Upstream Ottawa has been a community leader in mental health, providing strength-based services to clients, for almost 40 years. They work directly with every day people living with persistent mental health issues. This December, and throughout the winter, citizens in Ottawa have the chance to directly impact the lives of deserving neighbours. Christmas and winter can be tough times for many in any given year, and the impacts of COVID-19 are only amplifying this.
So how can you help? You can provide access. One of the biggest issues facing Upstream clients is being able to access the services and support that allow them to thrive. Upstream Ottawa is aiming to raise $20,000 in December to be able to provide clients with transportation for mental health related appointments and internet for access to virtual mental health care. By donating to Upstream, you are directly impacting the life of someone right here in Ottawa. You are letting them know that even though COVID-19 is on the top of everyone’s mind, that they are not forgotten.
2020 has, by many measures, been the most trying time in recent memory. COVID-19, in addition to its direct harm to human health, has affected everyone in terms of quality of life. The people of Ottawa and the municipality have done a remarkable job mitigating the cases and associated deaths from COVID-19. However, like most things in life, decisions can have consequences. Local businesses are closing at a rate no one has seen in almost 100 years, and as a result many members of the Ottawa community are left to deal with these hardships with limited resources.
It is important that as a community, Ottawa continues to combat the dangers of COVID-19. Cries of “we are in this together” have been a common theme since March 2020, however, the sad reality is, many are being forgotten. While the focus has been on daily case counts and vaccines, support for mental illness and substance use have fallen short.
Mental health initiatives, conversations, and understanding have made significant progress over the last 20 years, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven there is still a great deal of work to be done. Since March 2020, in Ontario, drug overdoses, drug overdoses causing death, and death by suicide have all seen alarming increases in comparison to the same period in prior years. Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, an ICU physician from The Ottawa Hospital, was on CTV Ottawa in mid-November discussing the status of his ward. They are busy, but not for the reason most would think. They are busy because of sky rocketing rates of overdoses and suicide attempts. Ottawa is simply not talking about this enough. Some recent findings show:
- A 25% increase in suspected drug-related deaths between March and May 2020.
- A 38.2% increase in opioid-related deaths in the first 15 weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Projected suicides as a consequence of the impact of COVID-19 on unemployment alone could lead to an increase of 27.7 per cent to Canada’s annual average of deaths by suicide
- In Toronto’s subway system, deaths by suicide and attempts in April, May and June nearly doubled compared with the same period in previous years
Fighting COVID-19 and mental illness do not need to be mutually exclusive. Focusing on one does not mean having to forget about the other. We as a community can fight COVID-19 and continue to make progress in promoting mental health.
Below is a short video of Upstream's Youth Matters Campaign.
- Kathleen Nunn
- Mark Stuckless
- Andrea Smith
- Scott Saunders
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