Financial pressures, social isolation presenting mental health challenges
Mental health supports available for residents of Haliburton County
By Jenn Watt
Mental health service providers in Haliburton County are reaching out to residents to remind them that help is available as the coronavirus pandemic increases the number of stressors people are dealing with.
“We know that people who may not have experienced anxiety to this degree right now might be experiencing more,” Marg Cox, executive director of Point in Time Centre for Children, Youth and Parents, said.
“People are experiencing a lot of unknowns in terms of their employment and what that does in terms of food security and housing. And people are also needing to keep their social distance, they’re more isolated and we know with high levels of poverty in our county and not 100 per cent [internet] connectivity that people are more isolated than ever.”
Several new or intensified stressors arriving at once means more people in the county potentially needing mental health assistance.
Beverlee Groves-Foley, clinical manager of Mental Health Services at Haliburton Highlands Health Services, said they’ve seen more demand from new clients.
“I think most of our intake this week, honestly, has been new clients to our system with not being able to manage their stressors on finance and anxiety,” she said.
HHHS Mental Health Services is at full staffing levels and is using phone and video conferencing to speak with most people. For those who must be seen in-person, screening is being conducted and staff wear personal protective equipment. No referrals are necessary.
To alleviate some pressure on emergency departments, those in crisis are asked to call HHHS Mental Health Services during business hours at 705-286-4575 or Four-County Crisis 24-7 at 1-866-995-9933.
Point in Time, which offers services for youth, is also using phone, video, and text messaging to meet with clients. They are offering crisis services during business hours and the youth hub staff are also offering the same support, but also not in-person. Refurbished cellphones as well as phone cards are available for those who need them.
“We’re working to get that out to people and we’re also working to support families if they have more instrumental needs in terms of gas cards and grocery cards. Again, not in any way trying to duplicate the good work of the food banks and other organizations that are also supporting people,” Cox said.
Quick access clinics, which can provide a much needed check-in for youth and families, are available too. Point in Time is taking new clients.
Cox said there are steps people can take to help alleviate some of the stress that physical distancing and self-isolation can impose. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the news, she recommends limiting yourself to a few trusted websites. For those who find that to be too much, ask a friend to filter the news for you.
Routines can help ward off feelings of anxiety and depression. “So whether you’re living on your own and you’ve been laid off because of a COVID-related thing, or just seasonal employment here in the Highlands, think about what kind of routine you can get yourself into,” Cox said.
Other helpful behaviours include getting enough sleep, physical activity, eating well and connecting with people. Going for hour-long walks has been proven to reduce depression as effectively as medication for some people, she said. Using technology that allows you to see someone’s face can also make you feel like you’re making more of a connection.
“If you’re needing to do it by text or phone, it’s still absolutely better than not connecting with people,” she said.
A local group of health service providers will be launching a website called Haliburtoncares.ca, which will feature resources available in the county. Groves-Foley said webinars on isolation, anxiety and grief will be uploaded as well as materials from Point in Time and other groups.
Cox and Groves-Foley pointed out that the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic is different for everyone and that for those who have fewer financial resources at their disposal, there are more barriers to overcome.
Those who may have relied on computers at the library or would have gone to Tim Hortons and sat in the restaurant while accessing the internet on their phones no longer have those resources, Groves-Foley said. “It’s really widened the gap between the have and have-not,” Cox agreed.
Both organizations are working to find ways to support all of their clients and encourage anyone who is struggling to reach out. “We are here for people,” Cox said.
How to reach them:
HHHS Mental Health Services 705-286-4575
HHHS Community Support Services 705-457-2941,
Four County Crisis (24-7) 1-866-995-9933
Point in Time 705-457-5345, pointintime.ca
Haliburton County Youth Hub 705-306-5199