To say the last two years have presented new challenges for mental health care and research institutes – and indeed, every individual in our society – is an understatement. The unprecedented impacts of the pandemic exacerbated an already growing mental health crisis.
Before the pandemic, 1 in 5 Canadians experienced a mental health problem or illness in any given year. In the first year of the pandemic, the World Health Organization recorded a massive increase of 25% in the global prevalence of anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, research showed that 61% of people with a pre-existing mental illness felt that their mental health had deteriorated during this period.
At the Douglas, we felt consequences of the pandemic acutely; at the same time, we are continually humbled by the dedication, selflessness, and agility that our staff demonstrated. The Douglas has in fact played an important and unique role during the pandemic.
Since March 2020, the Douglas has been the place of care for psychiatric patients who test positive for COVID-19 from across the province. We converted a patient unit to serve this purpose, and reconfigured additional space to house patients who cannot immediately return to their homes because of COVID-19. The Douglas also became one of many COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites.
The pandemic created many challenges, but responding to this evolving situation also presented opportunities to make much-needed investments in our digital and physical infrastructure.
In addition to adapting our mission to the realities of COVID-19 in the past two years, the Douglas has:
- Developed better internet infrastructure and make virtual patient visits possible.
- Installed Wi-Fi in buildings that previously did not have it, and upgraded internet capabilities in the spaces that did to keep our facilities up to date with the needs of today’s patients, visitors, and staff.
- Combined the Internet structure upgrade with the acquisition of tablets for patients at the Douglas to give them the the ability to connect with their loved ones virtually, especially when the pandemic complicated visitations and travel.
- Funded research to better understand the pandemic and investigated the pandemic’s impact on mental health to continually improve our treatment methods to better serve our patients.
- Built hope for front-line staff because people are at the core of our mission. The Douglas repeatedly thanked front-line staff working on COVID-19 units with meals, healthy snacks, and countless cups of fresh coffee.