COVID-19 has put our lives on hold. When public health recommended that we stay at home, everything came to a standstill. Technology was our saviour during this time. Virtual meetings and celebrations became the only way of social interaction. The use of technology became the new norm, yet calls to mental health helplines have escalated and the consumption of opioids and alcohol has risen, indicating Canadians are more isolated than ever before. Seven in 10 Ontarians think mental health is a serious issue.

A global pandemic is an unprecedented time for individuals and communities. While the mental health-related challenges existed before, the pandemic has amplified them. That is why the government of Ontario has prioritized investing in mental health. Through the Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions System, the province has committed $3.8 billion over 10 years to create new programs and expand existing ones.

This is one of the largest investments made in mental health by any government. It has invested $10 million in permanent funding to hire 180 front-line mental health workers in Ontario’s secondary schools. It also allocated $24.3 million to hire additional staff, increase access to counselling and therapy, create new programs to help manage stress, depression, anxiety, and other challenges experienced by children and youth.

I am in touch with the Canadian Mental Health Association and other organizations that are ready to support the community. It is important to be proactive and seek help. As Mark Twain says, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

There are many resources available to provide support:

— Mobile Crisis of Peel (24-7 support): 905-278-9036

— Kids Help Phone (Under 15): 1-800-668-6868

— BounceBack Ontario (Ages 15-plus): 1-866-345-0224

— Good2Talk (Post-secondary students): 1-866-925-5454

— Connex Ontario (Adults): 1-866-531-2300

As a father, husband and your MPP, I will continue to work with everyone for the health and well-being of the community. It’s time to take charge of our mental health. If you have any questions or suggestions, please reach out to our office at 905-696-0367.