The City of Toronto has developed a mental health support strategy to support the mental health needs of residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Measures put in place over the past three weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19 have created stress and anxiety for many individuals, which may be compounded by financial loss and loss of critical supports.
To assist residents experiencing stress and anxiety due to being isolated, quarantined with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, experiencing financial hardships or other mental health stressors, the City has partnered with key mental health service providers to support the mental wellbeing of Toronto’s most vulnerable residents during this time.
Residents can call 211 to access support and get connected to one of seven primary mental health service partners for direct phone support. Mental health service information is also available at http://www.211toronto.ca/.
To support children and youth, seniors, frontline workers, and those with intersectional identities, such as Indigenous, Black, persons with disabilities and LGBTQ2S, who are struggling with isolation, stress and anxiety exacerbated by COVID-19 measures, the City has partnered with:
• Kids Help Phone and Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone;
• Progress Place Warm Line;
• Toronto Seniors Helpline;
• Ontario Psychological Association for frontline workers in community agencies;
• Caribbean African Canadian Social Services (CAFCAN) for Black residents;
• Across Boundaries for Black and Indigenous People/Persons of Colour (BIPOC);
• Native Child and Family Services of Toronto (NCFST) for Indigenous residents; and
• Gerstein Crisis Centre.
The City considers mental health support services to be essential for residents during this time. The services mentioned above are free to all residents.
The integrated approach of this strategy allows the streamlining of referrals to the most appropriate mental health resources and enables the City and its partners to be agile and responsive to changing needs.
This strategy complements and does not replace any existing mental health support models. Existing mental health services (Distress Centre, East Metro Youth Services, etc.) are urged to continue providing services to existing clients and to expand services where feasible.
“These are tough times for many residents. While our partners on this initiative have already seen an uptake in their call volumes since the declaration of the pandemic, we felt it was necessary for the City to do what we can to better connect residents to available mental health supports. This strategy will help us leverage the experience and system of our mental health partners to provide support for children and youth, those over 70 years of age, those in quarantine with COVID-19, those working on the front line and others. Thank you to our partners who have joined us in our efforts to help residents manage their mental health and wellbeing during this time.”
– Mayor John Tory
“The pandemic is taking a toll on all of us on many fronts. We have to do what we can to ensure that our most vulnerable residents and the front-line workers, who continue to work through this crisis, have the mental health support they need to help them with their mental wellbeing for the duration of this crisis and when it is over.”
– Councillor Joe Cressy, Spadina-Fort York (Ward 10), Chair of the Toronto Board of Health
“At 211 Central, we’re seeing an increase in calls from people looking for mental health support due to isolation and increased anxiety related to COVID-19. This new mental health strategy will go a long way to respond to this need. We’re grateful to be working with the City and the other partners on such an integrated and immediate action plan.”
– Sue Wilkinson, Executive Director, Findhelp Information Services – 211 Central Region
“Gerstein Crisis Centre knows that our communities are experiencing exceptional pressures at the moment and our crisis services continue to be available for people who are dealing with issues related to their mental health and/or substance use. Our services include a 24-hour telephone crisis line, wellness checks, short term follow-up support, virtual face to face support and referrals to other beneficial health and social services. Online support groups for service users and service providers are also available. Gerstein Centre is happy to take part in this collaborative approach to create opportunities for people in Toronto to access the supports they need when they need them.”
– Susan Davis, Executive Director, Gerstein Crisis Centre
“WoodGreen is proud to join efforts with Mayor Tory and the community sector as the frontline response to our most vulnerable during this challenging time. Our Seniors Help Line will support thousands of vulnerable seniors receive the services they need to stay home and healthy during the outbreak of COVID-19.”
– Anne Babcock, CEO, WoodGreen Community Services – Toronto Seniors Helpline
“During these unprecedented times we have a shared responsibility to support the mental health and wellbeing of those most vulnerable in our city. COVID-19 has resulted in many changes in the ways service providers can reach and support our community. Native Child and Family Services of Toronto is here to help. Together with our partner agencies, we will ensure that Indigenous children and families have remote access to culturally grounded mental health services.”
– Jeffrey Schiffer, Executive Director, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto
“During these uncertain times we know the youth of Toronto are feeling increased anxiety due to the cancellation of school, closure of parks and being self-isolated at home. To help support young people, Kids Help Phone, the City of Toronto, 211 and other local service providers are joining forces to ensure 24/7 mental health support is available.”
– Katherine Hay, President and CEO, Kids Help Phone
“The Ontario Psychological Association is pleased to partner with the City of Toronto in its effort to support the well-being of its frontline providers, such as those working in our shelters and long-term care facilities, as well as the clients they serve amid COVID-19. We recognise the incredible stress the situation is causing and encourage staff and residents who are impacted by the pandemic to seek help when needed. Our psychologists are here to help.”
– Dr. Sylvain Roy, Ph.D., C.Psych., Ontario Psychological Association
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