Toronto develops mental health strategy to help those impacted by coronavirus pandemic

Apr 9 2020, 1:20 pm

The City of Toronto announced a new mental health support strategy to support the mental health needs of residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, Mayor John Tory said the measures put in place over the past three weeks to slow the spread of the virus have created “stress and anxiety” for many individuals, which may be “compounded by financial loss and loss of critical supports.”

The program strategy is meant to assist residents experiencing stress and anxiety due to being isolated, quarantined with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, experiencing financial hardships or other mental health stressors.

The City has partnered with key mental health service providers to support the mental wellbeing of Toronto’s most vulnerable residents during this time.

“These are tough times for many residents. While our partners on this initiative have already seen an uptake in their call volumes since the declaration of the pandemic, we felt it was necessary for the City to do what we can to better connect residents to available mental health supports,” Tory said.

According to Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eileen de Villa said total cases have increased to 1,769 cases, with 174 hospitalized and 76 patients in ICU.

There are now 54 confirmed deaths, revealing five more confirmed deaths since the report on Wednesday.

“We still have the ability to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our city,” de Villa said.

With the continued increase of cases, the city announced last week that closures and enhanced physical distancing measures will be in place until the end of June.

Because of this, Tory asked for residents struggling with the measures, to seek help.

Residents can call 211 to access support and get connected to one of seven primary mental health service partners for direct phone support.

Mental health service information is also available at 211toronto.ca.

The mental health strategy is aimed to support children and youth, seniors, frontline workers, and those with intersectional identities, such as Indigenous, Black, persons with disabilities and LGBTQ2S.

Many organizations that have partnered with the program including: Kids Help Phone and Crisis Text Line; Progress Place Warm Line; Toronto Seniors Helpline; Ontario Psychological Association for frontline workers in community agencies; Caribbean African Canadian Social Services (CAFCAN) for Black residents; Across Boundaries for Black and Indigenous People/Persons of Colour (BIPOC); Native Child and Family Services of Toronto (NCFST) for Indigenous residents; and Gerstein Crisis Centre.

“This strategy complements and does not replace any existing mental health support models. Existing mental health services (Distress Centre, East Metro Youth Services, etc.) are urged to continue providing services to existing clients and to expand services where feasible,” the city said.

The City of Toronto declared a state of emergency on March 23.

Enhanced measures for physical distancing and closure of non-essential businesses have been put in place until June 30.

Now, the City can fine $1,000 for two or more residents who are not standing two-metres apart, unless they are from the household.

All public amenities, and city-owned parks and playgrounds are also closed, with all major events cancelled until the end of June.