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Canada must act now to prevent echo pandemic of mental illness due to COVID-19  

Canadian Mental Health Association calls for urgent community investment in mental health  

OTTAWA (ONTARIO) April 15, 2020 – To avoid a potential echo pandemic of mental illness and mental health issues as a result of COVID-19, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) calls for immediate investment in the scaleup of cost-effective, evidence-based community mental health programs and supports that can take the pressure off acute-care services across Canada.  

“The hard truth is that our mental health system in Canada already lacked capacity to meet demand before this pandemic beganWe must act now to ensure we are prepared for a surge in mental health problems as a result of COVID-19,” says Margaret Eaton, CMHA’s National CEO, who appeared as a witness before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health (HESA) today to advise on the mental health impacts of the pandemic.  

CMHA recommends that Canada scale up mental health-promotion programs and supports for those experiencing new pandemic-related stress and anxiety and to stave off new demands on the system coming from the increases in depression, psychological distress, substance use, PTSD and domestic violence that almost always accompany large-scale disasters.  

One CMHA branch in Nova Scotia that usually fields 25 daily calls for mental health support, is now getting more than 700 calls per day.  

“Intervening early, before people are in crisis, is not only the most compassionate and effective way to help get people back on their feetit’s also the most cost-effective, says Eaton.  

For instance, CMHA’s BounceBack, a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)-based skill-building program already available in B.C., Ontario and Manitoba, costs about $460 per person and reduces the burden on acute care, where the average price of psychiatric or psychological services is typically about $1,100 per person.  

Part of the reason we have long wait times in Canada is that, for example, those with mild-to-moderate anxiety or depression are waiting to see a psychiatrist to get help, when they could be best served by other community health-care professionals, such as peer support workers, mental health and addictions counsellors, therapists, nurse practitioners or recovery coaches. 

CMHA is poised to mobilize quickly to help our front-line workers, youth, Indigenous peoples and other vulnerable segments of the population get through this crisis with immediate, evidence-based mental health support,” says Eaton. “We can help Canadians get through this together if we invest and act now.”  

Read Margaret Eaton’s entire witness testimony here

About the Canadian Mental Health Association 

Founded in 1918, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is the most established, most extensive community mental health organization in Canada. Through a presence in more than 330 communities across every province and one territory, CMHA provides advocacy, programs and resources that help to prevent mental health problems and illnesses, support recovery and resilience, and enable all Canadians to flourish and thrive. For more information, visit  


For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:  

Katherine Janson 
National Director of Communications
[email protected]