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The Impact of the Pandemic on Mental Health

It has been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. As a result, such significant changes to our daily routine have exacerbated ongoing prevalent mental health problems in Canada. The anxiety levels of Canadians have risen from 4% to 10% since the onset of the pandemic (Mental Health Research Canada, 2021). The pandemic’s effects on mental health have had gendered consequences, too; the number of mothers that reported high levels of anxiety was double that of other respondents.

Mothers are nearing their breaking point

Women have had to experience additional challenges throughout the pandemic. Women have taken on paid and unpaid care for the elderly, children and spouses, have disproportionately left work to care for their families at home, and face increased rates of gender-based violence. Consequently, in a poll conducted by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, 46 per cent of mothers said they are reaching their breaking point dealing with feelings of worry, anxiety, and sadness.

The need for support systems

Canadians with depression and anxiety have also indicated that the quantity and quality of mental health support systems have decreased. To address this issue, psychologists and other mental health professionals have stepped up to the plate to adapt their services for digital platforms. For example, the Canadian Association of Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies put on a series of webinars to help psychologists work with clients digitally during the pandemic. 

Despite these efforts to provide digital access to such information for the public, substance use has increased by about 30% in Canada, with one-third of Canadians with anxiety and depression reporting an increase in alcohol and cannabis use during the pandemic. For those with addiction, virtual services alone are not proving to be sufficient supports for those who desperately need the help — in-person and outreach services are necessary for retention and care. This is evident  in the record numbers of fatal overdoses in the Greater Vancouver area due to a poisoned street supply and pandemic restrictions (Vancouver Sun, 2021). 

Women’s health is profoundly impacted by substance use. There is evidence that substance use by men is also correlated with mental health concerns, which can create increased instances of violence against women living in households where drug usage is common. The pre-existence of these conditions may worsen the effects of abuse, which in turn worsens the living situation for women (Gatz et al., 2005; Testa et al., 2003).

Organizations such as the Canadian Association of Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies are doing a tremendous job of supporting the mental health of Canadians. Shelter Movers is also dedicated to supporting people experiencing violence when they make the decision to leave even throughout the pandemic. Due to public health measures restricting and limiting many essential services, we have updated our operational procedures to ensure the safety of volunteer movers and clients alike. 

Shelter Movers collaborates with community partners to help families transition to a life free of abuse, providing women and their children with moving and storage services at no cost. In doing so, we alleviate the financial stresses and the logistical burdens that women deal with when moving from a violent household. Shelter Movers is the only organization of its kind in Canada and will continue to advocate to help and support families leaving abuse in British Columbia.

Learn more about what we do, how to volunteer, or where to donate.


Gatz, M., Russell, L.A., Grady, J., Kram-Fernansez, D., Clark, C., Marshall, B. (2005). Women’s recollections of victimization, psychological problems, and substance use. Journal of Community Psychology, 33(4), 479-493.

Testa, M., Livingston, J.A., Leonard, K.E. (2003). Women’s substance use and experiences of intimate partner violence: a longitudinal investigation among a community sample. Addictive Behaviour, 28(9), 1649-1664.

Mental Health Research Canada – David J.A Dozois (2021) Anxiety and Depression in Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A National Survey. Canadian Psychology, Vol. 62 No. 1, pp: 136-142.

Vancouver Sun (2021): ‘Immense challenge’: Trying to save the lives of B.C. drug users, hit hard by COVID-19 and the overdose crisis

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