Mental Health Week 2023 – Community-Based Organizations Critical to Better Mental Health Across Canada

Community-Based Organizations Critical to Better Mental Health Across Canada

The pandemic has shone a light on long-standing societal inequities related to race, income, ability, gender, disability, and age, exposing deep cracks within our social safety net. In a similar fashion, COVID-19 has exposed the significant impacts of long-term underfunding, low wages, and diminishing capacity within the human and community services sector. These issues are especially acute within the housing and homelessness sector, gender-based violence work, food security, care work, and mental health sectors.

When it comes to mental health, community-based organizations play an important role in responding to people who are in a crisis by assessing their immediate circumstances, providing short-term counseling and peer-to-peer learning, and connecting them with medical professionals. Due to an increased demand for mental health services and the complexity of needs arising from the pandemic in our communities, concerns about access to timely health care remain in the headlines across Canada and non-profit and care sector workers are feeling the impact of the increased pressures on their own mental health. Although the federal government’s upcoming health transfers to the provinces and territories will include an investment in clinical mental health services, a stronger focus on further enabling the community-based organizations is required.

At United Way Centraide Canada, building an equitable recovery from the pandemic is a priority that has led us to be at the forefront of key efforts to support our communities by ensuring people in Canada can find access to the help they deserve through the 2-1-1 helpline, providing critical support during the height of the pandemic through the Emergency Community Support Fund, and, currently, delivering the Community Services Recovery Fund. Across Canada, United Way Centraides and the community organizations they support ensure the access to mental health services, often in unique and innovative ways. In central Canada, United Way Winnipeg has launched Huddle, a safe space for youth between ages 12-29, offering free, trauma-informed, and culturally safe health services in a youth-friendly atmosphere. Further east, Centraide of Greater Montreal has created the first financial anxiety index, which will help quantify changes in economic stress over time.

Because of their community expertise, non-profit organizations and charities are most often best equipped to understand the needs of community members and offer specialized services, facilitate access to mental health resources in a more equitable way, or be that mental health resource for their local communities. We encourage governments at all levels to not only recognize the community sector’s important contributions in improving mental health across the country, but also to strengthen its capacity with further investment services and in support for the critical front-line workers providing the services. Everyone in our communities – including carers – deserves adequate access to supports as we continue our journey towards an equitable future and recovery for all.

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