According to a new poll conducted by the Canadian Mental Health Association, a leading mental health organization, Ontario residents are preparing for a mental health crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
The survey from the Ontario division of the Canadian Mental Health Association is the first in a series of three questionnaires meant to gauge the impact the outbreak and its various ripple effects will have on the way Ontario residents feel and behave.
The majority of the 1,001 respondents to the online poll conducted by Pollara say they fear the effects COVID-19 will have on the national economy, the future for both older and younger generations, personal finances and the well-being of friends and family.
The survey found 53 per cent of participants worry about their own mental health as a result of the pandemic, while 67 per cent say they’re concerned about the toll on their loved ones.
The survey also found 23 per cent of respondents admit to increasing their use of substances such as alcohol, cannabis and tobacco.
CMHA Ontario says the survey’s findings all point to a looming surge in demand for mental health support that the province’s existing systems simply aren’t equipped to handle.
A mental health expert is reported to have stated that this survey results showed respondents were more willing to express concern for abstract issues and other people than admit to facing struggles themselves.
About 90 per cent of survey participants said they feared the pandemic would have a detrimental effect on the economy, with 69 per cent saying that translated to anxiety over their personal finances.
The poll found 79 per cent of participants worried about the future, with 87 per cent fearing for older generations and 71 per cent nervous for the effect on younger Canadians.
The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error as they are not a random sample and therefore are not necessarily representative of the whole population.
Spafford said that while many people using alcohol and drugs more regularly now will be able to revert to previous habits once public health restrictions ease, some won’t be able to do so.
The Ontario Ministry of Health, which oversees mental health in the province, recently announced $12 million to expand virtual and online support during the pandemic but would not comment on specific plans for the aftermath of the outbreak.
manage your stress threshold
Try to lay a solid foundation for your mental health and well-being by prioritizing your sleep, and practise good sleep hygiene (for example, avoid blue lights before bed, and maintain a routine around your sleep and wake times). Eat well (be conscious that you might be inclined to lean on alcohol, or other indulgences, to manage stress — this is understandable, but potentially damaging in the long run). Exercise: it will lower your stress levels, help you to better regulate your emotions and improve your sleep.
Here are some tips about how you can ensure your mental health is good.
Know your red flags
One way to manage moments of distress is to identify key thoughts or physical sensations that tend to contribute to your cycle of distress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Addressing one aspect of this loop by, for example, actively reducing the physical symptoms (I use box breathing: breathe in for four counts, hold for four, breathe out for four and hold for four, then repeat) can de-escalate the cycle and help you regain control.
Create a regular routine
It helps to manage anxiety and will help you to adapt more quickly to this current reality. Create clear distinctions between work and non-work time, ideally in both your physical workspace and your head space. Find something to do that is not work and is not virus-related that brings you joy.
Be compassionate with yourself and with others
There is much that we cannot control right now, but how we talk to ourselves during these challenging times can either provide a powerful buffer to these difficult circumstances or amplify our distress.
Even the most introverted of us need some sense of connection to others for our mental as well as our physical health. Many working groups have created virtual forums where you can contribute or just sit back and enjoy the chatter.
Manage uncertainty by staying in the present
Take each day as it comes and focus on the things you can control. Mindfulness and meditation can be great tools.
This will probably be a stressful time for all of us, and will test the mental-health policies and practices of many research institutes, just as it is testing much else in the world.