Canadians’ self-reported anxiety and depression are approaching levels not seen since May 2020, indicating that the Omicron wave has taken a significant toll on the mental health and well-being of many as we enter the third year of the pandemic.

The data comes from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health’s ninth national survey with the technology company Delvinia on COVID-19 and the mental health of Canadians, January 7-11 – the final planned survey of its kind.

The survey, which asked about 1,000 Canadians nationwide about mental health measures such as anxiety, depression and drug use, found that a quarter of respondents felt moderate to severe anxiety levels, and 22 percent reported that they occasionally or most of felt depressed the time in the previous week. . It also found more than a quarter of participants were involved in binge drinking.

For dr. Hayley Hamilton, a senior scientist at CAMH’s Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, closely mimics the hospital’s findings from May 2020, when CAMH conducted its first survey measuring the impact of COVID on Canadians’ mental health.

“In May 2020, we were very worried about what was coming, we were very uncertain about the virus and what it actually meant,” Hamilton said. “We’re still seeing that high level of anxiety now, but in this case it could be more frustration, more a feeling of being tired of this and wanting to get out.”

“People wonder, when is it going to end?”

The CAMH survey found that women and frontline workers are struggling excessively, with both groups reporting significant increases in anxiety levels and feelings of depression from July 2021 – the last time this survey was conducted.

The findings are consistent with similar research conducted over December and January. Mental Health Research Canada, which surveyed 3,700 Canadians in its 10th poll since the pandemic began, found that 44 percent of respondents reported having symptoms of anxiety and depression in mid-December, and that rate is higher for health care workers.

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In a Angus Reid recording released Monday, one in three Canadians said they struggle with mental health, and half feel tired due to the rise of the Omicron variant.

This fatigue and worry has been observed by clinicians like dr. David Gratzer, a psychiatrist at CAMH, who said his patients had been feeling “pulled down from the bottom” for the past few weeks. Some, he added, are still dealing with financial uncertainty and loss of income.

“The tension is very real,” Gratzer said, especially for those with pre-existing mental health problems. “It’s about finance, employment, economic security.”

Like other doctors, Gratzer said he noticed more of his patients drinking or turning to other drugs to treat it. His concern, he said, is that people’s resilience declines as they enter a third year under the weight of pandemic-related trauma.

“One aspect of the pandemic that is unique is that, unlike life stressors that come and go, this one has been sitting in many Canadians’ minds for months now,” Gratzer said. “… the majority of people should be okay, but over time, resilience can be scaled down.”

While mental health has gained a renewed focus in terms of government funding and policy changes, some respondents to both January’s CAMH survey and December’s Mental Health Research Canada survey said they could not access the necessary mental health support.

CAMH found 24 percent of respondents said they needed mental health services to deal with the pandemic over the past 12 months, but could not receive it. MHRC found that one-fifth of Canadians have access to support, but for those who did not, 36 percent said they could not afford it.

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Gratzer said the rate at which people are still struggling due to COVID-19 signals there is a greater need for services. Although minor problems can be helped by short-term online therapy options, other people may need intensive care that involves medication and psychotherapy – the latter is often expensive.

“We need to understand that the need itself differs, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach,” Gratzer said. “We will have to build up community resources, but we will also have to build up intensive services, and that response will not only be necessary over the coming weeks, but possibly over the coming months or even years. ”

Like others in the field, CAMH began researching early in the Canadian pandemic to understand the impact on people’s emotional well-being, with a total of nine planned surveys.

“This is our last planned survey, and we hope it is,” said senior scientist Hamilton, but the hospital does not rule out similar research in the future.

Hamilton said the data collected on the pandemic helped shed light on the broader mental health challenges posed by COVID-19, and findings were sent to policymakers to inform decisions about pandemic relief and beyond.

Above all, she said these findings are also a reminder to people that they are not struggling alone.


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