TORONTO, Jan. 26, 2021—Ontario’s doctors expect the demand for mental health and addictions care will exist and grow for years after the COVID-19 pandemic, if history is any guide.
OHIP data suggests that Ontarians sought more mental health care from their doctors, for issues other than substance abuse, from March to December 2020 than for the same period in 2019. The OMA is holding a media briefing on this topic from 1-2 p.m. today.
Mental health diagnoses directly attributed to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic continued for another six years afterward. Studies of people who had to isolate or quarantine during SARS showed they experienced post-traumatic stress disorder and depression afterward.
“This past year has been exceptionally, unprecedentedly, stressful,” said Dr. Samantha Hill, president of the Ontario Medical Association. “Ontarians worried about contracting COVID-19 or having a loved one do so; about finances and job security; about their children and parents tolerating the loneliness and isolation. To make matters worse, we did so without our usual coping mechanisms. We have been unable to hug each other, to surround ourselves with friends and family or to ‘get away.’ It’s been harder than usual to go to the gym, to access psychological therapy and even buy groceries. Prolonged stress like this taxes our mental and physical health. The resulting need for mental health services further increases the pandemic deficit of health care.”
OHIP data analyzed by the Ontario Medical Association suggests:
These statistics reflect only those mental health and addictions services provided by physicians and billed to OHIP. These services are also provided in Ontario by other health-care professionals and through employee assistance programs or private billings.
The OMA is studying these statistics to better understand what they mean and how doctors can address existing and post-pandemic mental health needs. It’s possible that the number of visits for mental health and addictions services may be even higher than initial figures suggest.
“Ontario’s doctors will continue to work with the government to provide the mental health and addiction supports needed for both patients and health-care workers,” said OMA CEO Allan O’Dette. “The stronger our overall health-care system is, the better able we are to look after all aspects of our own and our community’s well-being.”
The Ontario Medical Association represents Ontario’s 43,000-plus physicians, medical students and retired physicians, advocating for and supporting doctors while strengthening the leadership role of doctors in caring for patients. Our vision is to be the trusted voice in transforming Ontario’s health-care system.
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