces where they can feel safe to speak up or at least know where to get help.

The MHCC is committed to helping employers create and maintain mentally healthy workplaces by providing the tools, information, and supports to ensure that every person in Canada can go to work knowing their organization recognizes the importance of psychological health and safety in the workplace.

Michel Rodrigue
President and CEO

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From Mental Health Commission of Canada

On behalf of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), I commend Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland for including budget measures to improve mental health and substance use health for all people in Canada. These investments come at a critical time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased mental health and substance use health needs across the population. These impacts have been disproportionate, it is gratifying to see today’s budget take a step forward to promote mental health and well-being for people facing housing insecurity and for priority populations (Indigenous; African, Caribbean, and Black; and our 2SLGBTQ+ communities).

The MHCC also welcomes the federal government’s renewed commitment to the provinces and territories by expanding targeted mental health transfers, developing national mental health standards, and continuing to enhance the Wellness Together Canada portal. These strong commitments recognize that mental health is health. In addition, enhanced funding for harm reduction, treatment, and prevention will help reduce the tragic high rates of opioid-related deaths across Canada.    

Increased access to stable, appropriate, and affordable housing is a direct investment in our overall mental health. For people living with a mental illness, access to stable housing is key to their recovery. Investing in rapid housing, in programs to end chronic homelessness, and in targeted housing for women will also promote the well-being of priority populations.   

As well, we applaud the $228 million announced today to sustain trauma-informed, culturally appropriate, Indigenous-led services to improve mental wellness and further the development of a distinctions-based mental health and wellness strategy.

We also want to acknowledge important investments in research to improve treatment and outcomes for people living with dementia, accelerate innovations in brain health and aging, and address the mental health impacts these issues have on families and caregivers. 

Leger polling, commissioned by the MHCC and Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, has found that people’s mental health and substance use health declined significantly early on in the pandemic and has since remained at levels that are concerning. The pandemic continues to cast a stark light on the urgency of addressing the growing mental health and substance use challenges people across Canada are facing.

Today’s investments reveal that the federal government is moving forward in its efforts to address long-standing gaps in our country’s patchwork of mental health and substance use health services.

Michel Rodrigue
President and CEO

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From Mental Health Commission of Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the mental health and substance use needs of people living in rural and remote communities and their access to adequate and timely services and supports.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Rural and Remote Mental Health and Substance Use, a collaboration with the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and the University of British Columbia, Okanagan (UBCO), highlights the unique needs of rural and remote communities and their mental health and substance use systems.

Key findings on the increased pressures these communities are facing include the following:

  • Stigma and its effect on help seeking. Rural and remote communities often experience higher levels of stigma and increased privacy concerns when reaching out for formal mental health and substance use services and peer supports.
  • A toxic drug supply. The pandemic has coincided with an increase in the toxic drug supply and rising rates of opioid-related deaths across Canada. Some rural and remote communities have felt their impacts disproportionately.
  • Access to services and supports. Despite advances in virtual mental health and substance use services for rural and remote communities, barriers in access to services (especially primary care) remain due to a growing digital divide and a lack of culturally relevant care.

According to MHCC policy director Dr. Mary Bartram, “COVID-19 and the toxic drug crisis continue to have substantial and longer-lasting impacts on mental health and substance use for rural and remote communities. At the same time, and while there have been advances in care, services and supports remain increasingly stretched thin.”

The pandemic’s challenge to the resources, capacity, and solidarity of rural and remote communities has also reinforced the importance of resilience, something highlighted in a case study (outlined in the policy brief) with the community of Princeton, B.C. and the Princeton Community Health Table.

“Our partnership with the MHCC demonstrates national recognition of the ongoing inequities in rural and remote areas,” said Lauren Airth, a harm reduction lead at UBCO.

“Community members from rural and remote areas have significant, first-hand experience with these inequities, she added, “and by partnering with the MHCC we’re seeing these experiences shared on a platform where we hope additional partnerships and innovative solutions can be expanded.”

Today, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. ET (10-11:30 a.m. PT), representatives from UBCO, the MHCC, and the Rural Coordination Centre of B.C. will continue the conversation on COVID-19, mental health, and substance use in rural and remote communities.

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From Mental Health Commission of Canada

This Black Mental Health Day, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) highlights a need for greater knowledge of cannabis use and mental health for Black communities in Canada.

To discuss cannabis use and mental health in Black communities is to discuss systemic racism and related structural issues in Canadian society.

After legalization there were many gaps in cannabis use and mental health research. Afro Cannada Budsistas co-founder Khadisha Thornhill points out how researchers forgot “marginalized and racialized communities most affected by the enforcement of its prohibition, especially with regard to education and de-programming negative stigma.”

Thornhill believes gaps are slowly being closed with efforts to empower communities and to better understand cannabis and mental health. “It is necessary to challenge the historical distrust of government and policing efforts to pave the way for Black and Indigenous communities to finally have their voices and lived experiences heard and amplified.”

The Mental Health Commission of Canada report, Amplifying Black Experiences in Cannabis and Mental Health Research, underscores the need to develop meaningful knowledge about mental health, cannabis, and Black communities, to create research in collaboration with these communities, not without them, and engage Black communities as equal partners.

“This work marks an important step, notably its inclusion of Black perspectives on issues that have affected Black communities for decades,” said Dr. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto. “It not only demonstrates what knowledge we need to develop, but also how that needs to be done: by using people’s first-hand experience and ensuring that Black communities are equal partners in all aspects of research, education, and policy.”

 Themes that emerged

  • There is no single Black community — there are many.
  • The relationship between cannabis use and mental health in Black communities is intertwined with systemic racism, structural violence, and traumas related to criminalization and stigmatization.
  • There is little research or credible public information on cannabis or its relationship to mental health — either generally or for Black people.
  • Canada needs to take a race-based and intersectional approach to data on cannabis and mental health.

