THE ISOLATING CITY
Over the past few months, many of us worldwide have been quarantining, practicing social distancing, and wearing masks in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 within our communities and around the world. But, with these emergency measures in place, the issues of accessibility that permeate our healthcare systems and beyond have been magnified to great extents.
As can be expected from a global pandemic, COVID-19 has left many people feeling stressed, afraid, angry, lonely, and everything in between. Many people are dealing with situations they have never encountered before. Fear for the safety of their elderly family members, grief over the unexpected loss of loved ones, fear of leaving their home, financial uncertainty, and forced isolation. While many of us struggle with the lack of control in our own lives, the impact of the pandemic has not been equally distributed.
For seniors, the urban space was not an easy environment to navigate even before the threat of coronavirus ran strong. The fast pace, the dense populations, the limited transit options, and the complex architectural layouts, make many cities unattractive to the senior population. With the COVID-19 pandemic, these factors have made the city something to avoid at all costs.
In an article from John Hopkins University entitled “The Impact of COVID-19 on Older Adults” they note the ways in which COVID-19 has affected seniors differently than youth. With long-term care homes going into lockdown, many residents have had to go months without contact with their loved ones and face the threat of a residence outbreak on their own. Others have been left without caregivers who may have posed additional risks to their wellbeing. Even for those who are able to care for themselves, leaving their home poses a high risk that many don’t want to be forced to take. In many cases, seniors have been sidelined and forced to fend for themselves as the many forms of assistance they rely on such as grocery deliveries, bill management, etc. have become inaccessible.
For others, specifically marginalized groups, the mental challenges of the pandemic have been quite significant. The University of British Columbia conducted a survey in partnership with CAMH that indicated “six per cent of those surveyed said they experienced suicidal thoughts and feelings during the outbreak, this proportion rises to 18 percent of those with preexisting mental health challenges, 16 percent of Indigenous people and 15 percent of those with a disability.”
Amidst the pandemic, those with pre-existing mental health conditions were found to be 2.5 times more likely to feel depressed, 3 times more likely to have had trouble coping, 4 times more likely to have had suicidal thoughts, and 4 times more likely to have self-harmed. The fear surrounding the virus as well as the lack of social connection, which can play an essential role in recovery and coping, has created a very toxic environment for those who are already facing mental health challenges. While online counselling options work for some, some people need those in-person consultations to really feel supported.
Yet, for the 55% of the world’s population, according to the United Nations, who lack social insurance or social assistance, access to any mental or physical healthcare is sparse. While the virus has yet to take hold in many third world countries, the danger it poses does not go unacknowledged. Many countries cannot afford a pandemic. According to CTV News, for South Sudan, a country of 11 million, only 4 ventilators and 24 ICUs exist. For Uganda, there is one ICU bed available for every 1 million people.
Many third world countries also do not have the luxury of being able to “lockdown” with issues of hunger already running afoot.
Safety amidst this pandemic has become a luxury. As we, in Ontario, begin to enter Stage 3 and some aspects of life start to return to normal, it is important to consider the impacts that have been made on our most marginalized populations. Who has had their lives turned upside down? Who has not received adequate support? And how do we begin to move forward and commence reparations?
Lubna talks about news that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is on the path to becoming the world's first trillionaire by 2026, as he profits off the pandemic and his workers go on strike for lack of workplace protection.
The Institute for Policy Studies reports in their Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Wealth Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes, and Pandemic Profiteers that in the 35 days leading up to April 22, America’s billionaires saw their wealth soar by over 10%.
Lubna references the controversial Toronto Star opinion piece that came out about a 28 year old's "reckless" CERB spending.
Lubna talks about how hospital staff now use technology to connect patients anf their loved ones amid the coronavirus pandemic. This CBC article and video features Elder Life Specialist at NYGH Sarah Carney as she conducts virtual family visits, which are an important lifeline for hospital patients.
Canadian Mental Health Association (CHMA) study shows that majority of Ontarians believe mental health crisis will follow COVID-19 impact.
Ali talks about the average wait time for mental health services in Ontario is 67 days for counselling and therapy and 92 days for intensive treatment, according to the CHMA.
In a report to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, findings show that recent immigrants in Canada are less likely to report depression than longer-term immigrants, whose reported rates are more similar to the Canadian-born population.
Ethnocultural minorities are more likely to report suffering from mental health issues but are less likely to access treatment, a study out of York University using Ontario Health Study (OHS) survey data has found.
Domestic violence calls increased City of Toronto as a result of the pandemic.
According to Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS), there was a 28% increase in domestic violence charges this July 2020 compared to last June 2019.