Overview of the findings – Key messages
The incredible response is leaving some people behind. A tremendously rapid and innovative response has been mounted to meet the needs of the general population by disseminating wellness information and quickly pivoting to virtual services and supports. But these offerings are not meeting the needs of some key vulnerable populations. An opportunity exists to prepare and transform the system. The most significant impacts on mental health, substance use, and service systems are likely to be felt in the aftermath of the pandemic. Planning should begin now, including meaningful engagement with service users, so that the postpandemic system incorporates innovations (e.g., in the area of virtual service provision) while not abandoning the transformations underway before COVID-19. Focusing on health and mental health care providers is key. Supporting and building on the mental health supports offered to front-line health-care providers and identifying the mental health requirements of mental health professionals are key to meeting their needs during and after the crisis. Focused attention on workforce planning for the post-pandemic period is also necessary to better align workforce capacity (public and private sector) with the mental health needs of the population.
The mental health impacts are delayed, complex, and long term. The lessons learned internationally from COVID-19, and from earlier disasters and epidemics, suggest that planning and reforms are important for staying ahead of mental health impacts that will be long term, complex, and may take time to fully emerge. Fostering resiliency is important. Anticipating the increased prevalence of mental health problems and illnesses due to COVID-19 must be balanced against the risk of pathologizing normal emotional responses to an unprecedented and highly stressful situation. Mental health services and interventions that support meaning-making and post-traumatic growth and resilience will need to be available early on to buffer and protect the psychological health of people in Canada.