Canadians hesitant to access mental-health supports, despite declines during pandemic

Despite a decline in mental health and well-being since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Canadians are still hesitant to access support, according to Morneau Shepell Ltd.’s latest monthly mental-health index.

About half (53 per cent) of respondents indicated the pandemic has made them less likely to access health care for physical (29 per cent) and mental-health needs (24 per cent) than before it began.

“The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is well underway, with case counts rapidly increasing and many provinces seriously assessing the need to revert back to previous lockdown measures,” said Stephen Liptrap, Morneau Shepell’s president and chief executive officer, in a press release. 

Read: 81% of Canadians say coronavirus is negatively affecting their mental health: survey

He also noted it’s critical for governments and companies across Canada to recognize the risk a second shutdown will have on people’s well-being. “If Canadians’ mental-health and well-being needs are not addressed, the resilience of our country will face a significant long-term threat.” 

Changes to day-to-day routines and physical workspaces have also had a significant impact on Canadian employees’ mental health. In September, those who returned to their workplaces saw a larger decline in their mental-health score (negative 11) than those who continued to work from home (negative 8.6). The lowest scores were from employees who started working from home as a result of the pandemic (negative 11.4) and those who are dividing their time between working from home and being in the workplace (negative 12.9).

The index also tracked a decrease in employees’ productivity, at negative 10.8. Almost 40 per cent of respondents indicated they’ve found it more difficult to feel motivated to work and 34 per cent said they’ve found it more difficult to focus on their tasks now than before the start of the pandemic.

Read: Employee burnout surges amid coronavirus pandemic: survey

“A decline in motivation suggests emotional exhaustion,” said Paula Allen, senior vice-president of research, analytics and innovation at Morneau Shepell. “Right now, we have two main things driving that exhaustion. We are often not balancing work with fun, social contact and exploration.”

The survey also showed the second wave of the pandemic has spurred renewed concerns among Canadians, particularly with the potential financial impact it will have on the economy and people’s ability to save for an emergency. Canadians with emergency savings reported a much higher mental-health score (5.3) than those without (negative 23.4).

Two over-arching issues are having a significant impact on Canadian workers’ mental well-being, said Allen. “. . . Some are working more and others are experiencing work as more draining because of concerns about job security or needing to deal with multiple mental and situational distractions, on top of the actual work. Both types of issues can be helped with planning and getting coaching or counselling.”

Read: Canadians’ mental health remains low even as country reopens from coronavirus lockdown