January 5th, 2021

Pandemic, poverty impacts on mental health can’t be ignored

HALIFAX -- More must be done to support those facing mental health concerns during the pandemic, especially for underserved communities in Nova Scotia. Today’s Community Services Committee heard from the Canadian Mental Health Association, Nova Scotia Division who spoke about the additional stress the COVID-19 pandemic has created for those who access support from the Department of Community Services.

“The Liberal government has done very little for those who most need it,” said NDP Community Services spokesperson Kendra Coombes. “People who receive income assistance or disability support were highly impacted by a reduction in services and other issues related to the pandemic yet many were prevented from accessing federal response benefits and were only ever given a $50 increase in support from the province at the beginning of the lockdown in the spring.”

Many Nova Scotians are being asked to repay the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments they received due to confusing eligibility criteria. While increased mental health services were needed before the pandemic, COVID-19 has made it even more clear how many people aren’t able to access the mental health care they need and deal with mental health issues that are worsened when struggling to have basic social and economic needs met.

“Access to housing is a mental health issue, as is being able to put food on the table and buy clothing for your children. Poverty impacts people’s mental health and shouldn’t be ignored,” said NDP Housing spokesperson Lisa Roberts.

The committee was able to ask questions of Pamela Magee, Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Division of the Canadian Mental Health Association. In her closing comments, she told MLAs: “The time to act is now. We can’t wait for Nova Scotians to become ill as a result of the trauma impact of the pandemic.”

The NDP has advocated for access to same-day/next-day mental health appointments, as well as a Mental Health Bill of Rights that would confirm access to mental health care, and require that funding for mental health treatment meet or exceed 10 per cent of total health care expenditure.