We need to talk. About our collective mental health.
Because the challenges of 2020 will roll over into 2021, and we’ve still got to get through a holiday season where we should not see as many family and friends as we usually do. These are stressful days, with worries about our health, family, work and future.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital and a global research leader. It’s been regularly surveying English-speaking Canadians during the pandemic. The latest poll, released last month, was conducted from Sept. 18 to 22, before the second wave started cresting.
- 24.3 per cent of women and 17.9 per cent of men said they experienced moderate to severe anxiety;
- 23.3 per cent of women and 17.3 per cent of men reported feeling loneliness;
- Parents with children under 18 at home were more likely to feel depressed (29.1 per cent) than adults without kids (18.9);
- 28.5 per cent of men and 22.6 per cent of women reported binge drinking;
- One in five Canadians sought professional help at least once a week as a way of coping.
You can only imagine the impact the second wave will have on these numbers.
Other surveys and reports also speak of the toll COVID-19 is having on mental health, and the pressure is not expected to ease for some time.
There are many resources to help people deal with how they are feeling. But according to a University of British Columbia study, few people are availing themselves of them. UBC surveyed 3,000 people in May. While 65 per cent reported adverse mental health impacts related to COVID-19, only two per cent accessed online mental health resources.
That survey was conducted in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, which offers a program called BounceBack to help with mild to moderate mental health challenges.
“COVID-19 is here now, but the mental health impacts will last long after the pandemic is over,” association CEO Margaret Eaton said when expanding the program to Atlantic Canada earlier this month.
“BounceBack can help people build new skills and better adapt to the challenges we’re all facing.”
Ottawa has announced millions in mental health funding since the start of the pandemic, but there are calls for more support. Among them is the Canadian Grief Alliance’s lobby for a national strategy on mourning to support those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.
Putting such programs and strategies in place is necessary, but as the UBC study shows, we need to encourage people to take advantage of them.
Which is why we need to talk — to each other. Ask your family, friends and co-workers how they’re doing. If they are struggling, suggest they seek professional help or a support program.
The pandemic will end, eventually. Let’s not wait until then to deal with its impact on our mental health.
Some resources: bounceback.cmha.ca; ca.portal.gs; wellcan.ca
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