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EDITORIAL: Maintaining positive mental health is a community effort

COVID-19 has been an all-consuming and life-disrupting global health crisis that has left both physical and mental damage in its wake.
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COVID-19 has been an all-consuming and life-disrupting global health crisis that has left both physical and mental damage in its wake.

The sense of isolation, loss of activities, personal finances, mental health, physical health and the inability to see family and friends has grown increasingly difficult for many people as the pandemic has rolled on.

The Cochrane Social Task Force recently released a survey that aimed to unpack the cultural state of our community.

The results are stark and concerning.

Mental health proved to be a chief anxiety with 80 per cent of participants indicated they are extremely concerned, very concerned or somewhat concerned for their mental health and personal well-being.

These feelings have been fuelled by the experience of helplessness about COVID-19.

Tied into these experiences is a feeling of uncertainty surrounding finances and the economy. About 40 per cent of participants worry their economic situation will worsen in the next few months if the current reality of the pandemic does not change— While 26 per cent of households had a member who had lost a job, and 25 per cent indicated they are concerned they may experience a future job loss.

The survey noted 46 per cent of respondents have applied for financial relief during the pandemic.

Together these factors have had a frightening impact on mental health and personal well-being.

Mental health in the community has reached a crisis point and it will take hard work and dedication to ensure the healing process can begin.

COVID-19 has fractured our psyches, and like fixing a broken bone fostering positive mental health will take time.

The Town of Cochrane and the province have recognized the important place mental health will play in the recovery from COVID-19.

Family and Community Support Services has budgeted $50,000 in grant funding for 2021 and United Way has budgeted $70,000 in grant funding for 2021 to support local non-profits that specifically target vulnerable community members.

The Government of Alberta has increased funding to improve access to mental health and addiction recovery services through a commitment of more than $53 million to implement more online, phone and in-person mental health and addiction recovery supports to make it easier for Albertans to accessing services from anywhere in Alberta during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

These mental health supports from the municipal and provincial governments are significant, but it remains the duty of all of us to check-in on friends and family.

Studies have shown people typically choose to talk to those close to them before seeking out professional services when experiencing negative mental health.

Taking that first step to disclose you are struggling can be scary because mental health discussions can at times be met with stigma and judgment.

Together the community can create safe spaces that allow people to connect and talk about positive mental health.

These spaces have become increasingly important during COVID-19 as maintaining positive mental health is becoming significantly more challenging for some community members. 

Together we can collectively work to heal our community from the devastating social fissures and damaging mental health effects of the virus.

As a community we can work together as we collectively heal and recover from the devastating social fissures and damaging mental health effects of COVID-19. The first step is taking the time to check-in and make sure the people around you are doing OK— These tiny, but meaningful, actions will create a better and stronger community.