A person stands under an umbrella while looking out at English Bay as heavy rain falls, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A person stands under an umbrella while looking out at English Bay as heavy rain falls, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Canadians struggling through the pandemic aren’t accessing online resources: study

A national survey led by researchers at UBC says that Canadians aren’t aware of virtual resources

Canadians who are struggling with their mental health during the pandemic aren’t using online resources that can offer support for their well-being, recent research from the University of B.C. has found.

A national survey led by researchers at UBC, with help from the Canadian Mental Health Association, says that Canadians aren’t aware of virtual resources offered to support them with improving their mental health.

Back in May, 65 per cent of 3,000 survey participants reported that they have experienced poor mental health during the pandemic. However, only two per cent reported accessing online mental health resources such as apps, websites, digital tools or other supports not involving direct contact with a mental health care provider.

Researchers found that some people did make more use of online mental health resources than others, but the numbers remained low across the board.

READ MORE: B.C. unveils $5M for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Margaret Eaton, Canadian Mental Health Association CEO, said in a statement that since the start of the pandemic, demand for mental health services has been up across the organization’s 330 locations nationwide.

“Online mental health supports are one evidence-based way that we can help people during this unusual, stressful time.”

Forty-two survey participants said they struggled to find resources to help with stress from COVID-19.

Researchers said that online resources work best for those suffering from mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression. The survey responses suggest a mere two per cent of Canadians struggling with anxiety and stress have accessed virtual support networks.

ALSO READ: Clinicians worry pandemic is worsening youth mental health

Meanwhile, four per cent of respondents who have felt hopeless, depressed or panicked have utilized online support options.

Lead researcher and nursing professor Emily Jenkins said online resources are easily accessible – even being offered in various different languages.

“These programs are ideally positioned for the types of difficult experiences and emotions that we’re seeing during the pandemic,” said Jenkins.

Chris Richardson, a research associate at the School of Population and Public Health at UBC, said most of those accessing online options are doing so after being referred through their care provider.

Jenkins and Richardson are conducting further research to understand why use of these resources are so low, but they’ve already found that a lack of awareness is a major contributing factor.

“We see a lot of messaging out there about physical distancing, face masks and hand washing,” said Richardson.

“We really need to get more messages out to people about how they can support their mental health in a positive way as well.”

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