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COVID’s impact on mental health caregivers


COVID’s impact on mental health caregivers

Since the pandemic hit, the Institute for Advancements in Mental Health (IAM), formerly the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario,  saw calls to its mental health support line jump by nearly 500%, most related to COVID-19, and nearly 60% of those were from caregivers in need.

“When COVID-19 hit, we stepped up to the plate right away to deliver uninterrupted services. We recognized that now, more than ever, continuity of care is critically important to the people we serve and to many more who may not have another option right now,” says Mary Alberti, CEO, IAM.

From March to April, IAM quickly moved all of their on-site, in-person and telephone supports onto digital platforms – agility that has allowed them to respond to that nearly 500% increase in volume and nearly 100% increase in demand for their educational offerings.

“Our counsellors are hearing that many are struggling to cope each day, especially due to heightened  anxiety brought on by the loss of support networks or vital activities. Many who care for others are calling in distress, feeling overburdened by the extra responsibilities and lack of respite  that being shut-in during the pandemic brings,” said Kayla Nicholls, program manager, IAM.

When someone is living with mental illness, it is often a family member or friend who acts as their caregiver, working within a system that can feel difficult to navigate, especially when the caregiver themselves is feeling emotionally or physically depleted. Offering help  to  caregivers has been a specialized priority of IAM for over four decades.

With the second pandemic wave, IAM is now seeing a corresponding increase of families in need. After serving over 1,000 families and individuals this year, IAM is still faced with requests that outpace their current capacity. IAM wants to offer every caregiver and person in need of care the help they deserve and need- but to do that they’ll need the support of Canadians coast to coast.

Reach out confidentially to one of IAM’s counsellors at 1-855-449-9949 or email IAM at The line is open from 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays, with expanded hours until 7 pm, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Filling a critical service gap, IAM offers counselling services available to anyone and has a live counsellor available when you call, getting people the help they need when they need it.

IAM is more than 70% donor-funded and, like many charities, are drastically impacted in their operations by the pandemic. Yet, since the pandemic hit in March, demand for services has gone up exponentially. The need is real, and IAM needs support to continue to service the most vulnerable communities across the country. To donate click here

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