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International conflicts compounding impacts of COVID-19 on mental health: psychologists

Last Updated Sep 1, 2021 at 8:53 pm MDT

CALGARY – A deadly virus, ever-changing pandemic restrictions, and raging international conflict. It has psychologists warning the province is on the brink of a mental health system collapse.

“Clients are coming to us and saying, ‘just accessing services at all right now is coming with a really big waitlist,’” said Jessy Roos, the executive director of Cultivate.

The demand from COVID has been constant — and now international issues are compounding the grief.

As refugees desperately seek ways out of the Taliban’s grip, and Lebanon’s economic crisis putting about three-quarters of the country in poverty — newcomers, refugees and families here are feeling the effects.

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


Zaza is offering a free session to anyone who has a Lebanese background. She says on top of the current demand, there’s a silent population afraid to seek help.

“It is kind of intimidating to walk into a therapy office for anybody really, and to be vulnerable and to open up about your experiences, but especially more so when it comes from a background that does stigmatize mental health concerns,” said Zaza.

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

But the people on the other side of these services — psychologists and counsellors — are burning out too.

“They need to take a break because they need to protect their own mental health. That’s a big part of it, is we’re losing people to this burnout from providing services over COVID,” said Roos.

She says Calgarians need to do some community care and check on each other.

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

While Zaza is asking people to still seek the help they need, sooner rather than later.