The good news is more and more people are openly discussing their struggles Author of the article:Rita DeMontis
Publishing date:Apr 23, 2022
Mental Health Week is coming up in early May, and for many Canadians its a subject theyve been living with daily. We can blame COVID-19 or perhaps, thank the pandemic for bringing up the matter of ones mental well-being to the forefront. But theres no getting around the fact mental health and mental illness are gaining a terrible foothold on the Canadian psyche. And experts in the field have been warning of a mental health tsunami ready to wash over the country if we dont start addressing these issues soon.
The good news is more and more people are openly discussing their struggles. The bad news is things appear to be getting worse. Listening to the news lately people being shoved off subway platforms, stabbed, grabbed by total strangers, or shot to death while going about their businesses reveals a fear the whole country may be losing its grip on the problems when set against the backdrop of all the terrifying incidents that just scream a crisis is looming.
Weve plenty of stats and industry reports to back this up: recent research revealed more than half of Canadians have experienced feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. Meanwhile, according to the recent Mental Health Index by LifeWorks (provider of well-being tech solutions), Canadian workers are still measuring a mental health score lower than the pre-pandemic benchmark of 0.0 for the 24th consecutive month.
Are we seeing more people in distress? Absolutely, says Dr. Monica Vermani, clinical psychologist and author of A Deeper Wellness: Conquering Stress, Mood, Anxiety and Traumas (drmonicavermani.com). With the uncertainty of the times, the sudden changes in reality for many due to COVID and the lock-down people have struggled with, managing stress (and) the stressors related to the pandemic (has) certainly seen more people suffering.
The upheaval of the past two years has put enormous strain on the population. We have seen existing mental health challenges become worse, and we have also seen an increase in edge meaning anger, cynicism and impulsive behaviours, added LifeWorks Paula Allen, senior V-P in research and total wellbeing, in a recent interview.
Its important, added Allen, to remember that whether someone is dealing with a diagnosed mental illness or not, the increase in isolation, lack of predictability and ongoing change, has had an impact on our mental health. There is a need for a lot more focused support, clinical service and self-awareness now, and for some time to come.
Its also important to differentiate between mental health and mental illness: Mental health refers to anyones state of mental, and emotional well-being when we are mentally fit, we can cope with normal stressors and contribute to our community in a productive way, said Vermani in a recent interview. Mental illnesses are assessed and diagnosed clinical conditions that significantly affect ones daily functioning (including) our thoughts and behaviours.
While anyone can have moments of poor mental health, not everyone has a mental illness. Someone with a mental illness can achieve sound mental health with healthy tools and resources.
One begs the question is enough being done to help those suffering? Are there enough resources, and are they easy to access? Especially when it involves those who are homeless, or addicted to drugs.
Or are we losing the battle?
Vermani points out the crisis taking place in Torontos homeless population as an example of how bad things have become thanks, in part, to the pandemic: Torontos response to their sizable homeless population during COVID has been abysmal, says Vermani, pointing out issues with ousting people from parks when they had nowhere else to go. Plus, since the pandemic began drug use/substance issues have gotten worse, and food insecurity continues to be an ongoing problem for those experiencing homelessness.
Vermani says we need to look forward and do better, and points to Finland as a great example of a country that treats people experiencing homelessness with dignity and respect, outlining how the Finnish Housing First initiative, first introduced in 2007, found a housing solution for the most vulnerable homeless people, which successfully continues to this day.
There are no easy answers but, with Mental Health Week starting May 2, changes should be on everyones agenda. Well explore next what the future holds for those who are suffering, and those who are committed to making changes in order to help those in need.