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Supporting resilience: A statement from the Ombudsman on Bell Let’s Talk Day

The COVID-19 pandemic has both exacerbated existing conditions and led to increased mental health challenges for many Canadians. For those living with or having survived acts of violence, the isolation created by the pandemic lockdowns in your province or territory may be triggering for you or may be causing you to experience increased anxiety, depression or feelings of hopelessness. On Bell Let’s Talk Day, Canadians acknowledge that mental health and wellbeing is as important as physical health. Canadians from coast to coast to coast are gaining the courage to speak openly instead of suffering in silence.  Raising awareness of mental health challenges is key to reducing the stigma and to validating the lived realities of so many Canadians. We need to ensure our healthcare system is more responsive to the needs of all Canadians, including 2SLGBTQQIA people, BIPOC and new immigrants experiencing mental health challenges.

At the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime (OFOVC), we hear continuously from victims across Canada that:

  • Victimization affects their overall health. Victims regularly report physical disabilities, as well as mental health conditions such as, depression, anxiety, panic disorder, eating disorders, self-injury, substance use disorders and suicidal ideation.
  • Most victims and survivors cannot afford psychological or psychotherapy services as many do not have coverage through private insurance.
  • Wait times for counselling at community-based services that treat violent victimization can be up to  two, years; and
  • Referrals to psychiatrists through family doctors are not easily available.

In 2019, I recommended that Health Canada:

  1. Provide permanent public funding for the provision of universally accessible mental health treatments to Canadians.
  2. Develop and fund a public health action plan to address and prevent violence.
  3. Make the provision of funds earmarked for trauma- and violence-informed training of mental health care professionals to provinces and territories a priority in the immediate future.
  4. Work with partners and stakeholders in the public and private sectors to utilize technology to deliver mental health treatments and clinical care that will reach Canadians across vast distances.

These recommendations remain relevant today. At the OFOVC, we are privileged to learn from and be inspired by the strength of victims and survivors of crime. The federal government needs to do more to better support the resilience of all Canadians impacted by trauma caused by violence and abuse by providing all Canadians access to publicly-funded mental health treatments.

If you or someone you know requires mental health support, please reach out to one of the crisis lines listed below:

Indigenous Peoples Hope for Wellness Line – 855-242-3310

Crisis Service Canada – 833-456-4566

Kids Help Phone – 800-668-6868

For more information about accessing mental health supports, please visit the following link: