“Mental Health Week, and Child and Youth Mental Health Day are about celebrating, protecting and promoting mental health. More than ever, the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the crucial importance of taking care of our mental wellness.
We know that people of all ages and backgrounds are experiencing unprecedented stress and feelings of anxiety related to the pandemic. Forty per cent of Canadians say their mental health has deteriorated since the onset of the pandemic. If you feel that way, you are not alone.
The pandemic is having profound impacts on mental wellness in Indigenous communities, magnifying existing mental health issues and inequities, and creating new gaps and needs. According to Statistics Canada, 6 in 10 Indigenous people report that their mental health has worsened since the beginning of the pandemic, noting physical distancing, not being able to spend time with loved ones and not being able to engage in cultural activities as the largest contributor to this feeling.
There are ways we can support mental wellness now. One of those ways is to talk about it. Speak out about how you’re feeling. Name your emotions. Reach out to friends, family, Elders and mental health professionals.
And if you need help, there is support you can turn to:
- The Hope for Wellness Help Line is there for anyone – First Nations, Inuit, Métis, child, youth or adult. Call toll-free 1-855-242-3310 or connect to an online chat at hopeforwellness.ca. Services are available in English, French, Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.
- Kids Help Phone can connect you with an Indigenous volunteer crisis responder by texting FIRST NATIONS, INUIT or METIS to 686868 for young people and 741741 for adults or through Facebook Messenger.
Mental wellness has long been a priority for Indigenous populations-this is a priority shared by the Government of Canada. To address the growing impact of the pandemic on Indigenous mental wellness, the Government of Canada announced $82.5 million in mental health and wellness supports in August 2020 to help Indigenous communities adapt and expand mental wellness services, improve access and address growing demand.
This additional investment builds on the progress being made through on-going annual funding of approximately $450 million. This investment supports Indigenous-led, culturally relevant and community-based mental wellness and substance use services for First Nations and Inuit communities.
Recognizing the importance of being able to access critical mental wellness supports, Budget 2021 committed $597.6 million over three years, beginning in 2021-22, to continue providing access to emotional, cultural and mental health supports for survivors of Residential Schools and their families, and to stabilize other community-based supports.
The Government of Canada also funded $59 million through the 2020 Fall Economic Statement for First Nations to adapt their on-reserve community infrastructure. First Nations were able to use these funds to support the safe restart of schools, daycares and Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve. Resuming these activities safely has been key to supporting mental health in children and youth who have been tremendously impacted by the disruptions to their routines and daily lives.
Furthermore, Budget 2021 commits $2.5 billion over five years to build on the existing distinctions-based approach to Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care. This investment supports a range of programs and services that build strong social connections and focus on resiliency and emotional regulation in young children. These experiences and skills, in turn, support mental health as children age into adulthood.
Even in times of extreme anxiety and stress, mental health is something we should strive to protect and nurture. We all struggle from time to time, and we all deserve to be well.
Today-and every day-join me to #GetReal about mental wellness.”