Mental toll

By Jenn Watt

Over the last five months, since the pandemic really hit Canada in a big way, we’ve become increasingly aware of the toll the pandemic is taking on mental health.

We can see it in the news stories we read of mask protests and anti-science vitriol, while watching our Facebook feeds where people wage word-wars with each other over how best to keep the virus at bay and who is to blame; and from our mental health providers, who say they’re hearing from clients that COVID-19 has injected new pressures into their lives.

The Canadian Mental Health Association released national survey results at the end of June that showed “in the thick of the pandemic in May, this survey found that one in 20 Canadians (six per cent) had recently experienced thoughts or feelings of suicide as a result of the pandemic.”

For those who already had mental health issues prior to the pandemic, the survey found they were twice as likely to report their mental health had declined (59 per cent) and of this group, only two per cent said they were accessing in-person mental health care, with 14 per cent saying they had received virtual mental health care.

Speaking with local mental health care providers for the story in this week’s Echo, it’s apparent that those who are seeking help are finding the world we live in today – the so-called “new normal” – distressing.

People are telling their therapists that they’re worried about their finances and job loss. They are concerned for their own health when they leave the house, and for that of their loved ones. Some feel isolated and are devastated that they haven’t had ready access to their family members in long-term care. Some feel crowded by the other people in their homes, that they don’t have enough space.
With the reopening of schools about a month away, there is now new strain on parents, who must make the difficult decision of whether or not to send their children to school during a pandemic.

We’re all floating in uncertainty, unsure of when things will get back to normal, or if they ever will.
For some of us, these stressors are jeopardizing our mental health, and when that happens, it’s important to seek help. Both public and private options are available for those looking for counselling – most doctors and nurse practitioners have a comprehensive list they can give you – and crisis services are there 24 hours a day.

One place to start is – click on “mental health” to get a list of all the public services, or call Mental Health Services at 705-286-4575.