More people seeking mental health support now than ever before
When requests for subsidized counselling services grew by up to 25% during the pandemic, Daya Counselling Centre responded by opening up single-session counselling appointments to tide people over, thanks to United Way funding.
With increasing numbers of people experiencing anxiety and depression during the pandemic, accessing help has been a challenge for many, especially for those with financial barriers.
At London’s Daya Counselling Centre, the urgency of the situation became clear in the months after the first COVID-19 lockdown as its wait list for subsidized counselling services grew to unprecedented levels.
There were so many on the verge of crisis, Daya staff knew they had to do something to help. With funding from United Way Elgin Middlesex, they opened up subsidized single-counselling sessions to those on the waiting list as a way to tide people over until longer-term spots opened up.
“If someone accesses mental health supports, they might be able to stay in a job or find a job, or to get connected to resources that help them access basic needs and supports,” said Daya Executive Director Kate Stewart.
And it was important to include those sessions as part of Daya’s subsidized—meaning low- or no-cost—services, she said.
“Affordable counseling services are so important to these clients at this particular moment in time, because the pandemic has compounded the challenges people are facing in their everyday lives.”
Even before COVID-19, Daya was known as a place that could help people who couldn’t afford expensive therapy. During the past year, the number of clients seeking subsidized counselling services skyrocketed, increasing by about 25 per cent compared to the year before.
That’s why the single sessions were “instrumental,” to helping people cope, said Daya psychotherapist Ana Barrientos.
“We’ve seen an incredible increase in the amount of people needing supports. And I’ve heard from many of them that if those supports weren’t subsidized, they would never be able to access them,” she said. “The pandemic really has impacted people’s livelihoods, their home situations.”
Noting some new clients reported never experiencing such severe mental health issues before COVID-19 struck, Barrientos said the pandemic has had a “ripple effect” that has continued to impact individuals and families who’ve lost jobs and income during the past 18 months.
“They haven’t necessarily recovered quite so quickly as others. They don’t have the same resources they once had and they don’t necessarily have the supports they need because others around them are also experiencing a lot of high stressors,” she said.
“I do see that there is a disparity in terms of that recovery for people coming from different socioeconomic statuses.”
And there’s no sign of that slowing. Despite the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, calls for service are continuing to rise.
“There certainly is some light at the end of the tunnel. But in terms of people’s mental health and well-being, I really don’t know if that light is all that bright at the moment,” Stewart said.
“As we start to recover from the pandemic we are seeing and hearing an increased need for mental health services across the board. But in particular we are hearing from individuals who are looking for affordable, but high-quality supports.”
Daya’s subsidized counselling program is funded 100 per cent by community donations, including United Way.
“We really wouldn’t be able to get through the pandemic if we didn’t focus on that sense of connection, the ways in which we can support each other,” Stewart said.
“With all of the uncertainty that the pandemic brought, it was such a relief to know that the United Way was there to support us.
“It was really a port in the storm.”