The Canadian Mental Health Association has shut down a volunteer-run distress centre in London, Ontario, with an eye towards saving money and streamlining services.
After 48 years of serving community mental health needs across the region, the call-based London and District Distress Centre (LDDC), providing 24-hour phone service by over 100 volunteers, will close down for good in order to make way for a “one-line access system” for people suffering from mental health and addictions within Middlesex, Elgin and Oxford counties.
“The connection to the local community will be maintained through that phone system, which we will be supporting at the Crisis Centre at 648 Huron St. at CMHA,” says Dr. Steven Harrison, CEO of CMHA Middlesex. “No one should be worried about losing services. Our commitment is to make sure that we do nothing but backfill where gaps have been heard of in the past and make sure those services continue into the future.”
The $120,000 in funding for the LDDC will be re-directed to ConnexOntario, the Government of Ontario’s helpline service, which has the capacity and support model to handle the added influx of calls from London and surrounding areas, according to CMHA Middlesex.
Answering 20,000 calls last year alone, the LDDC has witnessed an alarming increase in need for their services. Over the past 15 years call volume has grown by 35 per cent, with volunteers expecting an additional 25 per cent increase this year. Most notable has been the increase in callers who are feeling suicidal, according to LDDC executive director Cheryl Legate. “We want to make sure everyone is equipped to deal with that. We know people are talking about (suicide) more,” says Legate.
The CMHA recently completed its annual Mental Health Week across the country, this year with the theme of “Getting Loud” about mental health issues and encouraging Canadians to share their mental health stories in support of those dealing with mental health issues. “Getting loud means speaking up to stop the discrimination and the stigma that often go hand in hand with mental illness. It means using your voice to raise awareness and build support. For someone at home. For someone at work. For yourself.”
According to the CMHA, the economic cost of mental illness to Canada’s health care system was a reported $4.7 billion in care for the year 1998 and $3.2 billion in disability and early death, along with an added $6.3 billion spent by Canadians on uninsured mental health services and time off work.
The threat of stigmatization and discrimination present a substantial obstacle to seeking help -almost one half (49 per cent) of people who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety reporting that they have not gone to see a doctor about the problem.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), mental illness is an increasing problem worldwide, with the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety shooting up nearly 50 per cent between 1990 and 2013. The CMHA reports that 20 per cent of Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime.