While everyone has been tracking the price of oil these last two years, the Calgary Counselling Centre (CCC) has been tracking the mental health impact of the economic downturn on our clients. The statistics are sobering. The percentage of CCC clients that have full-time jobs fell by almost a third over two years, from 53% in 2014 to 41% as of September 2016. In that same period, the percentage of clients who are unemployed and looking for work rose to 41%, up from 16% two years ago. Those numbers represent a huge change in our client profile.
Calgary Counselling Centre is the bellwether for the community and what we are seeing is likely reflected in every other social service agency in Calgary. Clients seeking counselling are showing increased rates of depression and other mental health issues with distress symptoms such as anxiety, stress, relationship problems, and difficulties at work and school.
A score of over 63 in our outcome measure collected at the first session of counselling, means that the person is displaying many of these symptoms, which typically can be reduced with counselling. The average outcome score for a client’s first counselling session historically has been 72. Since the recession started in November 2014, that number has steadily risen. By 2016, the average outcome score for the first client counselling session had jumped to almost 77.
That number is even higher for people who are unemployed and looking for work. The average distress level for these clients is 82. Those are some of the highest numbers we’ve seen. These elevated distress levels, if not treated, can strongly affect the client’s well-being.
Those still employed, also show levels of elevated stress. Although these individuals have retained their jobs, they have witnessed their friends and colleagues being laid off, have an increased workload due to the layoffs and live in continuous uncertainty about the security of their jobs.
As distress levels grow in the community, so do the number of requests for help. Between January and October 2014, 6,604 people requested counselling services at Calgary Counselling Centre. As of October of this year, 7,896 individuals requested counselling services – a 20% increase. We are proud to say that we have maintained our no waitlist commitment. For the past 14 years, every person who has contacted the Centre is assigned to a counsellor within 24 hours, and emergency spots are available for those who can’t wait. This is a commitment we work hard every day to uphold. Everyone gets the help they need, when they need it.
Over the course of 2016, we estimate that we will provide more than 30,000 hours of counselling, a 24% increase over two years.
In addition to the increased levels of distress, the economic downturn has changed the main reasons clients seek help at Calgary Counselling Centre. The top five types of counselling requests we currently receive are: couple and relationship issues, anxiety, depression, stress, and domestic abuse.
These statistics show us that we need to talk more openly and without stigma about mental health issues and emphasize the importance of creating and cultivating a healthy community. This is particularly important during times of economic downturn.
The Calgary Counselling Centre is committed to continuing to help our community with no waitlist and unparalleled client results. We are here to help.