The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) released its latest Social Indicators COVID-19 Pandemic report. The report examines the potential social impacts of health measures taken to protect against COVID-19.
In May 2020, the Department of Health and Social Services put together a working group to examine whether public health measures during the pandemic were having unintended negative consequences on the well-being of NWT residents. For example, it was anticipated that social isolation would create challenges in reporting concerns of suspected child / youth maltreatment.
Other key social indicators being monitored include mental health and addictions, alcohol-related harm, and family violence.
Highlights of the report’s findings include:
- Between October 2021 and March 2022, the number of reports of suspected child maltreatment compared to previous years decreased.
- Community health care visits related to depression were considerably lower in January, February, March, and April 2022 than in the same months in 2021.
- The number of people who accessed the Community Counseling Program for mental health and addictions services fell during the first year of the pandemic, but returned to pre-pandemic levels during 2021, and has increased this year.
- In general, call volume to the NWT Helpline has been higher throughout the pandemic period and continues to increase in 2022.
- Preliminary data indicates that alcohol consumption in the Northwest Territories may have increased, as experienced in the rest of Canada, due to the stress, boredom, and isolation related to the COVID-19 pandemic response.
- There has been a general increase in applications for Emergency Protection Orders to protect victims of family violence throughout the pandemic period.
When COVID-19 protective measures were first implemented, the GNWT took the following actions to reduce the risk of unintended consequences:
- maintained or increased contact with children / youth and families through virtual services and distributed prepaid cell phones
- provided same day, virtual access to mental health and addictions counseling and expanded new online mental health program
- on April 9, 2020, aligned with Dene Nation and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation recommendations to limit the sale of liquor and cannabis during the pandemic by reducing hours of sale at all alcohol retailers
- communicated that family violence shelters remain open and distributed 150 cell phones to Victim Services providers to give to residents at risk of abuse
This social indicator data has been extremely valuable throughout the pandemic to help determine what actions need to be taken by the Health and Social Services system. This data does have limitations, such as the NWT’s relatively small population, the short duration of the studies, and information misclassification. For example, if child maltreatment reports originate mostly from school attendance, when children don’t attend school there may be fewer reports, but not necessarily fewer children being mistreated. The social indicator working group took care to thoroughly measure and evaluate the data to determine how it should be interpreted.
- All COVID-19 related public health orders were removed on April 1, 2022.
- Family Violence shelters remain open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Travel is provided for those who do not have a shelter in their community, including children.
- Parents are responsible for their child / youth’s health, including protecting them from vaccine-preventable diseases. Delaying or refusing some or all vaccines for your child / youth may put their health, and the health of others at risk.
Media Requests, please contact:
Manager of Communications
Department of Health and Social Services
Government of the Northwest Territories
(867) 767-9052 Ext. 49034