KP03 – Impact of the COVID Pandemic on Ontario’s Mental Health System: Lessons Learned and a Way Forward

KP03 – Impact of the COVID Pandemic on Ontario’s Mental Health System: Lessons Learned and a Way Forward

Saturday, Oct. 29
08:45 – 10:30 (1.5 hrs)
Meeting Room: Grand Ballroom (Lower Concourse)
Paul Kurdyak, MD, PhD, FRCPC; Catherine Zahn, MD, FRCPC, MSHA

CanMEDS Roles:

  1. Scholar
  2. Professional
  3. Health Advocate

At the end of this session, participants will be able to: 1) Understand the impact of the pandemic on mental health service utilization and access to care; 2) Learn about the degree to which certain mental health diagnoses were associated with poorer vaccination rates and COVID-related outcomes; and 3) Consider opportunities to build a more programmatic approach to mental health service delivery.

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on society well beyond the immediate impact of acute infections. At present, we are only starting to learn about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals with mental illnesses and addictions.

This plenary session will provide an overview of what is known about how the pandemic changed service delivery and access to care, affected access to vaccines and outcomes associated with COVID-19, and how psychiatrists adapted to the new way of virtual care service delivery. While all provinces pivoted quickly to ensure there was a robust public health response to the pandemic, there was far less known about the mental health system in Ontario prior to the pandemic, which limited the ability to respond to changing demand for mental health services.

This timely plenary will involve a discussion involving key Ontario mental health leaders on how we can improve our ability to integrate evidence into the current system of planning mental health delivery that will ultimately help to create an improved mental health system that may better address the ongoing and changing needs of our population.


  1. Saunders NR, Kurdyak P, Stukel TA, et al. Utilization of physician-based mental health care services among children and adolescents before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, Canada. JAMA Pediatr 2022;176(4):e216298.
  2. ICES Mental Health and Addictions Dashboard: Ontario Mental Health System Reporting. Available from: