The Canadian Mental Health Association has seen a significant increase in demand for mental health and addiction services over the last two years.

“It’s devastating for people to sit on a waiting list for years at a time in some circumstances,” said Helen Fishburn, CEO of CMHA Waterloo Wellington.

There are more than 3,670 people locally on a waitlist for support and demand is only growing. Fishburn said crisis calls have also increased by 40 per cent compared to pre-pandemic times.

“There were 3,500 to 4,000 calls per month,” said Fishburn. “Now the average is anywhere from about 5,500 to 6,500 calls per month.”

Fishburn attributed the increase in demand over the past two years to the pandemic.

“It doesn’t matter where you live, what your age is, what your circumstances are in life. Absolutely everyone’s life has been disrupted. People have been incredibly distressed,” she said.

Shawna Smith, a Brantford resident who is seeking a mental health counselor, said she is still recovering from the isolation during the lockdowns.

“It’s the fear of interacting with people. Before, at least I would go shopping, now I don’t even go to the store,” said Smith.

Despite already having been on a mental health service waitlist for five months, Smith said she expects to receive counseling at the earliest by next October.

“It’s so long, it’s hard,” said Smith. “There definitely needs to be more support and services. There’s not enough, there’s not even close to being enough.”

The lack of services and long wait times have prompted some to reconsider counseling entirely.

“I have been through it so much and the process is so frustrating. I’m just exhausted from it all,” said Mandi Harper, a Brantford resident.

The CMHA is calling on the province for an eight per cent funding increase. Locally, that’s about $2.65-million to cover operation costs, hire additional staff and increase services in areas that are not already targeted.

“We all need to be vigilant and take care of each other,” said Fishburn, “the more we can share, the more we can talk to each other, the more we can normalize that mental health is health.”


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