The COVID-19 pandemic has led to extreme economic uncertainty, perhaps not seen since the stock market crash of 1929.
This uncertainty has undoubtedly exacerbated an already ballooning mental health crisis in Canada.
Indeed, the toll on Canadians’ financial and mental well-being should be considered when reopening the national economy, but if we cite a mental health crisis as a principle reason to reopen — we must be willing to invest in social services the same way we have invested in the COVID-19 crisis.
For years, frontline mental health workers such as those at drop-in centres and other social aide networks have been operating on shoestring, unclear budgets.
In many jurisdictions such as Alberta, politicians and ‘concerned taxpayers’ pay lip service to the mental health crisis we face, but fall short on the massive investment it takes to solve a crisis of that magnitude.
Now, many of those same politicians and taxpayers are saying we need to quickly reopen an economy, forcing many low-income people back to work for non-essential services while the pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the world, putting those workers at physical and mental risk. The people calling for a quick reopen often cite mental health as one of their primary reasons to do so.
If the impetus to reopen quickly includes the supposed concern for those low-income Canadians’ well-being, than those politicians and concerned citizens need to be prepared to ante up.
Yes, that means taxation to support tackling the mental health crisis they are allegedly so concerned about.
Many citizens will be putting themselves in harm’s way to provide food services, personal services and other non-essential services in the coming weeks. If they contract the virus from their place of work and have significant health complications, the long-term financial outlook of their families will be severely impacted — additionally, causing long-term mental health damage.
Public officials and community leaders pushing to reopen better be prepared to support these families who sacrificed for the economic impetus of others. Taxpayers better be prepared to see the funds they contribute to a functioning society going towards the people who will require it.
Ultimately, battling a mental health crisis requires more than lip service and disingenuous political empathy - it requires the political action and response we have seen during the COVID-19 crisis.