More than half of Ontarians say it has been difficult to find clear, accurate information during the pandemic

(Toronto) – February 11, 2022 – Ontarians are acutely feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic according to a new survey conducted for 211 Ontario, the three-digit helpline that connects people to government supports, social services and community programs across the province. As we edge closer to the two-year anniversary of the pandemic in Ontario, the majority of respondents say they have felt an impact on their mental health.

Many Ontario respondents said they experienced increased stress (70%), anxiety (65%), burnout (48%), hopelessness (37%) and confusion (30%) at some point during the pandemic.

At the same time nearly 60% of Ontarians are finding it difficult to find clear, accurate information about government supports and ever-changing public health measures.

“When people are in crisis, searching online for the right supports, figuring out eligibility and finding the right number to call can be overwhelming,” says Karen Milligan, Executive Director of 211 Ontario. “Sometimes people just want to call a number where they know they will be connected with a real person to help them make a plan. That’s when they should dial 2-1-1.”

When asked about the types of supports that would have (or have) made things easier for themselves or somebody they care about:

  • 45% said mental health support
  • 39% said financial assistance
  • 34% said peer support

While more than four-in-five Ontarians (84%) said a single-source connection to government services and supports, community programming, and health care services would be helpful, only 12% were familiar with the 211 helpline compared to 98% of respondents that were able to identify 911 as the emergency helpline.

February 11 is 211 Day across the province, a day to raise awareness of the service. Just as 911 is a critical service for those experiencing life-threatening emergencies, 211 wants Ontarians to know 2-1-1 are the numbers to dial for help with non-urgent needs.

The large-scale protests in Ottawa illustrate a situation where 211 can help.

“We heard a lot about seniors having trouble accessing food and medicine or getting to appointments. We heard of others who felt unsafe and very anxious. At the same time we also heard about programs stepping up in response to help those in need,” said Milligan. “Residents don’t have to figure out who is providing support for their situation, they just have to dial 2-1-1 and our team will connect them with the support for their non-urgent needs.”

The 211 helpline has been in operation for more than 20 years in Ontario. Phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by certified and highly trained Community Navigators, who will talk to callers about their needs and direct them to the right community, health or social service. Across the province, people can now also text 2-1-1 or use the online chat option at 211Ontario.ca to connect with Navigators Monday to Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

About this Survey

These are the findings of a survey conducted by 211 Ontario from February 1-3, 2022 among a nationally representative sample of 1,516 Canadians who are members of the online Angus Reid Forum, balanced and weighted on age, gender, region and education. This sample included 586 respondents in Ontario. For comparison purposes only, a sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points at a 95% confidence level. The survey was offered in both English and French.

About 211

211 is a helpline available by phone, chat or online search that helps Ontario residents navigate the complex network of government, health, community and social service quickly and easily, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with interpretation in over 150 languages. 211 is supported by the Province of Ontario, United Ways and some municipalities across the province.

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For information or interviews contact:

Destiny Bedwell, Communications and Marketing Coordinator
Ontario 211 Services
Tel: 416-777-0211, ext. 225
Email: dbedwell@211ontario.ca