MENTAL ILLNESS

Mental health vital to overall well-being

Mental health is vital to our overall health and well-being. Having positive mental health contributes to emotional, psychological, and social well-being at all stages of life. Mental health has been significantly affected by the pandemic, with more individuals facing obstacles such as unemployment, poverty, and isolation and created new barriers for those already experiencing mental illness or substance use disorders. Stigma prevents many from seeking treatment, which can have devastating impacts on health, employment and relationships. Social isolation, poverty, and a shortage of accessible services make it difficult for people to seek the mental health support they need. In youth, positive emotional development in childhood is crucial to laying a strong foundation for mental health and emotional stability as an adult.

We know that poverty and mental health are interconnected. Seniors, individuals with disabilities, and people in the shelter system were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, with less access to supports and basic necessities. Mental health declines have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels and according to Statistics Canada, Canadians experiencing poverty are three to four times more likely say that their mental health is low.

The Facts:

  • 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience addiction, mental health problem or illness in any given year;

  • By age 40, about 50% of the population will have or have had a mental illness;

  • Ontarians suffer a high burden of illness from mental illness and addictions – more than one-and-a-half times that of all cancers and more than seven times that of all infectious diseases;

  • Niagara faced a 59% increase in suspected opioid overdoses last year.

What are we doing about it?

United Way makes significant investments in programs and initiatives that support the mental well-being of the most vulnerable members of our community. We have continued to invest strategically to address these issues throughout the pandemic, responding to emerging needs in our community as they arise. By supporting programs that provide connection for seniors, increase social interactions, and provide critically important counselling and crisis support, we can help our community feel connected.

United Way Niagara strives to reduce barriers and promote wellness and help individuals become confident and empowered to cope with life’s challenges.

Last year, over 14,000 calls were made to crisis support lines in Niagara. More than 1,500 calls to the local 2-1-1 line came from individuals seeking mental health or addictions support. We recognize that this is an area of high need in Niagara, and that need is continuing to grow especially for our most isolated and vulnerable community members.

Laura walking down garden path, enjoying the sunshine

Meet Laura

“When I found United Way, I was suffering from depression and anxiety. Every night, I was going to bed praying that I would not wake up the next day. But even when my depression was at its worst, I knew there must be a different life. The approach at the United Way funded agency was so different. Those classes are facilitated by people with lived experience. I felt like they were saying, ‘I know what you’re going through. I’m not here to teach you a lesson. I’m here to tell you that you can find your way back.’ Going through United Way supported classes showed me how powerful it could be to navigate your challenges. Mental health is not something that you achieve and then you forget it—it’s something that you have to maintain. Today, I am in a much better place. I know that mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of. Recovery is possible and there is hope for a better, happier life.”