COVID-19 second wave set to cause a major strain on mental health resources

MONTREAL —
Mental health services are in high demand in Quebec currently with so many people feeling the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and the seemingly endless series of lockdowns and isolation requests.

Those on the front lines say the system is overloaded, and they worry about the impact not only of this second wave but also the coming winter.

“We know that the stress and anxiety are up because of COVID-19, because of the pandemic, because of the insecurity of what’s going to happen in a second wave,” said Melissa Lutchman of Suicide Action Montreal, who says the phones have been ringing much more since April.

“Are we going to go into lockdown again? Are we not? What’s going to happen to my job? The kids in school? I think there’s just general concern,” she said.

Calls, she said, come in waves mirroring the health crisis.

They were up in the spring, tapered off in the summer, and have spiked again in the fall.

Everyone who calls gets through, but getting treatment is a lot harder.

“I know that the system is completely saturated,” said Lutchman. “I think there’s a lack of resources all around.”

The West Island Health Authority says there’s been an uptick in people looking for services since the start of the pandemic.

Waiting lists can be up to a month, which is of concern for those working in the field.

“People need social support, need to feel connected, and being deprived of contact with others is a risk factor for suicidal behaviour,” said UQAM psychology professor Brian Mishara.

Mishara said the pandemic has meant much more stress and anxiety, but also one major exception during the first wave.

“When the quarantine started, the number of young people showing up at the Montreal Children’s Hospital for suicide attempts went down dramatically, and this is typical of what has been seen elsewhere,” he said.

He said the lockdown seems to have offered some protection to the province’s youth because with school cancelled and more of them at home, they were less exposed to drugs, alcohol, bullying and the stress of school.

With classes once again running and often done in isolation, he thinks it will be a different story in the second wave.

He added that with resources strained, those who know someone who lives alone or having a hard time should check on them often.

COVID-19 second wave set to cause a major strain on mental health resources