While 84 per cent of Ontarians believe mental-health support is vital to move beyond the coronavirus pandemic, less than a third (28 per cent) feel support is easy to access, according to a new survey by the Ontario Association of Social Workers.

While more than half (54 per cent) of survey respondents said they have access to an employer-sponsored benefits plan, only 36 per cent said that plan includes coverage for mental-health supports. More than a third (38 per cent) said their mental health has been negatively impacted in the past year, with 14 per cent saying that supporting a friend or family member experiencing declining mental health has impacted their own mental health.

Read: Mental health declining for 23% of employees since start of pandemic: survey

The survey also found 21 per cent of respondents said they’ve encountered struggles with employment due to mental-health concerns over the past year, including leaving their job (nine per cent), taking a short-term leave of absence from their job (five per cent), struggling to find employment (four per cent) or resigning from their job (three per cent) due to a mental-health concern.

Those who had contemplated or taken one of these steps are significantly more likely to be younger (aged 18 to 34), say their mental health has declined over the past year or identify as an ethnicity other than Caucasian.

“We know the pandemic’s mental-health effects on children and long-term care residents, but the shock waves for adults, caregivers, families and workers are also real and far-reaching,” said Deepy Sur, the organization’s chief executive officer, in a press release. “Whether you call it an echo or parallel pandemic, we’re in the midst of a mounting crisis and it’s imperative that we make mental-health and addictions supports available for Ontarians reporting the greatest mental-health declines and for those struggling with impacts on work.”

Read: Coverage of the 2021 Mental Health Summit