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Canadians' mental health continues to take a hit, majority cite social isolation

Last Updated May 11, 2020 at 11:00 am PDT

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56 per cent of people tell Sun Life social isolation is the top contributing factor negatively impacting mental health

Concern for loved ones, fear of getting COVID-19, finances also among chief concerns impacting mental health: survey

Many took to social media this weekend to shame people who appeared to be breaking social distancing to soak up the sun

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – With the May long weekend nearly upon us, photos of seemingly dense crowds gathered at parks and beaches in the Lower Mainland have some concerned that B.C.’s COVID-19 curve won’t be staying flat for long.

Many people are itching to get outside, and it’s easy to see why. More than half of the Canadians surveyed by Sun Life recently — 56 per cent — say COVID-19 is having a negative impact on their mental health, and social isolation is the top contributing factor.

Women appear to be more negatively impacted than men, with Sun Life finding concern for loved ones, fear of getting COVID-19, and financial concerns following social distancing as factors also contributing to declines in mental health.

Some are so sick of being stuck inside that they’re literally taking to the streets, with protesters taking to the streets of Downtown Vancouver on Sunday — as they have before — to demand restrictions be lifted.

“Canada was already facing a mental health crisis,” says Jacques Goulet, President, Sun Life Canada and Lumino Health, in a release. “he pandemic adds new layers of stress and we’re deeply concerned about the long-term mental health implications that may follow.”

The fear of loved ones contracting COVID-19 and the further spread of the virus has even led to public shaming on social media, not just of those protesting, but of those just lounging in the sunshine over what was a warm and sunny weekend on the Lower Mainland.

Both the Provincial Health Officer and the Vancouver Park Board have said most people are maintaining a safe distance outside, and only coming into close contact with people in their households or closed friend groups. Others have also pointed out how well Vancouverites have been social distancing as of late.

However, that hasn’t stopped people from snapping photos of crowds of people, wondering if that was in fact true.

Vancouver Park Board Deputy General Manager Shauna Wilton has said crowd photos that were circulated on Saturday and Sunday can be misleading.

Mental health and treatment

Of those surveyed by Sun Life, 60 per cent whose mental health has been taxed by the pandemic say they’re not receiving any treatment or social support.

The reasons for why vary, with 22 per cent of respondents saying they can’t afford help, 17 per cent saying they don’t know who or where to go to for help, and 12 per cent admitting they’re embarrassed to reach out.

“During the pandemic people are feeling a mix of emotions including anxiety, stress, fear and nervousness,” says Dr. Sam Mikail, Director, Mental Health Solutions, Sun Life. “It’s important to listen to your body, understand how you’re feeling and reach out for help. Connecting with a friend or family is a great first step. But don’t hesitate to seek professional advice. There are many resources either through your employee benefits or free in the community that can help you manage your mental health. We’re all in this together.”

Sun Life recommends people look to what kind of health care benefits their employers provide, as well as taking advantage of various free platforms — many offered by provincial governments.

Living alone can be especially trying at a time like this, so people are also encouraged to get outside at least once a day, while practising physical distancing. Another important tip is to try and stay connected with others virtually.

In B.C., you can find more help here.