COVID-19, International Conflicts Put Alberta’s Mental Health at Risk

CALGARY – A deadly virus, ever-changing pandemic restrictions and a raging international conflict. Psychologists warn the province is on the verge of collapsing mental health system.

“Customers come to us and say, ‘Just accessing services right now comes with a really long waitlist,” said Jessy Roos, Executive Director of Cultivate.

The demand for COVID has been constant – and now international issues are compounding the grief.

As refugees desperately seek ways to escape the Taliban’s grip and the Lebanese economic crisis places around three-quarters of the country in poverty, newcomers, refugees and families are feeling the effects.

“There is a lot of guilt in leaving loved ones, in leaving their families… it’s really scary,” said Rayan Zaza, a registered temporary psychologist. “It’s really scary not being able to talk to them, not even being able to send them support because there is no way to reach them.”


Zaza offers a free session to anyone of Lebanese origin. She says that in addition to the current demand, there is a silent population who are afraid to ask for help.

“It’s a little intimidating to walk into a therapy practice for anyone really, to be vulnerable and talk about their experiences, but especially when it comes from a background that stigmatizes mental health issues.” , Zaza said.

Meanwhile, Roos’ psychological care team, Cultivate, is also working to break down barriers to mental health services with its pay-as-you-go program.

But the people on the other side of these services – the psychologists and counselors – are also getting exhausted.

“They need a break because they have to protect their own sanity. A big part of it is that we are losing people to this burnout providing services on COVID, ”Roos said.

She says Calgarians need to do community care and watch each other.

She also wants all levels of government to fund mental health so that people can access it as easily as they have access to a family doctor.

While Zaza asks people to keep looking for the help they need, as soon as possible.

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