We are Dr. Sherief El-Gaaly (Director of Mental Health Services at Victoria General Hospital) and Dr. Jitender Sareen (Department Head of Psychiatry at the University of Manitoba and Shared Health’s Provincial Specialty Lead for Mental Health and Addictions) – and today, we wish to tell you about the incredible strides Victoria General Hospital has made while facing this global pandemic and the great challenges we know are on the horizon.
Now, as you may imagine, providing mental healthcare during COVID-19 is no easy feat whether that is in Winnipeg or across the province. However, we’ve come a long way thanks to your support. In the past year, we profoundly increased our proficiency in providing virtual care – which could even be described as our “silver-lining” to COVID, as we feel that we’ve been forced to make 10 years of progress in virtual care in just one short year for our patients.
Although we’re making vital headway against this global pandemic, the unprecedented emotional needs of people still persist and are growing in numbers. And, in all honesty, our healthcare system is not prepared to face the coming wave of Canadians and frankly Manitobans in need of mental healthcare. But together, we can weather this storm. Which is why we ask you to…
Please consider a gift to the Victoria General Hospital Foundation today to help our community overcome the mental health challenges we face presently and those we will face in the future.
You see, there is still a drastic increase in referrals to our clinics for depression, increased cases of people dealing with addictions to alcohol and drug abuse in our community, and it is continuing to skyrocket. Even before COVID, Manitoba faced greater mental healthcare needs than most other provinces, with less funding per capita. And we know that as COVID fades from the public conscience and our daily lives start to return to some semblance of a new normal, there will be a great tsunami of people in need as we all try to put life back in order. Many of us will need help to do this.
This, coupled with an aging population – and an increase in stress and anxiety that’s affecting frontline workers and personal healthcare workers more than any other group – means we Manitobans are at a “fork in the road” with one path leading us to a potential province-wide crisis. And the other path: where we seize this moment as an opportunity to inspire great change in the mental prosperity of our communities today and for the future. You can be part of this moment.
For this reason, we truly hope you see the utmost importance of your donation and feel compelled to send a gift today to The Vic Foundation.Please understand, your gift enables The Vic Foundation to fund initiatives which prepare for the challenges of tomorrow and to mitigate any unforeseen difficulties, like COVID-19. Your thoughtful gift today will help fund important and impactful innovations that advance mental healthcare at The Vic and in our community.
Your support is also critical to the mental health of elderly people in our community.
I (Dr. Sareen) recall one particular senior patient who lived in a rural setting. COVID had made life very difficult for her as she lived isolated on her own - her nearest family member lived an hour and a half away. What was great about our new innovations in virtual care is that we were able to keep checking up with her through our easy-to-access online resources – and her family members were also able to join in and be updated without making the drive to the city. It has changed how we deliver services to our patients drastically.
However, there were still great difficulties in caring for her as she benefited from specific therapies to treat her depression, which we can only administer in-person. It was still challenging for her to cope with the ongoing isolation from loved ones. And having to find new ways to help her, instead of providing her the treatments that we know do help her was a challenge in of its own.
As mental healthcare professionals, we can tell you this patient story sadly, isn’t too different from many others. Over the past year we’ve seen so many people affected by the ripples this virus has sent through our society. As we have seen it doesn’t discriminate, but we all know it affects those that are vulnerable more intensely, whether they are chronically ill, low income or seniors isolated at home or in a Long-Term Care setting. It seems like every conversation we have with a newly referred patient revolves around isolation, loneliness and a fear of the unknown, all things exacerbated by COVID. This is not a great place for a patient to be feeling when dealing with mental health challenges.
Hearing this day-in, day-out affects us, some days are harder for us than others. But more than that, it truly motivates us both as doctors and Manitobans to do everything possible for these people persevering through such difficult and painful emotions while the pandemic continues to rage across the country. So, if there’s one thought we’d like to leave with you, it’s this:
In order to bring the best in mental healthcare to our community, we’ll need every tool – virtual and in-person – available and made possible. But to make this type of care a reality, we need the support of kind, selfless individuals, like you. It really is that simple.
We ask you, please, donate today. Join us in making mental healthcare the best it can be for yourself and your neighbours.
Thank you so much for reading – and please know we are here for you and your loved ones through this challenging time. We are all in this together.
Dr. Sherief El-Gaaly Dr. Jitender Sareen
Director of Mental Health Services Department Head of Psychiatry
Victoria General Hospital University of Manitoba
P.S. If you or a loved one is currently challenged in their mental well-being, please don't hesitate to get in contact with a healthcare professional. We know that even during this time of increased stress and anxiety, the stigmas of mental health still affect - and we want you to know you are not alone, because we are in this together.