Now more than ever, mental health matters
Small actions from recognizing stressors, to being there for a loved one can help support mental health and strengthen our communities during this difficult time.
Stressors beyond our control will affect people at work and home differently. We can be affected psychologically (e.g., feeling worried), as well as physically (e.g., sleeping poorly). Simple ways to take care of yourself include taking breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Connecting with others and trying to eat well and take care of your body is key. Experts suggest that exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, and avoiding alcohol and drugs is important too.
Try to maintain as normal a routine as possible, including engaging in activities you enjoy and focus your energies on what you can control rather than worrying about what you can’t.
Taking care of others
It is likely that more people will see impacts on their mental health and well-being than will suffer serious physical affects of COVID-19. People who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include people who tend to worry a lot, older people who live alone and people with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for COVID-19 along with children and teens.
Children and teens may respond more strongly to the stress of the pandemic. There are many things you can do to support your child or teen:
• Give them the opportunity to talk about their concerns about the outbreak, tell them the truth, reassure them, and let them know they can count on you.
• Balance giving information with not giving so much that it causes more distress. Check in with children to confirm what they understand and that they have accurate facts.
• Let them know it is ok if they feel upset or scared and talk to them about ways to cope with their feelings.
• Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media.
• Try to keep up with regular routines to the extent possible. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities; if organized activities are cancelled, try to engage in the activity (or an adaptation of the activity) at home.
Listening with empathy
According to CAMH, listening to someone and giving them an opportunity to be heard is often one of the best things you can do for someone who is facing a mental health challenge. To open up a conversation and let someone know you’re listening, here are some things you could say:
• “I’m here for you.”
• “I would like to hear more about what’s been going on with you.”
• “When is a good time to talk?”
It’s our tendency to jump to problem solving when we want to help, but slowing down and just being with the person gives them a chance to feel connected and think about what would be most helpful for them.
It’s important to show empathy, by putting yourself in their shoes, showing them you care and appreciate that they are going through, a difficult time. Depending on what the person discloses, you can ask them if you could help them in any way.
What to watch for
According to the Canadian Psychological Association, signs and symptoms that might signal a psychological problem or disorder for which professional help might be beneficial include:
• Sleeping poorly, too much or too little
• Feeling anxious, depressed or having panic attacks
• Feeling angry, guilty, helpless, numb, or confused
• Not wanting to get out of bed
• Having difficulties concentrating
• Excessive eating
• Drinking more alcohol or taking more prescription drugs
• Having little patience
If you are experiencing these symptoms, consult your doctor or a regulated healthcare professional.
5 ways to help end the stigma
Many people struggle with the stigma surrounding mental health which often keeps them from seeking the help they need. In fact, it’s the number one reason why two thirds of those living with a mental illness do not seek support. Here are a few things that you need to know:
1) Language matters: The words you use can make all the difference.
2) Educate yourself: Knowing the facts and myths about mental illness can be a great way to help end the stigma.
3) Be kind: Simple acts of kindness can help open up the conversation and let someone know you are there for them.
4) Listen and ask: Being a good listener and asking how you can help can be the first step in recovery.
5) Talk about it: Mental illness touches us all in some way directly or through a friend, family member or colleague. Most people with mental health issues can and do recover, just by talking about it.