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Mental Health Week 2021: Protecting our mental health

May 3-9 is the 70th annual Mental Health Week, hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Association. As we make our way through the third wave of this pandemic, we shouldn’t forget about the need to protect our mental health.

This year’s theme is understanding our emotions – naming, recognizing, accepting, and talking about our emotions in order to take care of ourselves and protect our mental health.

OPSEU/SEFPO is proud to represent thousands of mental health care workers who support children and adults. They have been supporting Ontarians throughout this pandemic, when the need for their services is higher than ever. In our hospitals, community agencies, correctional services and crisis homes, these highly skilled workers provide care with compassion, patience, empathy, and professionalism.

The demand for children’s mental health services has gone up significantly during this pandemic. We are currently experiencing a child and youth mental health crisis in Ontario. Before the pandemic began, the wait times for care were already up to 2.5 years. Our child and youth community mental health agencies need more funding to expand services and meet the rising demand, as well as to address the wage gap between community mental health providers and their counterparts doing the same work in education and hospitals.

Mental health affects us all. Every single person has been affected by this pandemic; it’s changed life as we know it. Ontarians of all ages have experienced the loss of loved ones, loss of their livelihood, isolation, stress, and trauma.

Our frontline workers are dealing with high levels of anxiety and depression as they bravely work through this pandemic to keep our public services running. They put themselves at risk of contracting the virus every day, are working longer hours, taking on heavier workloads, and are isolated from their loved ones as well.

Reaching out to those we trust to talk about our feelings and experiences is necessary to protect our mental health, particularly in the face of the challenges this pandemic brings. And as we start the road to recovery from this pandemic, more investment in our province’s mental health services is key to meeting the high demand of mental health support that Ontarians need.

Our deepest gratitude goes out to our mental health care workers and our frontline workers for the support you are providing and the sacrifices you are making for Ontarians. Working through a global pandemic is no easy feat, and OPSEU/SEFPO is here for you every step of the way.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer