November 10, 2020, Kitchener, Ontario
Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer
COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns and restrictions have had a clear and marked impact on Canadians. The CAMH has released a paper stating that:
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global health, social and economic crisis. Over the past several months, governments around the world have responded with a series of measures to protect citizens’ physical and financial health. Some, including our federal and provincial governments in Canada, have also recognized the toll that the pandemic is taking on peoples’ mental health and have made additional resources and supports available.
As we move through the initial COVID-19 crisis and adjust to the next normal, it is imperative that we continue to focus on mental health. A recent poll found that 7 out of 10 Ontarians believe that there will be a ‘serious mental health crisis’ as a result of the pandemic. Their concerns are warranted - previous public health and economic crises were associated with serious and prolonged negative impacts on individual and collective mental health - but not entirely accurate.Canada was already in the midst of a mental health crisis prior to COVID-19.
The pandemic has both magnified and added to this crisis and highlighted how crucial mental health promotion and care are to our overall well-being. Thus, any successful approach to supporting Canadians’ mental health in the wake of COVID-19 must address the broader context of mental health care in our country and offer a long-term, multifaceted solution. In this paper, CAMH offers governments and decision-makers five recommendations that we believe will do just that. COVID-19 and mental health COVID-19 is having a negative impact on Canadians’ mental health, with many seeing their stress levels double since the onset of the pandemic.
People are struggling with fear and uncertainty about their own health and their loved ones’ health, concerns about employment and finances, and the social isolation that comes from public health measures such as quarantining and physical distancing.5 A recent poll found that 50% of Canadians reported worsening mental health since the pandemic began with many feeling worried (44%) and anxious (41%).
One in 10 Canadians polled said that their mental health had worsened ‘a lot’ as a result of COVID-19.
Similar results were found in a survey of Canadian workers, where 81% reported that the pandemic is negatively impacting their mental health, indicating a significant drop in overall worker mental health since the beginning of COVID-19.8 Substance use is also on the rise in Canada during COVID-19. A recent poll found that 25% of Canadians aged 35-54 and 21% of those aged 18-34 have increased their alcohol consumption since social distancing and selfisolation due to COVID-19 began.9 Another study found that Canadians who described their mental health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ were more likely than those with better mental health to have increased their use of alcohol, cannabis and tobacco during the early stages of the pandemic.
The negative impact of COVID-19 on Canadians’ mental health is not surprising given that previous health and economic crises have had similar effects. During the SARS outbreak of 2003, residents of Hong Kong (one of the most severely affected cities) experienced increases in sleeping problems, smoking and alcohol use. Mood disorders and post-traumatic stress symptoms were also common. A small group of Torontonians who were quarantined during SARS showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (28.9%) and depression (31.2%) shortly after the outbreak.
Several studies have linked the experience of quarantine to symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress, sometimes with long-term effects. And it is not just adults who are negatively impacted. One study found that children who had been quarantined (with their parents) had posttraumatic stress scores that were 4 times higher than children who had not been quarantined. The current and ongoing financial impacts of COVID-19 can also be expected to take a toll on mental health.”
As a result of the emotional stress of the pandemic lawyers across Canada are seeing an increase in claims which reflect the trends of the pandemic. Car accidents are becoming more serious involving higher speeds and increased rates of impaired driving. This has resulted in higher numbers of injured and dead drivers and passengers.
We are also seeing many more long-term disability claims being made with COVID-related psychological impairment being cited. Much of the stress and conflict seems to be coming from employees and managers disagreeing over leaves-of absence and accommodations resulting from COVID risk or illness or the necessity of looking after family members.
Further sources of mental health-related LTD claims include the lack of access for individuals who were seeking treatment for psychiatrists of psychologists and who now face far more limited or no access to the regular treatments. This, along with COVID has exasperated existing long-term mental health problems. While many health care professionals have resumed in person and regular sessions there is also a long backlog and wait for treatment. While telehealth sessions have greatly increased they are not meeting the demand.
Isolation, financial stress, loss of work, housing insecurity and food insecurity have increased stress on people in general and have also contributed to the over 3000% increase in individuals seeking telehealth counselling in America. At-risk populations (low-income earners, homeless individuals, those with mental health issues, and those with substance use issues) have seen even more serious impacts of the virus and COVID related stress and mental health impacts.
Other trends being seen in personal injury law include:
- More serious car accidents
- More people in each car (due to COVID restrictions on travel) which results in more injuries per car
- Injuries are occurring at higher speeds due to a lack of bumper to bumper traffic
We will cover some of these issues in more depth in the upcoming weeks.
If you or a loved one or friend are suffering from mental health problems and you need help please call your family doctor, your clergy, your existing mental healthcare professional of a helpline.
If you are afraid that someone is an immediate danger to themselves or others call 911.
For immediate crisis support text WELLNESS to 741741.