As Mental Health Awareness Month draws to a close and we are well into a dramatic third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am hopeful our communities are gaining an understanding and empathy for the increasing numbers of those struggling with mental illness. The demand for Southlake’s mental health services has never been higher and dramatically increasing our capacity to provide leading edge mental health care close to home has never been more important.
While you no doubt understand COVID-19 has dramatically increased the need for Southlake’s mental health services, you may not be aware why that is. There are a number of contributing factors. In these unprecedented times, many people feel like their lives are upside down, that they are being negatively impacted by something that is both out of their control and no fault of their own. People are separated from those they care about most, they have lost jobs or businesses, they have economic fears, and they are afraid to leave their home. People are worried about their children, their parents, their partners. They have seen long-awaited surgeries and medical appointments canceled. Through wave after wave of the pandemic, they are feeling hopeless.
This isolation is also contributing to an increase in substance abuse and addiction in our communities. We are seeing people with addiction who were doing so well, now relapsing and others with no addiction prior to COVID-19, no family history, now addicted. The use of cocaine, opioids, vaping, and alcohol is dramatically on the rise and is contributing to increased cases of psychosis, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, delirium.
Those with pre-existing mental health and addiction issues who have complex needs and were already vulnerable are feeling high anxiety from being confined to the closed space of their homes. Some are re-experiencing long buried traumatic events from their past.
As well, Southlake communities have a large number of half-way homes, many with residents living with serious mental illness. While people in these communal living homes are not experiencing the same isolation, they are still feeling isolated. Any deviation from routine can be extremely triggering. Used to weekly in-person appointments with their case-workers, meeting instead virtually, is not alleviating their anxiety.
We are tremendously grateful for the support our communities have already provided to our Better Begins Today Campaign to build spaces that heal at Southlake for our mental health patients and their families. To date, we have raised $4.7 million, with $2.8 million still to go. Already, those funds have enabled us to open our new Mental Health Assessment Unit, and we are now building our new Adult Inpatient Unit to help 400 more patients a year. These crucial spaces represent a place of peace, dignity, and security for people to begin their healing journey.
With so much need, I can’t thank you enough for your support in helping us help people when they are at their most vulnerable. You can learn more and see our new healing spaces at www.southlake.ca/better.
Thank you again,
Dr. Gaurav Mehta
Medical Director for Inpatient Psychiatry,
Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist
Southlake Regional Health Centre