Women hit hardest by mental health effects of pandemic, and there may be more trouble ahead
"There's been a disproportionate burden being placed on [women]," Roger McIntyre, a psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto, told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
In Canada, that burden comes in the form of women being more likely to work in the service-industry jobs that were shut down at the height of the pandemic, McIntyre said, as well as having to take on more responsibilities at home.
Another new report, this one from business consulting behemoth Deloitte, found that more than two-thirds of the jobs lost in Canada during the pandemic were held by women.
"Women are the epicentre of the human impact of COVID-19," the report reads.
The Deloitte report forecasts that Canada will face a major increase in mental illness that will last years past the end of the pandemic, with women again disproportionately affected.
"It's an economic shock and a mental health shock that we've not seen in the history books, frankly,” McIntyre said.
Based on past experiences with mental health concerns following the 2008-09 recession and the Fort McMurray wildfire, Deloitte estimates that the post-pandemic level of doctor visits for mental health issues will be between 54 and 163 per cent higher than it was before 2020 – a range that equals between 6.3 million and 10.7 Canadians.
"Once the public health and economic crises have subsided, the human crisis will endure for months, if not years," the report reads. It also forecasts increases in substance use and crime, as well as a decrease in education outcomes.
To combat the expected surge in demand for mental health services, the Deloitte report recommends that governments do more to fund mental health services and identify those who need help."We have a serious problem right now … but there are things that we can do to mitigate this mental health pandemic," McIntyre said.