While always important, the need to recognize and support Mental Health Week seems to be even more prevalent during the pandemic. 

The added anxiety and mental stress that people are dealing with over the course of the last 14 months is unprecedented.

There is not a single person that has not been affected in some way by the COVID-19 virus.

Canada’s Suicide Prevention Hotline has experienced a call increase of 200% during the pandemic. In Alberta, local mental health services have been overwhelmed, leading to increased wait times.

Blake Richards MP for Banff-Airdrie says, “It goes without saying that pandemic measures, financial struggles, and social isolation have all contributed to an alarming increase of mental health issues in Canada.”

The MP for Banff-Airdrie says, “Anyone out there who is struggling right now, make sure you do reach out to someone. Don’t be afraid to come forward and let people know that you need help it’s nothing to be ashamed of and you should reach out and let people know if you are struggling and many of us are. So please, don’t suffer in silence.”

He is strongly advocating for an idea that was brought forward by one of his fellow colleagues, Todd Doherty from BC, in which all the existing suicide prevention services would be brought together under one national, three-digit phone number: 9-8-8 to create a National Suicide Prevention Helpline.

It would work like 9-1-1 but for those that are in severe mental distress and in need of expedient emergency care.

Doherty will be presenting the idea as a private members bill with the hope that can be pushed forward in this parliament.

Richards says they are going to try their best to make it happen.

“Knowing that 9-8-8 exists, I really do believe it could save lives.” says, Richards and “We certainly will do our best to see it passed.”

Richards says that the UCP government is working in Ottawa to ensure that mental health is prioritized during and after the pandemic. Along with advocating for an increase in mental health research and resources, the UCP wants to work with employers to ensure that employee’s mental well-being is taken care of.

If you would like to add your name to a petition on Mental Health click here.