“This Black Mental Health Day the MHCC highlights the need to study cannabis in the proper cultural context, to empower Black researchers, and to validate personal and lived experience of cannabis use for mental health,” affirmed Ed Mantler, MHCC vice-president of programs and priorities.

Quick Facts

  • In 2018, the MHCC received funding from Health Canada to explore the relationship between cannabis and mental health.
  • Between December 2020 and April 2021, the MHCC hosted a series of virtual dialogues that explored challenges and opportunities in areas of mental health and cannabis in Canada’s Black communities.
  • The report’s key findings and recommendations will be further discussed during a virtual panel discussion Moderated by Dr. Owusu-Bempah.

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From Mental Health Commission of Canada

On behalf of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) board of directors, executive leadership team, and staff, congratulations to all 338 MPs elected to represent your constituencies in Ottawa during the 44th Parliament. My thanks also go out to those MPs not re-elected for their loyal service to their constituents.

In these unprecedented times, addressing the mental health and substance use needs of people in Canada has never been more pressing. We know that rates of depression and anxiety have increased across the board, and isolation measures have weighed heavily on those who were living with mental illness or problematic substance use prior to COVID-19. To achieve parity between mental and physical health, we need all hands on deck.

As the pan-Canadian voice on mental health, the MHCC is available to all MPs wishing to gain knowledge, access resources, or become more involved in mental health advocacy. If the topic is new to you, or to your staff, our COVID-19 resource hub is a great place to start. The hub includes tip sheets on everything from choosing mental health resources wisely to talking to someone in crisis, along with lots of other practical information.

Another simple way to become more engaged as a mental health champion is familiarizing yourself with non-stigmatizing language so we can all contribute to meaningful discussions. The MHCC’s language matters guide is a handy tool for anyone communicating on the topic.

Finally, as you face the pressures of balancing the demands of your role with the realities of family life during this challenging period, we urge you to reach out for wellness supports, when and where you need them. Wellness Together Canada, a federally funded portal the MHCC is proud be involved in, hosts a variety of mental health and substance use resources that can be accessed free of charge.

There isn’t a single community in this country untouched by mental illness, problematic substance use, and suicide, just as there isn’t anyone who doesn’t need to promote and protect their mental health — and that includes MPs, especially during this time of transition. As your partner in mental health and wellness, we are here to help.

Michel Rodrigue
President and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada

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From Mental Health Commission of Canada

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) is a proud supporter of Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), a national public education campaign coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health.

By now, the oft-repeated statistic that one in five people will experience a mental health problem or illness each year is a familiar clarion call. But it rings hollow if we fail to address the needs of people living with the most serious mental illnesses. While mental health in a broad sense has emerged from the shadows (at last), the stories and experiences of those with the most profound needs remain shrouded, almost to the point of invisibility.

The MHCC’s recent policy research on the topic shows that people with serious mental illness were not only at higher risk of poorer health outcomes before the pandemic, it underscores how their needs have continued to take a back seat to other priorities as it spread.

For many people living with serious mental illness, maintaining wellness requires stability and continuity of care. This may include access to face-to-face services, like day programs, psychotherapy, visits with a family doctor or psychiatrist, and ongoing, reliable peer support. Without warning, COVID pulled the rug out from under an already vulnerable group, throwing these effectively calibrated care plans off-kilter.

The pivot to virtual care came with and was accelerated by the pandemic. Yet, while the services suit the needs of many, they were never intended to be a one-size-fits-all arrangement. Virtual care can be a stumbling block for those without access to broadband or a lack comfort with technology, which means that it’s unevenly used among people with serious mental illness. Thankfully, this isn’t a challenge without solutions.

We must fund researchers to engage with people living with serious mental illness to investigate how they were affected by the pandemic — specifically, how access to high-intensity services was disrupted in a context of constant under-resourcing. Peer support groups could be an invaluable source of information to collect and share stories, like those published by Our Voice in New Brunswick.

We also need to put better plans in place for future disruptive events like the pandemic, with guidelines for funding uninterrupted access to person-centred care.

Most importantly, when we begin to build a better system of care, we need people with lived experience working alongside us to address gaps in virtual care through a continuum of community-based mental health services.

We simply can’t build such a system without being guided by the voices of people living with serious mental illness. This MIAW week, let’s remind ourselves to listen.

Michel Rodrigue
President and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada

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From Mental Health Commission of Canada

 Today marks the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a day we have traditionally observed as Orange Shirt Day — a grass-roots initiative begun by residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad.

As a nation, we are grappling with a collective reckoning. The uncovering of unmarked graves at former residential schools is a tragic reminder of the deliberate, assimilationist policies that removed Indigenous children from their families.

While honoring the survivors of residential schools was among the 94 Calls to Action put forward by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, remembrance without action rings hollow. Today, there are many opportunities, both virtual and in-person with distancing measures, to become more involved. Our offices at the Mental Health Commission of Canada will be closed as we desire and expect participation from our staff.

To acknowledge the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, consider researching the Indigenous history of your region, listening to music by Indigenous artists, or wearing an orange shirt to honour survivors of residential schools and those who never made it home.

If this day is difficult for you, a 24-hour National Indian Residential School Crisis Line offering support services and crisis referrals is available at 1-866-925-4419 for former residential school students and their families. Those affected can also call the Hope for Wellness line at 1-855-242-3310, the Talk 4 Healing line at 1-855-554-HEAL, or text WELLNESS to 741741 at any time.

Reconciliation, by its very nature, requires us to walk an uncomfortable path as we become more educated and empathetic — and thus, better partners to Indigenous communities as they lead us on a new way forward, and toward a place of healing.

Michel Rodrigue
President and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada

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