For the past 70 years, the purpose of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s #MentalHealthWeek has always been about awareness; encouraging individual Canadians to think about their own mental health and that of their loved ones and community; and to advocate for improved, fair, and equitable access to mental health services for all.
As mental health awareness has rightfully stepped toward the forefront of the Canadian consciousness lately (partly due to the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadians’ mental health), this year from May 3 to 9, branches of the CMHA and friends across the country have been asking individuals to put their feelings front and centre — whatever those feelings happen to be — then to #GetReal about how they feel and take the necessary steps to connect with help, if needed.
As an incredibly successful Mental Health Week draws to a close, we at the Ottawa branch of the CMHA would like to point the spotlight in a slightly different direction to cap the week off. As some readers may be aware, our agency doesn’t just focus on mental health awareness in the public sphere. In fact, most of our work happens entirely behind the scenes. Our primary objective is the delivery of mental health services and case management to individuals in our local community experiencing severe and persistent mental illness in addition to substance use and/or chronic homelessness.
As you can imagine, COVID-19 has had a disruptive effect on this type of work, but our organization has rolled with the punches of the pandemic and our clients have received uninterrupted service since everything changed more than one year ago. Indeed, the pandemic presented disruption, but we didn’t allow for any interruption.
As such, we would like to take a moment to reflect on the year it has been and use the platform afforded to us by Mental Health Week 2021 as an opportunity to thank our staff, clients, partners, community, and our funders for weathering the storm together — and to shine some of the awareness on our staff and clients for the perseverance, adaptation, and innovation they have demonstrated against challenging circumstances.
Speaking of innovation, our agency met the moment with the help of our friends. Our partnership with OnCall Health allowed us to pivot quickly and successfully to providing safe and secure virtual care to our clients when meeting face to face was clearly not an option. We could not have done it without the United Way East Ontario, whose Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF) allowed us to invest in virtual care and onboard it agencywide in efforts to continue to support our clients.
If we can take away a bit of positivity from all the physical distance we’ve put between ourselves and others since the pandemic started, it is the discovery of the many possibilities afforded to us by virtual care. We will continue to give our clients the option of meeting with their worker or group virtually well after the pandemic has ended. Maybe the flexibility allowed by virtual care will even help reduce overall wait times in mental health care, so more people have access to the services all Canadians deserve.
Now, if you haven’t already, it’s not too late to visit https://www.mentalhealthweek.ca and #GetReal about how YOU feel.