Supporting mental health and wellbeing in RMWB

Sunrise image at Suncor Base Plant with man in shadows

We’re hoping to brighten the spirits of several social profits operating in Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo this holiday season. Suncor is donating $455,000 to 14 agencies as one-time grants, reallocated funds after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of many fundraising events in 2020. The funding—mainly focused on mental health and wellbeing—comes in addition to Suncor and the Suncor Energy Foundation honouring all community donation commitments and sponsorships this year.

Knowing the COVID-19 pandemic has had unprecedented effects on the way we work and live, including increased isolation and anxiety, $270,000 will directly benefit agencies that provide resources related to suicide prevention and trauma counselling, abuse and domestic violence, and substance abuse.

“Significant events like the COVID-19 pandemic can take a toll on our overall well-being, specifically mental health. That’s why we’ve decided to provide some support for these essential organizations in the community while also piloting new mental health supports for our employees,” says Shelley Powell, senior vice president, Suncor Base Plant. “As the situation affects everyone differently, we encourage people to access the community resources available and continue to watch out for themselves, family, friends and co-workers.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in partnership with the University of British Columbia recently released the results of a nationwide survey on the mental health impacts of COVID-19. The data shows that most people in Canada (71%) indicate they’re worried about another wave of the virus. As winter approaches, 40% of Canadians say their mental health has deteriorated since March, with the decline more pronounced in:

  • those who are unemployed (61%)
  • those with a pre-existing mental health issue (61%)
  • younger people aged 18-24 (60%)
  • Indigenous peoples (54%)
  • those who identify as LGBTQ2+ (54%)
  • those with a disability (50%). 

According to Amanda Holloway, executive director, CMHA Wood Buffalo Region, COVID-19 and the spring flood in Fort McMurray caused significant impacts financially, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in the community. With many still recovering from the 2016 wildfire, social profit organizations are dealing with a reduction in funding as the economic environment has adversely impacted people’s ability to donate.

“This is why we’re so grateful to our community partners like Suncor for their continued support of our sector and for their investment in our work. This donation will allow us to continue to offer vital services in the Wood Buffalo region and address the increased demand we see for mental health supports,” says Amanda.

Some Other Solutions (SOS) is another agency who will benefit from Suncor’s donation. SOS has been providing crisis prevention support in the region for more than 30 years. It reports that youth especially are struggling. In October alone, SOS held 109 group and one-on-one youth sessions. 

“We’ve received many requests for mentoring in schools addressing anxiety-related issues, social expectations, youth needing a positive role model in their life, relationship issues, and isolation. It’s evident that our community requires mental health supports more than ever,” says Jason King, executive director.

Meanwhile, funding recipient Waypoints, whose vision is a community free of domestic violence, sexual assault, abuse and homelessness, says that the number of calls to its crisis line related to domestic violence doubled between April and September 2020 compared to the same period last year.

“The ability to reach out for services is important as we know the more supports individuals have in their lives, the more successful they are in facing challenges, overcoming obstacles, and obtaining the resources they need,” explains executive director Michele Taylor.

In addition to boosting community support, Suncor enhanced the mental health and wellbeing resources available to its employees in 2020. This includes piloting on-site counselling (also available virtually) at our Base Plant facility, trialing leadership training on mental health and hosting virtual Feel-Good Friday sessions. These supplementary services are in addition to Suncor employing a mental health specialist and offering access to support through the Employee and Family Assistance Program.