VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — As Canadians continue to face challenges with their mental well-being because of the pandemic, a mental health expert says she’s worried this could leave permanent damage.
Morneau Shepell’s monthly Mental Health Index for February reported a decline for the 11th straight month, despite the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. And Vice President Paula Allen is calling it a “wake-up and warning call.”
“We had a massive decline in our collective mental health at the beginning of the pandemic compared to 2019. So, all the disruption, all the change, all the uncertainty really took its toll. But now, even when we’re past the immediate crisis point, we really haven’t seen any improvement,” Allen says.
“So the length of time that this has been disrupting us, the continued uncertainty, the increased burnout that we get, our emotional exhaustion, have really kept us in a pretty compromised place.”
The research also found younger Canadians, aged 20 to 29, are struggling more with mental health issues than those aged 60 and older.
“It’s a vulnerable period of time anyway,” Allen says. “[They] are going through a life transition. You have aspirations about your life and your career … so add to that the uncertainty of the pandemic. Add to that to the fact that … social connection has been disrupted.”
And the inability to lean on emergency savings as a cushion is also impacting young people
She says people need to pay attention to young people in their life because the level of “angst” could very well stay with them after the pandemic passed.
Another concern is, 14 per cent of people in the study reported an increase in their alcohol consumption at the start of the pandemic. And of those who are drinking more, they also report the lowest mental health score.
“It’s not uncommon for us to implement what we call temporary or maladaptive coping strategies during times of stress. But certainly, we’ve seen drinking behaviour increase quite significantly since this pandemic — people were bored, people gave themselves permission, and then people are also self-medicating to a certain extent because of the period of distress that we’ve all been under,” Allen explains.
“The real tragedy about this is that it actually makes things worse … the result of that kind of temporary coping strategy could have permanent results. So your anxiety becomes more, your depression and your outlook become worse. And even after your objective situation changes that could very well continue as well as this behaviour could continue.”
Read the full report here:canadamhifeb2021englishfinal