Not being able to go to a concert, or see your favourite sports team play in person, or go out for dinner with friends, or enjoy a warm hug are some of the many stressors that have negatively affected people’s mental health during the pandemic.
Few would disagree with Sheila Malcolmson, B.C.’s minister of mental health and addictions, that “COVID has made everything worse.”
Malcolmson was the guest speaker Tuesday during a digital “town hall” meeting hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade.
“Early in the pandemic we saw such a strong increase in demand for mental health supports. It has not slowed,” she noted.
“More and more, as people are struggling, more and more people are reaching out for help, which is good. Workplaces play such a crucial role in promoting and maintaining positive mental health because this psychological health and safety in the work place aren’t just nice to have, they’re critical for workers and for employers alike. And they’re essential to a healthy province and a thriving economy.”
Malcolmson said last week the government launched a digital “hub” for workplace mental health that will grow into an “educational platform” that will provide a “range of tools” to help address common workplace concerns like harassment, COVID-19 exposure, anxiety, and depression.
She said it’s based on a program, Caring for Caregivers, that the government set up for long-term healthcare workers a year ago.
Malcolmson also noted that the overdose crisis on Wednesday will enter its sixth year of officially being declared a public health emergency in B.C. “And these crises are not siloed from each other. COVID-19 has been particularly hard on people who use drugs, and their families, and Lower Mainland communities have been the visible epicentre.”
More than 23,000 people in B.C. are receiving medication to treat opioid addiction, she said. The provincial government is working with the federal government to de-criminalize the possession of small amounts of controlled substances to help reduce stigma and reduce barriers that discourage people from asking for help, Malcolmson added.
“Helping remove this stigma will help save lives,” she said. “Please reach out for help if you need it.”
The minister noted the government opened an urgent response centre in Surrey – the first in B.C. – that is focused particularly on addictions and mental health.