Tackling the Growing Mental Health Crisis Amidst a Pandemic

Public health measures are implemented to protect us but can produce feelings of isolation and anxiety, especially over time.

A new, unknown disease and its consequences for both individual citizens as well as society in Canada can cause strong emotions for people in all walks of life. Lockdowns, social distancing and various public health actions are implemented to safeguard everybody and curb the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, those same interventions can make citizens feel isolated and lonely as routines are uprooted, and many people feel stressed and anxious. Santé Montreal recently shared a graphic for tips on how to practise good mental health during COVID. Learning to better cope with stress in a healthy way will improve your life, and help the community around you grow stronger.

The MHCC Working Hard to Help Citizens

The government in Canada is working hard to safeguard the country’s citizens. Canada’s Minister of Health Patty Hajdu recently announced a $10.2-million investment into COVID-19 mental health and substance use research. The funds will help support 55 research teams from across the country who are engaged with finding what the needs are of people suffering from mental health issues and substance use — a potential health crisis that’s emerging as a result of COVID-19. The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) is currently focusing on mental health, substance use, suicide prevention, mental health services for minorities and knowledge sharing. In addition to substance use as a way to cope with the consequences of this pandemic, citizens in the role of consumers are easier targets to exploit for businesses offering services online. Online consumption of retail, food and entertainment are areas which still lack governing policies, regulations and legal frameworks. Many people use shopping and entertainment as a coping mechanism. With people feeling increasingly stressed and anxious during this pandemic, more people are at risk to fall prey to unethical business practices. The ease of access to online goods and services makes it a convenient escape for people to deal with stress and anxiety arising from their personal situation. There is a need for the Canadian government to educate, administer policies and set up regulations for businesses to follow, when targeting and dealing with consumers online.

Online Consumption as a Coping Mechanism

In the case of protecting consumers online, the Canadian government needs to work closely with industry stakeholders. This close cooperation between policymakers and businesses is necessary because the knowledge about consumers, behaviors and specific business practices are known to the actual businesses to a greater extent. If the government works alone when creating a legal framework for policies and regulations, they would be playing a guessing game, and this could potentially be counter-productive and harm both consumers and businesses alike. Sustainable policies and regulations must cater for fair market conditions to compete in for small and large businesses, protect consumers and hold companies accountable if they do not comply with the regulatory framework. Accountability would create a need for taking responsibility which will ultimately protect consumers online.

Everyone Reacts Differently in Stressful Situations

While it’s important that individuals take care of themselves and stay responsible for their own wellbeing, it’s equally important to help friends and family to cope with their situation. Providing emotional and social support to others will help our communities grow stronger. A phone call or a video chat can go a long way for those who are feeling socially disconnected, lonely or isolated. Each person’s own individual response to this situation isn’t necessarily the same for everyone else. How a person responds to stress can depend on a person’s background, their financial situation, their health, their emotional state, the support or lack of support they receive from family and friends, what area they live and so on. Elderly are particularly at risk and may need more support, single parents, frontline workers such as health care providers, people with existing mental health conditions, disabled people and people from ethnic minorities may all react differently and have different needs. The Canadian authorities are working hard to keep everyone safe but everyone needs to take responsibility for their own and others wellbeing. It’s our civil duty as Canadian citizens.