New data says fewer Ontarians are seeking mental health supports during COVID-19, but services are helping those who use them

(Oshawa, May 14, 2020) – As more details emerge about the psychological impact of COVID-19, CMHA Durham is encouraging anyone who is struggling with mental health and addictions issues at this time to reach out and seek help.

The call comes as new provincial data this week showed that far fewer people with a mental health condition have been seeking formal supports since the crisis began.

In the first of three polls by Pollara Strategic Insights on behalf of Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario Division, only 13 per cent of Ontarians who identified as having a mental health condition said they’ve accessed mental health supports since the outbreak, compared to 39 per cent before the pandemic.

Further, nearly one-third (31 per cent) of those diagnosed with a mental health condition feel they do not have all the supports they need.

On the flipside, 77 per cent of those who have accessed mental health supports during the outbreak have found these supports to be helpful.

Also of interest is that 41 per cent of the general population in Ontario wish they had someone to talk to about the things that are worrying them now, and 43 per cent do not feel confident in their ability to find mental health supports.

“Our polling data suggests people don’t know where to find mental health and addictions resources or are just hesitant to reach out, but those who are reaching out and getting the help they need are being effectively supported,” said CMHA Durham CEO Linda Gallacher.

“Despite the limitations that come with physical distancing and isolation, the CMHA has found ways to continue providing support to our clients. This may be in person with the appropriate safety precautions, by phone, videoconferencing or other means,” Linda Gallacher said. “Help is still available and CMHA is here with our programs and services.”

Looking ahead, the Pollara research shows that seven out of 10 Ontarians (69 per cent) believe the province is headed for a “serious mental health crisis” as it emerges from this pandemic and nearly eight of out 10 (77 per cent) say more mental health supports will be necessary to help society.

“In order to meet an upcoming mental health crisis coming out of COVID-19, community mental health agencies need increased investment from government,” CEO Gallacher said “The province has promised $3.8 billion over 10 years for mental health and addictions service but the investment has been slow to materialize.”

Additional findings from the Pollara research about mental health and addictions:

  • While 43 per cent of Ontarians do not feel confident in their ability to find supports if they were needed, 44 per cent do.
  • The things we recommend to stay mentally healthy are taking a hit. For example, 36 per cent of Ontarians say their diet has gotten worse, while 48 per cent say exercise habits have worsened.
  • A quarter (23 per cent) of Ontarians are consuming more substances such as alcohol, tobacco or cannabis. Among those who are consuming these substances, 29 per cent have changed the time of day when they consume.
  • Despite trying to make a daily routine, 59 per cent are finding it hard to be productive while in self-isolation. This is true of those who are currently employed and those not working.
  • 29 per cent of those who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition say they’ve had issues accessing the supports they need during this time.

Pollara’s online research of 1,001 Ontario residents over 18 was conducted from April 16-23. It carries a margin of error of ± 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Two more surveys will follow in the coming months as restrictions loosen around COVID-19 and the economy continues to re-open during this unprecedented time. CMHA Ontario is looking to evaluate how Ontarians’ perceptions of their mental health are changing as they come out from the pandemic.

CMHA Durham is an essential service, we continue to provide community mental health and primary care supports in a safe secure environment.

  • Our screening station has seen 1290 individuals and directs at-risk individuals to be tested for COVID-19.
  • Our Recovery College Wellness Centre is now offering online courses in wellness planning and coping with fatigue, anyone can sign up for free at
  • Our staff provide delivery of food, medication an essential goods to clients who would otherwise be unable to access services in the community.
  • We are providing virtual case management and support services as per the direction of Ministry of Health.  The purpose of this type of service is to support physical distancing and minimizing contact with COVID19. We continue to provide high-quality care while ensuring the safety of our clients and caregivers, front-line providers, and our community.
  • We are providing medical appointments with our Nurse Practitioner Led Clinic (NPLC) for any members of the vulnerable community who does not have access to a primary care provider.
  • Our NPLC clinic continues to provide Depot injection, clozapine and specialized medication monitoring services.
  • Our onsite Bond Street Pharmacy is open Monday to Friday 9-noon and 1- 3pm
  • We are providing medical supports to Mission United, a collaboration amongst existing service providers who work with the unsheltered population in Oshawa to provide essential low-barrier services in one accessible location, delivered by trusted providers during the COVID10 Pandemic.

Read CMHA Ontario’s news release: New data shows majority of Ontarians believe mental health crisis will follow COVID-19 impact