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EDITORIAL: COVID-19's mental health toll

Alberta is in the midst of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Case numbers are spiking and as infections increase health measures are becoming ever more stringent.

Alberta is in the midst of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Case numbers are spiking and as infections continue to increase health measures are becoming even more stringent.

While these lockdowns play an important role in preventing the spread of the virus, their effect on community members' psyches is undeniable.

The virus has swept across the globe, and for many has left languishing mental health in its wake.

Life since the arrival of the COVID-19 has been a time of crisis, uncertainty, anger, trauma and grief.

Our way of life feels like it has been forever altered, and for many the virus has wreaked havoc on their economic and social well-being.

Stress and anxiety have gone hand-in-hand with the world health crisis, exacerbating positive mental health— People fear the virus itself, are experiencing isolation and loneliness or have been unable to properly grieve the death of a loved one.

A survey released by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in April indicated 20.9 per cent of respondents are experiencing moderate to severe anxiety levels, 20.1 per cent reported feeling depressed and 21.3 percent of participants reported feelings of loneliness. 

We face ever-increasing pressures that impacted our mental health and at times it can be a Herculean task to maintain an optimistic outlook.

Whether one experiences a mental illness or not, mental health can flourish or languish— Right now for many our mental well-being is in a languishing state.

A statistic released by The Canadian Mental Health Association indicates one in five people struggle with mental illness, but five out of five people struggle with maintaining positive mental health. Languishing mental health is not a sign of weakness or an experience to be ashamed of. 

While we have faced increasing traumatic impacts on our lives during COVID-19, a silver lining can be found.

There is a rising number of those struggling to maintain positive mental health and people are becoming more comfortable talking about their experiences.

What was once a taboo subject is becoming a focal point in our communities. The conversations surrounding negative mental health are helping to remove the stigma surrounding these experiences, allowing us to focus on how all of us can experience trauma that directly impacts our well-being.

Mental health is something that can be protected and maintained using strategies and energy— A key part of this is reaching out for help when one's mental health is languishing or by checking in on friends and family.

Even when many of us are feeling the isolation and loneliness brought on by quarantines, it remains important to talk about mental health and remind those we care about they are not alone.

We are all learning to navigate a post-COVID world and there are several mental health resources available for those looking for support:

Community and Social Services 211

AHS Mental Health support 1-844-943-1500

The Mental Health Help Line 1-877-303-2642

Distress Centre (24-hour crisis line) 403-266-HELP

Connecteen 403-264-8336

AHS Addiction and Mental Health Help Line 1-866-332-2322

Canada Suicide Prevention Service call 1-833-456-4566 or text START to 741741

Cochrane Family and Community Support Services 403-851-2250